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Hyundai Palisade & Kia Telluride: What's the Big Deal?

Despite doing my best to follow the auto industry as a whole, there are certain segments that I’m not intimately familiar with—and crossover SUVs are at the top of the list.

Kia Telluride Front Grille

Even so, it’s been hard to ignore a pair of sister vehicles that have hit the market in a big way: the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade.

Hyundai Palisade on Dirt Trail

I’ve noticed them appearing in large numbers on the street, and will admit to thinking the Telluride in particular is a pretty striking vehicle for its segment.

Kia Telluride 2020 Green

Knowing little about these smaller SUVs, I did some research to see what was making them so popular. Not only is “Telluride” the first word suggested after you enter “Kia” in the Google search bar, the same search also gave me a long list of recent “Car of the Year” awards won by the Telluride. 

Hyundai Palisade Side View

So, are these two new models a couple of game-changers in the SUV world or just well-executed family vehicles in a very popular segment?

Kia Telluride Interior Front Seats

Both the Telluride and Palisade are midsize crossover SUVs with car-based underpinnings and transversely mounted engines with front-wheel drive as standard. So, in terms of competition, think Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander rather than Toyota 4Runner.

Kia Telluride Nitto Tires SEMA

In the US market they are available with just one engine, a 3.8L V6 that makes 291 hp and it’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. FWD is standard while AWD is optional. And while the AWD models do have things like snow mode and a “lock” function, they aren’t quite off-road monsters.

Hyundai Palisade V6 Engine

What does seem to make them popular is their combination of value, interior space and a style with more character than most midsize crossover SUVs. As for pricing, they start at around $32,000 for a base FWD example and climb into the high 40s with all the bells and whistles.

Kia Telluride SUV in Sand

Hyundais and Kias have long been known for their value, the despite being the largest cars in their respective lineups, the Palisade and Telluride deliver a lot for the money in terms of interior space and convenience features.

Hyundai Palisade Interior Dashboard

But what really makes them so popular is their looks. Kia did a great job with the Telluride, it has boxy yet modern profile that makes it look a lot more expensive than it is, with an almost Range Rover feel to it. It’s shape also manages to convey the look of “real” SUV rather than a car-based crossover.

Kia Telluride SEMA Show Nitto Tires

Image is important and both Hyundai and Kia have done a great job of using this to build interest around their cars. So no, the Palisade and Telluride aren’t threatening to dethrone or the 4Runner or Grand Cherokee as rugged off-road SUV leaders.

Hyundai Palisade In Desert

But they’ve done a great job at adding some interest to what’s normally a pretty boring segment where vehicles are often purchased based purely on price and practicality. 

Kia Telluride In Desert

And given what we’ve seen from so many of their cars in the last few years, should Hyundai and Kia actually jump into the “real” off-road segment, the results may actually be pretty great. Time will tell.

And speaking of family-friendly SUVs and crossovers going off-road, check out our recent breakdown of Jeep's Trailhawk lineup.

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