The Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade are built on the same platform. They have the same engine, with the same output, connected to the same transmission. They have the same number of seats, similar features and technology, as well as near-identical practicality. Therefore, cross-shopping the two proves you're a car enthusiast. Why?
Because when vehicles are so similar on paper, you're forced to delve into subtleties and details to decide which is better. Look, if you just wanted a seven-seat people mover, you'd get whatever's cheapest. But deciding between this duo shows that what you drive matters, even if it's not an enthusiast car in the typical sense. Ultimately, finding the better SUV was a test of our enthusiast sensibilities—and one emerged ahead. Read on to find out which, and why.
The shared 3.8-liter V-6 produces 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Although neither is troublingly slow—0 to 60 takes 7.1 seconds in the Palisade, 7.2 in the Telluride—they both require a deep dig into the gas pedal to get up to speed. "The car is way too relaxed," associate online editor Stefan Ogbac said of the Palisade, which, like the Telluride, "doesn't have any sense of urgency." Some may appreciate that; it loans a calm, leisurely character, and the V-6 is smooth and vibration-free.
Higher up in the rev range, though, the engine's generous displacement becomes apparent. "There's a noticeable change in power and sound above 5,000 rpm," associate online editor Duncan Brady noted. Regardless, whether you're cruising or caning it, the eight-speed auto is slick-shifting, although it sometimes needs a moment to kick down.
Handling-wise, neither vehicle feels much smaller than it is, but there are slight distinctions in how each goes around bends. "The Telluride takes a set really well," Brady said. "There's not much roll, but it does wallow a bit in quick transitions." Things are marginally sharper in the Palisade. Ogbac opined, "Body control is good for a vehicle this size, and steering is surprisingly tight for such a big boat."
With wheels pushed out to the corners, both present confidence-inspiring stability. The Hyundai rides slightly plusher than the Kia, but neither allows much harshness into the cabin—and combined with soft, supple seats in all three rows of each, our loaded testers are equally comfortable around town and on long drives.
Slowing down is left to identical brakes, with rotors measuring 13.4 inches up front, 12.0 in the rear. We got a 129-foot best 60-0 stopping distance from the Palisade, and a 126-foot stop for the Telluride. That's a similar result, but our editors noted the brake pedal feels slightly tighter and more immediate in the Hyundai.
There's a subtle but noteworthy difference in the driver's seating position. The Palisade positions its driver a bit higher, which gives a more commanding perception of the road. Meanwhile, the Telluride puts the driver a touch lower, providing a more ground-hugging sensation. This difference in hip-point positioning has a marked effect on overall perception while driving—more on that later.
Slide in and feel long-held misconceptions of Korean car quality float away—the Telluride and Palisade are both legitimate near-luxury vehicles.
Inside the Palisade, front-row occupants are greeted by a subdued layout trimmed with upscale materials. "Nothing feels chintzy where your hands fall," Ogbac said. Indeed, the steering wheel is leather-wrapped; knobs and switches across the dashboard work with nice tactility. "I dig the sparkly piano black trim," Brady chimed. He also appreciated the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, saying, "I thought I would miss the analog gauges, but I don't—this looks great." Although the Palisade's gear selector helps the cockpit feel more open, its push-buttons are small and don't provide clearly positive feedback. The gear selector allows for a spacious center console storage area with collapsible cupholders, but that bin lacks dividers or slots to keep small items from sliding around.
Over in the Telluride's front seat, it's a similar embrace of comfort and material quality. Brady made a note saying, "I love the real wood," an impressive accomplishment by Kia, given that it's fake. Brady wasn't duped by the "metal-like" buttons, but they also exude quality in their appearance and operation. Climate controls are mounted higher on the dashboard, in a more natural line of sight. The center console is comparatively traditional, with gears selected by a lever, but it provides more practical storage options between the fixed cupholders and two covered bins.
For these SUVs, the second and third rows are as important as the first. Both vehicles offer nearly equal space and comfort for those passengers—which is to say, plenty. The second row, available in either a three-seat bench or twin captain's chair configuration, offers ample space. Even our tallest editors pass the fit-behind-myself test aft of the driver's seat. The third row is tighter; Brady and Ogbac, each about 6 feet tall, found their heads against the ceiling and cramped legroom. It seems those seats are meant for youngsters. Access wasn't an issue, though, with a quick-sliding second-row seat that eased ingress and egress. The comfort focus is on the front two rows, but third-row riders aren't neglected: Climate control vents and USB ports are allocated to them, just like the passengers ahead.
As for cargo capacity, the Telluride holds a slight advantage. The Kia offers more space than the Hyundai behind the third-row seats, with 21 cubic feet compared with 18 cubic feet (due to the Hyundai's available power-folding third row). Otherwise, behind its second row the Telluride can hold 46 cubic feet to the Palisade's 45.8, and behind the first row they offer 87 and 86.4 cubic feet, respectively.
A Looker And A Letdown
Exterior styling is the biggest differentiator between this duo, and we completely prefer the Telluride. It's tidy, handsome, and exudes a low-key machismo. Distinctive details emerge on a closer look: Check out the scalloping at the base of the front doors, the rising chrome B-pillar trim, and the bold and proud lettering on the hood's leading edge. LED running lights are nothing new, but amber-hued diodes on the range-topping SX trim add to the Telluride's individuality. As a whole, it's nicely composed and in the vein of classically styled SUVs.
By comparison, the Palisade lacks prettiness. The rear is clean but featureless, aside from large letters denoting the model name. Move to the front, however, and the largest-yet iteration of Hyundai's cascading grille dominates the view. It's a polarizing fascia, but LED running lights that seem to pass through the bumper between the headlight clusters are nicely executed. Viewed altogether, though, it looks inelegant and too big for its wheels.
Price And Value
A major price differential between the pair might make it easier to decide, but nope—they're again nearly matched. Fortunately, each packs a ton of value into its approachable MSRP.
The Telluride starts at $32,735 for entry-level LX trim, which has front-wheel drive, leatherette seating surfaces, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, safety tech like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and forward collision warning, plus an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display. There's plenty of range to pick and choose features leading up to the range-topping SX ($46,860 as reviewed), which adds all-wheel drive, 20-inch black-painted wheels, upgraded leather seats and cloth headliner, a head-up display and 10.3-inch touchscreen, 10-speaker audio system, and other luxurious niceties.
Hyundai's offering starts at $32,645 for the basic Palisade SE, with effectively identical specs and standard features to its Kia cousin. The top end, exemplified by our $47,605 Limited review car, again adds all-wheel drive, premium seating surfaces and interior trim, and the same 10.3-inch touchscreen plus head-up display. Over the Kia, though, this range-topper gets a 12-speaker audio setup, that fully digital display cluster, and a power-operated third row.
Describing The Vibe
At this point we've laid out how damningly similar these vehicles are—how to decide a winner? Picking by measurable metrics would be pointless. It's going to come down to those car geek sensibilities we all have to some degree.
First, we concede to the better styling of the Telluride—it's crisper, cleaner, and will remain a looker years down the line. The Palisade's exterior aesthetics are questionable today, which doesn't bode well for its long-term outlook.
Then there's the way each makes you feel. With its slightly higher seating position, the Palisade's ambiance is authoritative in traffic. But glancing around the interior, and seeing the pudgy body in the rearview mirrors, it comes across as something of a lifted minivan—in other words, not particularly cool.
Conversely, the Telluride's lower driver's seat makes it seem closer to the road. Sight lines are still elevated, but it feels more like a high-roofed wagon than a traditional SUV. Plus, that buff body and suave interior remain enjoyable on every drive. The Telluride is simply the cooler of the two, and the one we'd prefer to hit the streets in.
With respect to Hyundai for creating an objectively excellent near-luxury three-row SUV, the Kia Telluride ekes ahead on the subjective, and is the winner of this comparison.