Crossover & Midsize

The 2021 Kia Telluride Missed 1 Big Opportunity

It’s hard to overstate just how big of a hit the Telluride has been for Kia. Since it was introduced for the 2020 model year, the Telluride was not only named MotorTrend’s SUV of the Year, but it also won the 2019 NACTOY Utility Vehicle of the Year award and made Car and Driver’s 10Best list. On top of all the awards, the Telluride has also proven so popular, dealers struggle to keep them on the lot.

Considering how popular the Telluride is with reviewers and how strong the demand for the three-row crossover has been, there isn’t a lot to improve. We also assume we’ll see some significant updates in a few years when Kia gives the Telluride a mid-cycle refresh. That said, we’d have loved to see Kia address one thing new owners have complained about: the headlights.

The Telluride’s headlight complaints

2020 Kia Telluride
2020 Kia Telluride | Kia

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We haven’t seen complaints from a significant number of Telluride owners who regret their purchase or wish they could give it back. But as you can see in this Reddit thread, headlights are definitely something some owners aren’t happy with. More specifically, they’re unhappy with how bright the standard headlights are.

As one commenter put it: “We own a 2020 EX and were just driving home at night. I said to my wife my only real gripe about this car is the brightness of the headlights. It doesn’t fan out as well as other cars it’s like the light just stops.”

That doesn’t appear to be an issue if you upgrade to the optional LED headlights included in the Premium Package or buy the top trim. Unfortunately for customers on a more limited budget, the Premium Package isn’t available unless you can afford the almost-loaded Telluride EX. Lower trim levels don’t offer it as an option. Considering Kia made other changes, such as adding a remote start button to the smart key fob for the 2021 model year, it would’ve made sense for Kia to remedy the headlight concern, as well.

The IIHS also raised concerns with the Telluride’s headlights

2020 Kia Telluride on the street
2020 Kia Telluride | Kia

RELATED: The 2020 Kia Telluride Avoids a Common Mistake Other SUVs Make

But wasn’t the Kia Telluride named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety? And isn’t the IIHS one of the most well-respected organizations in the U.S. when it comes to rating car safety? Absolutely. So how could there be complaints about the standard headlights?

That’s because the IIHS named the Telluride a Top Safety Pick with a metaphorical asterisk. Only the top-of-the-line SX trim earned that distinction since it includes upgraded LED headlights. The standard headlights that come on lower trims earned a rating of Poor.

In the IIHS’s testing of Tellurides equipped with halogen headlights, it found that “[on] the straightaway, visibility was fair on both sides of the road. On curves, visibility was inadequate in all 4 tests.” With the high beams on, it got the same result.

A cheap headlight fix?

The rear 3/4 view of a green 2020 Kia Telluride on a desert road
2020 Kia Telluride rear 3/4 | Kia

As multiple commenters in the original Reddit thread pointed out, one possible solution is to simply buy your own LED bulbs. Putting aftermarket LED bulbs on a car that was designed for halogen has been known to return mixed results, but multiple Telluride owners said the ones they bought were a significant improvement. It’s possible to find a set such as these on Amazon that will be far less expensive than the $1,695 Kia charges for the Premium Package on the Telluride EX. But you may want to consult with a mechanic before making the change to ensure you are buying the correct equipment for your vehicle. If you are a DIYer, you could likely swap them out yourself in 20 minutes or less. Since we haven’t tested these aftermarket lights ourselves, we can’t speak to how effective this solution is.

To be fair, standard headlights with subpar performance isn’t a problem specific to Kia or the Telluride. The IIHS has taken quite a few automakers to task for not including better headlights as standard. But with pedestrian fatalities on the rise, we’d like to see all automakers improve their standard headlights.