I drove a $47,000 Kia Telluride — and the verdict is that this upstart SUV is the best on the market

The verdict is that I can’t think of a single good reason to tell you NOT to run right out and buy a Kia Telluride if you need three rows and don’t want a minivan.

Kia Telluride

Matthew DeBord/BI

If you want to go barebones, the Kia Telluride can be had for about $32,000.

That still gets you AWD and the V6, so therefore a monumental bargain.

My test vehicle was the top SX trim level and consequently optioned to within an inch of its automotive life. The uptick in price was $15,000. Much of which was worth it, although the only extras offered for this trim were stuff like Nappa leather seat trim and a head-up display, as well as second-row seats that were heated and cooled. The damage? $2,000.

This SUV was as close to perfect at its price point as it’s possible to get, if you ask me. I noticed but one “problem” — a bit of buzz from the 291-horsepower engine under hard acceleration in Sport mode. But just a bit. And went away once the Telluride’s transmission automatically snicked into the overdrive gears.

I’ll just say it: When Hyundai and Kia first arrived in the US market, they didn’t make a Japanese impression. The Japanese brands gained instant cred decades ago when their well-built and fuel-efficient cars put Detroit on notice. The South Koreans entered the fray after the Japanese impact had been felt, leaving price as the only real avenue to competition.

So, first impressions were that the cars were cheap, sticker-wise and quality-wise. Heavy-duty, 10-year/100,000-mile warranties took the fear away from buyers.

But now Kia (and Hyundai and the premium Genesis brand) have shown the ability to offer insane value alongside wonderful quality. The Telluride, with the Stinger sports sedan, is the pinnacle of this. The Kia SUV is every bit as good and in some ways superior to the Honda Pilot.

The real test of such vehicles is the road trip, with family and gear and perhaps a pet or two. I didn’t have any of those things handy, but I did undertake a nearly 200-mile roundtrip jaunt in the Telluride from suburban New Jersey to a small town in Pennsylvania to visit the C.M Martin & Co. guitar factory, and while I didn’t load up the cargo area with guitars, I did get to spend quality time with the Telluride on a variety of roadways, with a nasty storm coming in from the west.

By the end of it, I was ready to march over to a Kia dealership and buy one of these things.

OK, I don’t HAVE to do that. But the Telluride put me in that mindset, just as the Stinger did a while back.

Kia, I gotta hand it to ya — you’re killing it, and the Telluride is the latest victory.

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