2023 Kia Telluride: So Good Yet So Hard to Get

Published on February 10, 2023 in Test Drives by Antoine Joubert

With just 3,500 units sold in 2022, is the three-year-old Kia Telluride not good enough for Canadians? Don’t believe it. The reason why sales are so poor is because virtually the entire production goes south of the border.

The company understandably prioritizes the U.S. market, which is more lucrative. Nearly 100,000 Tellurides were sold down there last year. Even used models are hard to find in Canada, as Kia dealers send a bunch of them to Uncle Sam’s land in an effort to get a better price.

So, yeah, the Telluride is an extremely coveted yet rare SUV in the Great White North. It’s no surprise that it keeps getting more and more expensive and retains amazing value in the used-car market.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Named after a town in Colorado, the Kia Telluride offers exactly what people want in a midsize SUV: a handsome, muscular look, generous interior space and versatility, as well as a solid dose of power (in this case from a naturally aspirated V6). Furthermore, it is loaded with features and amenities, although some of the must-haves are limited to higher-end models. Towing is never a problem, even at 5,000 pounds, especially when equipped with the auto-levelling rear suspension, which makes all the difference.

Back in 2020, I went on a 5,000-km road trip with the Telluride and was really impressed with the powertrain. The 3.8-litre V6 is one of the best engines in the segment and achieves just over 9 L/100 km on the highway. It’s a potent yet flexible performer that teams up with a wonderful eight-speed transmission—arguably a better combo than that of the redesigned 2023 Honda Pilot. Kia offers no other option, mind you.

Naturally, all-wheel drive is included as standard, along with a multi-terrain selector. The new-for-2023 X-Pro model is particularly capable off the road thanks to increased ground clearance (213 mm), rugged 18-inch wheels and all-terrain tires.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

In addition to exceptional control, a quiet ride and comfortable driving position, the Telluride boasts an expertly designed cabin where ergonomics are close to perfect. My only complaint is the abundance of icons on the dual displays, which requires some getting used to. 

The centre console layout and numerous storage solutions are impressive, not to mention the easy access to the third-row seats. And unlike several competitors such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Volkswagen Atlas, the Telluride’s fit and finish never disappoints.

Better Than the Palisade?

As you probably know, the Kia Telluride shares its platform and many other bits with the Hyundai Palisade. The latter is more readily accessible in Canada and consequently outsells its Korean cousin almost 2-to-1. In the U.S., however, the Palisade proved slightly less popular than the Telluride last year, which might explain why more units were shipped up north.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Comparing these two products side by side, Hyundai offers a tad more value for the price than Kia. The Palisade is arguably the more traditional SUV. In the end, we ranked both as our No. 1 pick in the three-row midsize SUV segment for 2023. For sure, competition is pretty fierce, and Mitsubishi is the only mass-market brand without an offering (to be fair, the Outlander is a bit larger than most compact SUVs).

Ultimately, the 2023 Kia Telluride is a much, much more convincing attempt at pleasing large families than the Borrego was over a decade ago. It will also attract customers who still mourn the loss of the V6 in the smaller Sorento, a vehicle that helped Kia shed its cheap-car image in the early 2000s. If you’re looking for a versatile and accommodating SUV with seating for up to eight, make sure to consider the Telluride.

Watch: 2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Review

Test drive report
Test model 2023 Kia Telluride
Trim level X-Line
Price range $49,995 – $62,495
Price as tested CA$60,995
Warranty (basic) 5 years/100,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 5 years/100,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 12.7 / 9.7 / 10.9 L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models 2023 Chevrolet Traverse, 2023 Ford Explorer, 2023 Dodge Durango, 2023 Honda Pilot, 2023 GMC Acadia, 2023 Hyundai Palisade, 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Laredo, 2023 Mazda CX-9, 2023 Nissan Pathfinder, 2023 Toyota Highlander, 2023 Subaru Ascent, 2023 Volkswagen Atlas
Strong points
  • Versatile interior
  • Capable powertrain
  • Great build quality
  • Handsome look
Weak points
  • No hybrid variant
  • High price
  • Slow throttle response
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.5/5 Reasonably efficient given its weight and capabilities.
Comfort 4.5/5 Quiet and remarkably comfortable overall.
Performance 4.0/5 The V6 is a tremendous performer, and the eight-speed transmission is a good match.
Infotainment 4.0/5 The system is responsive and pleasant to use, though it can cause some distractions at times.
Driving 3.5/5 You’ll like the Telluride because it’s smooth and easy to drive despite its size.
Overall 4.0/5 An extremely well-designed product that definitely knows how to please its target audience.
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