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Toyota Highlander vs. Kia Telluride

This is an orange Kia Telluride on display at a car show.

If the first thing you want from your SUV is to amaze everyone who sees it, then the Kia Telluride has recently become one of the best out there. While the new hybrid Toyota Highlander has quickly become one of the most impressive SUVs on the market for everyone in the know.

Both the Highlander and the Telluride have V6 engines, with the Telluride having the slightly stronger but more gas-guzzling 3.8-liter engine. The Highlander is slightly smaller inside and outside but offers the same weight overall for the body as the larger Telluride.

Comparing these two SUVs against each other needs to be done while understanding that they are extremely similar. Both have similar features and updated interiors that can make choosing the best task take several hours to perfect.

On The Outside

This is a red Toyota Highlander on display at a car show.

The Highlander has a sleek look that makes it similar to other cars provided by Toyota, giving an overall sporty feeling rather than one of aggression. It has lights that have been molded to fit in with the other lines that run across the body, while the wheel arches are accentuated with the door lines.

While the Telluride has a much more boxy design similar to Land Rover Discovery’s that gives the overall car an aggressive feeling. With some lines and shapes that cause the design to be a complete opposite of most other SUVs on the market, with the front grille incorporating a larger bumper scoop at the bottom.

Both vehicles have been refreshed for 2021; they have full LED lights, with rear lights and blinkers that have also been changed to LEDs. The Telluride has lower fog lights than the Highlander, which many prefer when the vehicle already has larger headlights as a standard.

Further, because of the boxed shape of the Telluride, it has a much larger and flatter windscreen, giving it more views in front. With the Highlander having a sloped windshield and a sloped rear, the windows may be smaller than many would prefer on such a large SUV.

Step Inside

As both of these companies offer a variety of features that can only be seen on the inside, the options available to you are usually a deciding factor. There are several options to each vehicle that make the seating arrangement unique but help to have the internal entertainment amazing.

Seating And Upholstery

This is a look at the backseat upholstered seats of the Toyota Highlander.

Both SUVs have options to have the total amount of seats changed to eight in total, with a third row optional in the rear of the SUV. These seats are all standard bucket seats, with the driver and passenger seats both being electrically adjustable.

Further, the upholstery options of both cars are significantly different, with both having cloth seats as the standard. However, the Highlander has a leather option as you move up the options, with a combined option, whereas the Telluride has synthetic and real leather options.

As for safety, both SUVs have passenger, driver, front head, rear head, and front side airbags, along with a few other skirting airbags to keep your family safe. The SUVs have been made to pass the best safety tests and score as high as possible in 2021 without receiving any demerits.

Cargo Space

This is a look at the trunk cargo space of a Toyota Highlander.

With all the rear seats folded down, you will get 84.3 cubic feet in the Highlander, with 48.3 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and only 16 cubic feet with all eight seats up. The Telluride boasts 87 cubic feet at max, 46 cubic feet at standard, and only 21 cubic feet with all eight seats up.

At the front, the headroom for the driver on the Highlander is 39.9 inches, 59 inches at the shoulders, and 40.4 inches at the legs. At the same time, the Telluride has a good 40.9 inches at the head, 61.6 inches at the shoulder, and 41.4 inches at the legs.

Features And Infotainment

This is a look at the interior front area of the Toyota Highlander showcasing the infotainment system of the dashboard.

Both of these SUVs have included systems that are remarkably similar, with the Telluride only losing out on not having built-in Wi-Fi. Both SUVs come standard with Apple Car Play and Android Auto with additional entertainment system upgrades improving the total speakers and wattage.

From Toyota, you are getting a system that has been more purpose-built to work in the U.S., while the Telluride has a few features lacking that make it operational in more international markets. Further, the Highlander with a hybrid engine already has everything added onto it.

Under The Hood

When it comes to power and engines, both of these SUVs have something unique to offer, with their power to weight ratios being slightly different. However, because Highlander is running a more modern setup, it surprises many places and easily overcomes its competitor.

Engine, Drivetrain, And Transmission

This is a close look at the front wheel of a Kia Telluride.

Both have a fully automatic transmission that delivers power to the front wheels, with all-wheel drive being an optional extra. Both of these vehicles have V6 engines, with the Highlander coming with a hybrid option that has made it one of the most preferable options on the market.

The Telluride has a V6 3.8-liter engine that pushes out 291 horsepower at peak, making it a force to be reckoned with on the open road. While the hybrid Highlander has a V6 3.5 liter that delivers 295 horsepower at peak performance, thanks in part to the advanced technology of the engine.


This is a Kia Telluride parked on a sandy road.

Overall, neither of these SUVs is that fast, reaching similar top speed, with the Telluride having a faster overall acceleration than the hybrid Highlander. However, when reaching top speeds, they peak at the same speed, with any loads loaded onto the SUVs impacting performance.

At The Pumps

When it comes to fuel economy, the Telluride is not fair, and the Highlander, with the heavier body and odd wind resistance, causes some extra drag. Overall, the Telluride will do 20 mpg in the city and peak at only 26 mpg when on the highway.

The hybrid Highlander makes some bold claims on the Toyota website but has delivered only satisfactory results when tested on the road. Reaching 21 mpg while in the city and easily achieving a monumental 29 mpg on the open highway.

Many people may be confused as to why the Highlander gives such odd results; this is because, under heavy loads or faster speeds, it is usually the V6 engine providing power. With the electric motors only supplementing some tasks, improving overall fuel economy but not reaching impossible heights.

Safety First

Both of these SUVs have some of the latest technologies for internal and external safety systems. As such, they have both received NTHSA 5-star ratings with nothing that means you can rest assured in most cases, as anyone inside the SUV should be safe.

Pricing Comparison

This is a white Kia Telluride on display at a car show.

The Telluride starts at a lower price point of only $32k and reaches a high of $48k, including every feature that KIA offers. At the same time, the Highlander starts at $35k and easily reaches just below $50k when you have added everything and changed over to the hybrid version.

However, it should be noted that these two SUVs are very similarly priced as few people ever buy the base model Telluride without adding a few features. Making the average starting price of both rather near the $35k mark than the $32k that Kia would suggest to dealers.

And The Winner Is…

The Telluride is the clear winner in terms of comfort, affordability, and features as it has several parts and functions that the Highlander sees as optional extras. Making the Telluride with its updated 2021 interior and exterior one of the best SUVs currently on the market.

However, the Highlander has a much more efficient engine that means it is much more affordable in the long run. The winner between these two SUVs is the Telluride owing to the greater value for money you are getting overall, with the only downside being its uneconomic engine.


U.S. News & World Report: Compare 2021 Toyota Highlander vs. 2021 Kia Telluride

Three-Row SUV Kings: 2020 Kia Telluride vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander

Consumer Reports: Kia Telluride vs. Toyota Highlander Review

Motor Biscuit: The Toyota Highlander Is Better For Off-Roading Than The Kia Telluride

Kelley Blue Book: 2021 Kia Telluride vs. 2021 Toyota Highlander Comparison