The 2021 Kia Telluride LX retails for $32,190. Of course, that amount will get you only the base model. But Kia’s standard equipment and safety features blow most competitors out of the water. That’s why the Telluride has been a fan favorite since its debut in 2019. Recently, the 2021 model earned a uniquely high score from one of the industry’s leading consumer organizations. But the Telluride fell short in one fundamental area.
The Kia Telluride is valedictorian for being first in its class
Recently, Consumer Reports awarded the 2021 Kia Telluride a nearly perfect road-test score. CR also rates the 2021 model 5/5 for predicted reliability and 5/5 for predicted owner satisfaction. However, Kia’s standard safety features are major factors behind its 97 overall score and CR Recommended distinction. It’s not an easy feat to garner a CR score over 90, let alone one approaching 100.
The Telluride’s closest competitor, the Hyundai Palisade, exemplifies this perfectly, receiving a CR road-test score of only 85. The 2021 Toyota Highlander got the third-highest score of 84. The 2021 Mazda CX-9 was the last midsize crossover SUV to have scored in the 80s, as ratings after that took a nose-dive into the lower 70s.
No American-made model scored above 70, with the 2021 Ford Explorer dead last with 49. If this had been a GPA, the Kia Telluride would’ve gotten a 3.9 GPA and a free university ride. The rest would’ve gotten Ds and Fs.
According to Kia‘s website, there are three additional trims. The top-trim SX starts at $42,490. Offering all sorts of extra bling, this model truly allows the Telluride to strut its stuff.
How did the Kia Telluride become such a reviewer’s pet?
Kia has been a rising star for a while and has a decade’s worth of media headlines to back it up. And if the automaker is a rising star, the Telluride must be a pulsating quasar. Despite all the odds stacked against car companies in 2020 — especially Kia’s failing K900 with only 500 units sold — the number of Telluride units sold last year increased 25 percent.
Brands that not only survived 2020 but also grew during that grueling time undoubtedly offer something unique that consumers will pay for, no matter what calamity has befallen society and the economy. This holds especially true for something that costs tens of thousands of dollars. So, what exactly did Kia do right with the Telluride that many of its competitors failed to do with their midsize crossovers?
The Telluride is packed from dash to tailgate with the sort of value some luxury brands don’t even offer as standard.
The 2021 model performs well
Because the Kia Telluride already had a great reputation stateside, its debut made a big splash in 2019 with the 2020 model. Kia’s huge winning move was delivering what the concept model boasted. That’s something most automakers fail to do, whether deliberately or because they bit off more than they could chew. Think whatever you may when you see the Kia nameplate, but the Telluride might fool you at first glance or even the second. It navigates roads with class while donning a sporty yet attractive design.
The 2021 Kia Telluride packs a stout 3.8-liter V6 Hyundai Lambda II engine that produces a decent 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. This front-wheel-drive crossover also has an eight-speed automatic transmission that allows you to switch between automatic and manual modes. Depending on if you purchase certain packages, the Telluride has a towing capacity of 1,650 to 5,000 pounds. Not bad. However, that performance hurts fuel efficiency, especially in the city.
Because it gets only 14 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg overall, the Telluride forfeits Consumer Reports’ new Green Choice stamp of approval. Only vehicles producing fewer tailpipe emissions earn that distinction. And as eco-friendly cars become more attractive to consumers, gas-guzzlers may lose viability as more hybrid and electric vehicles enter the market. That’s something to think about before purchasing a vehicle with poor fuel efficiency.