A 2023 dark blue Kia Telluride is off-roading on dirt.

Why Is the Kia Telluride So Popular?

The Kia Telluride is one of the safest, roomiest, and best-performing midsize three-row SUVs on the market today. Automakers started rolling out three-row SUVs at the turn of the millennium, with Kia retooling its first-generation Sportage and releasing the Sorento in 2002. (They wouldn’t debut the Kia Telluride for sale for another 18 years.) Minivans had been the vehicle of choice for suburban families in the ’80s and ’90s, as these were some of the only vehicles that could seat more than five passengers. The only other options were full-size SUVs, but not all of these featured three rows of seating. Furthermore, full-size SUVs were hard to handle, driving more like trucks. When you factored in a poor fuel economy, it was clear to see why large suburban families opted for minivans.

This all changed when automakers began offering midsize SUVs with three rows of seats. These were designed to give drivers who wanted the ruggedness and drivability of an SUV alongside the roominess to seat upwards of eight passengers like a minivan. Since its debut in 2020, the Kia Telluride has taken its place at the head of the pack. For example, Kelley Blue Book named the 2023 Telluride a Best Buy Award winner and its top-rated three-row midsize SUV. Meanwhile, Car and Driver gave the 2023 Telluride a perfect ten in its own review. Having struggled with the original Sportage and subsequently refined their technique with the Sorento, the long-incubated Kia Telluride is one of the most well-balanced and thoughtfully crafted vehicles on the market today.

The Telluride Space Shuttle

Most three-row SUVs advertise the ability to seat eight passengers, but the majority of these purposefully neglect to mention how cramped their third row is. This is not the case with the Kia Telluride, which comfortably fits up to eight passengers across all of its available trim levels. The key is in maximizing legroom—the most integral aspect to keeping your travel buddies from feeling like sardines.

The 2023 Kia Telluride provides an impressive 31.4 in of legroom in the third row of seats. Most of the Telluride’s competitors will allot only 60% of that much space for its back seat. Furthermore, the designers at Kia have managed to achieve this without sacrificing in the trunk. The Telluride can store up to 21 cu.ft. of cargo behind the third-row seats. Thus, you can take your 2023 Telluride on a road trip with all eight passenger seats occupied and all of their luggage stacked behind them. This is not the case with most other three-row SUVs, which will deliver a small amount of trunk space in order to provide a decent amount of passenger room.

If you need to transport larger objects, you can simply fold down the third row for a total of 46 cu.ft. of cargo space, or—should you hauling some seriously large packages—you can fold the second row down for a flush foundation and a total of 87 cu.ft. of storage space. If you are in need of some external storage, high-utility roof rails are available in higher trims, and even the base model is capable of towing up to 5,000 lbs.

A blue 2023 Kia Telluride for sale is seen off-roading on snow.

Power & Handling

The 2023 Telluride comes with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, but regardless of which drivetrain you choose, you will be able to go from zero to sixty in a blistering 6.8 seconds, with a top speed of 132 mph. Even the entry-level Telluride LX has this potential with its 3.8L Lambda V6 engine. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, this engine can deliver up to 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque—more than enough grit to get you tearing through traffic.

The key difference between the two drivetrain options is seen in traction and fuel economy. The available Active On-Demand All-Wheel Drive system uses electronic sensors to interpret unruly road conditions and respond by meting power accordingly to your wheels to ensure the best possible traction in all driving conditions; this also includes a Snow Mode, designed to provide consistent traction in inclement weather. The all-wheel drive powertrain produces an EPA-estimated 18 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway, whereas the front-wheel drive version delivers a more optimal fuel economy of an EPA-estimated 20 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway.

Safety First

Kia boasts of having 17 Advance Collision Avoidance and Advanced Driver Assistance Features standard on every model of the 2023 Telluride. These are included as part of the Kia ‘Drive Wise’ Driver Assist Technology suite—one of the main components behind the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) decision to name the 2023 Telluride its Top Safety Pick among midsize SUVs.

Kia’s ‘Drive Wise’ suite includes a Forward Collision Warning and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist w/ Pedestrian, Cyclist & Junction Turning Detection; Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Safe Exit Assist for alerting you of vehicles approaching from the rear while you exit along a roadside; Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Following Assist, and Driver Attention Warning to alert you whenever the vehicle determines you’ve been distracted by something other than the road; Navigation-Based Smart Cruise Control, Highway Driving Assist, and Intelligent Speed Limit Assist working in concert to best provide a safe regulation of speed while using the cruise control function; and a Rear-View Monitor w/ Dynamic Parking Guidance and Rear Park Distance Warning, among others.

The black interior and dash of a 2023 Kia Telluride is shown.

Now That’s Infotainment!

These days, most vehicles come with some form of an infotainment system. This allows drivers and passengers to stay connected—to their smartphone or other media devices—while also accessing several entertainment features of its own, such as the radio or built-in navigation. However, few vehicles have an infotainment system that can rival the one that comes standard on the 2023 Kia Telluride. The Kia Connect interface lives on a huge 12.3-inch color touchscreen display that makes accessing all of its features simple and fast.

The Kia Connect system allows you to access all of your favorite apps using Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. This also makes calls and texts easy, as you can use hands-free commands on the system. In addition, the Telluride features steering wheel-mounted control buttons for the Kia Connect system. There is also SiriusXM, giving you access to the best commercial programming, including music, talk, news, sports, and comedy. Of course, Kia’s warranty doesn’t cover you for arguments over which SiriusXM channel to listen to on your road trips.

Unlike most other infotainment systems, the Kia Connect on the 2023 Telluride includes its built-in navigation system across all trim levels. This means that the Kia Connect system will help you get wherever you are going with turn-by-turn instructions. As you go on your way, you and your passengers can keep your devices charged using the multiple USB-C fast-charging ports located in each row of seats. Finally, the standard Wi-Fi hotspot on the Telluride will allow everyone to stay connected to the Internet no matter where your vehicle takes you.

The Kia Telluride Is Popular for One Very Good Reason

Popularity is not always a sign that something is necessarily good. For example, the Baha Men had a big hit with “Who Let the Dogs Out,” and I personally disagree with that song’s existence. However, in the case of the Kia Telluride, there is one very good reason it is so popular: it is far and away the most well-rounded and thoughtfully crafted three-row midsize SUV available today. No other model delivers the same level of generous roominess, efficient performance, comprehensive safety, and top-tier infotainment as the 2023 Kia Telluride. Therefore, if you want an exceptional three-row SUV, then the choice of the Kia Telluride is not just the most popular answer—it is the correct one as well.