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A green 2022 Kia Telluride is shown parked on a sandy lot.

How the Award-Winning Telluride Change Kia Forever

Sometimes a vehicle comes along that forever changes the trajectory of a brand and leaves a lasting impression on the automotive industry. In many cases, these are performance icons like the Porsche Cayman, best-selling trucks like the Ford F-150, and off-road legends like the Jeep Wrangler. But sometimes, the industry enjoys quite the surprise when modern marvels like the Kia Telluride steal the spotlight, forever changing the industry and every Kia dealer across the country for the better.

The Telluride is a bold addition to the Kia lineup, earning its place as the largest in the fleet with seating for up to eight passengers and plenty of cargo room. But it has so much more to offer than its spaciousness; it’s the perfect balance of rugged capability and affordable luxury. This balance has earned it dozens of awards and accolades, making it the most awarded vehicle in Kia history. So what do these awards mean for the Telluride? Here’s a deep dive into the Telluride’s top honors and how they reflect Kia’s ingenuity and rapidly growing popularity in the American automotive landscape.

2020 Triple Crown Winner

The Telluride made its official debut in 2020 and immediately stole the show as the first SUV to win the industry’s “Triple Crown” of top awards from North American Car of the Year, MotorTrend, and Car and Driver. These accolades and countless others made it the most awarded SUV in the Kia lineup and cemented its place as Kia’s best-selling SUV. So, what do these awards mean in an industry saturated with “best of” titles?

Car and Driver 10Best

Every year, Car and Driver takes the hundreds of vehicles that populate the automotive industry and picks the top 10. They start by capping the models to those priced less than $90,000, which keeps the competition reasonably wide. Then, they invite the previous year’s winners to defend their titles and spend the next two weeks evaluating the top contenders in three specific categories: value, fun, and mission fulfillment.

The Telluride earned a place on Car and Driver’s coveted list for the first time in 2020, shocking many––especially since that year also saw the publication combine its formerly separate 10Best lists for cars and trucks, cutting the number of available places in half. After all, how does a family-friendly SUV distinguish itself in a market oversaturated with sports cars, pickup trucks, and more? Car and Driver quickly found out, with the testers amazed by the Telluride’s affordable price tag, exceptional handling, and a long list of features.

In 2021, the Telluride made the prestigious list again and managed to send repeat shockwaves throughout the industry. How could a Kia SUV that costs less than $50,000 earn a place on the list and not the high-end Cadillac Escalade with its price tag of nearly $78,000? It’s easy: the Telluride is laden with features, including ventilated second-row seats that aren’t available on the high-priced Escalade. It’s all a matter of value and how the Telluride successfully fulfills its mission as a family-oriented SUV that’s ruggedly capable, luxurious, and incredibly affordable.

A silver 2021 Kia Telluride is shown from the front parked near mountains.

MotorTrend SUV of the Year

Like Car and Driver, MotorTrend is highly regarded in the industry, so people pay attention when a model earns a MotorTrend title. That was certainly the case for the Telluride in 2020 when it was named MotorTrend SUV of the Year. But what does that honor mean for the Telluride, and why is MotorTrend’s competition unique?

MotorTrend argues that comparing one vehicle with another isn’t fair, like comparing apples to oranges. So instead, MotorTrend uses six criteria to judge each car, truck, and SUV in the competition. Models like the Telluride that excel in every category earn a coveted title in their class.

The MotorTrend team first looks at the vehicle’s “Advancement in Design,” which examines the exterior and interior design and how it communicates what the vehicle is and how it functions. For example, the Telluride’s modern front grille and premium interior details are not only reflective of the Kia brand but also complement one another. Next in the criteria is “Engineering Excellence,” which looks at a vehicle’s performance, examines how well the vehicle is built, and touches on relevant details from fuel economy to safety.

MotorTrend also looks at “Performance of Intended Function” and “Value.” Performance is one of the most influential categories and is where the Telluride consistently shined because of its effortless handling and responsiveness in the three-row segment. By looking at the value of a vehicle, MotorTrend approaches it from a consumer standpoint to determine if the vehicle is worth the sticker price. With the Telluride’s incredible list of standard features, it’s no surprise that this category was an easy win for the three-row SUV.

A green 2022 Kia Telluride is shown driving on an open highway after leaving a Kia dealer.

North American Car of the Year Utility Vehicle of the Year

The final piece of the industry’s “Triple Crown” is the coveted North American Car of the Year Award. In 2020, the Telluride took the title of NACTOY Utility Vehicle of the Year, beating 12 semi-finalists and three finalists for the honor. The Telluride was eligible to compete because it met NACTOY’s essential criteria: contenders must be all-new and available at dealerships when the awards were announced.

The Telluride’s NACTOY title was no easy feat and pushed the SUV to its limits for months as the jury evaluated every aspect of the family-friendly adventurer. Jurors logged hundreds of miles test driving the model to assess its handling and performance. The Telluride’s overall design and safety were also considered, along with its value, driver satisfaction, and leadership in the segment. With the 2020 Telluride proving that three-row SUVs can be fun and engaging to drive, incredibly safe, and loaded with innovative technology, there was no question how Kia’s newest SUV earned the title.

The Telluride: Kia’s Best-Selling and Most Awarded Vehicle

A constant progression marks Kia’s reputation over the last decade. While the automaker still isn’t one of America’s leading brands, it’s proven that slow and steady can win the race. Models like the Telluride turn that race into a sprint, pushing Kia ahead and demonstrating the automaker’s ingenuity and a keen awareness of what its customers want and need in an SUV.

Today, the Telluride remains the most awarded and best-selling vehicle in the Kia lineup. Its dozens of honors include a 2021 Best Resale Value Award and a 2022 Best Family Car title from Kelley Blue Book, a 2022 Editors’ Choice Award from Car and Driver, and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has also earned high praise from US News, including honors like Best Cars for Families in 2022, Best Three-Row for the Money in 2022, and Best Three-Row SUV for Families in 2021.

These awards set the stage for the Telluride’s bright future, especially with Kia’s commitment to constantly evolving its lineup to meet the needs of customers. We see this firsthand in the updates to the Telluride in 2022, which include additional convenience and safety features that add to the SUV’s already incredible value. As a result, there’s no question that the Telluride has earned its place in the industry and will continue to play a prominent role as a segment disrupter renowned for its value, performance, and capability. It’s the SUV that checks all the boxes and keeps money in your wallet, and who doesn’t want that?

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