In this 2022 Toyota Highlander vs 2022 Kia Telluride comparison, we find similar specs and striking differences between these two midsize SUV competitors.
Across the board, automakers have gone hog-wild building out the SUV segment, particularly the midsize three-row variety. Today’s comparison of the Toyota Highlander vs. Kia Telluride pits a pair of popular vehicles in this space against one another. Toyota has been refining the Highlander since 2001 to much acclaim, including a defeat of the Honda Pilot in this comparison.
Kia introduced the Telluride just two years ago and it has quickly galloped to the forefront of gotta-have-it SUVs with standout styling and Kia’s unique brand of value-packed engineering. On paper, these family-friendly tall wagons offer a strikingly similar level of amenities and powertrain specs. And yet, like with anything in life, the answer on which one is best depends on a variety of factors that we’ll explore below.
In a Toyota Highlander vs. Kia Telluride comparison, it must be noted that Toyota offers something that Kia simply cannot compete with. Hybrid power. Of the six Highlander trims available, four of them offer a hybrid option that adds about $1,500 to the bottom line. It blends a 2.5L four-cylinder gas engine with two electric motors for FWD models, or three for AWD, and a CVT. In FWD-guise, the Highlander Hybrid makes 243 net horsepower and is rated for 36 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway. AWD versions reduce the city figure by one mpg.
Base models are equipped with a 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 paired to an 8-speed automatic to produce 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. As discussed in our new vs. used Highlander article, the non-hybrid four-pot option is no longer available. Fuel efficiency for the V6 is estimated at 21/29 mpg in city/highway driving for FWD models and 20/27 mpg, respectively, when fitted with AWD.
Kia keeps it simple by fitting all 2022 Tellurides with a 3.8L naturally aspirated V6 producing 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It pairs with an 8-speed automatic feeding the front wheels, or all four wheels for a $2000 premium, the same transmission and AWD upcharge found on the Highlander. It is a setup that has been working since the Telluride was released, as noted in this new vs. used Telluride discussion showcasing a relative dead heat.
The Kia falls short on fuel efficiency, when compared to the Highlander, with EPA estimates of 20 mpg around town and 26 on the highway. Adding AWD brings those figures down to 19 and 24 mpg in city and highway driving. However, things swing the other way with warranties. The Telluride comes with Kia’s famous 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty to the 5-year/60,000-mile term from Toyota. But, back to the fact that these conversations depend on multiple factors, the Highlander comes with 2 years of complimentary maintenance whereas the Telluride does not.
Both the 2022 Highlander and Telluride are independently sprung at all four corners, weigh in at a shade over 4,100 pounds and stretch past 16 feet in length. No one is going to mistake them for a sports car, but competent handling can be expected with a cushy ride aimed at toting families comfortably. Toyota does offer “sport-tuned” suspension in the Highlander XSE but it is not going to turn a driver into Mario Andretti in the bendy bits.
Another area of similarity between these two SUVS are the optional AWD systems that will automatically send power from the front wheels to the rears, as needed, in concert with torque vectoring control. Toyota goes a step further, offering Multi-Terrain Select in addition to the standard driver-selectable modes of Normal, Sport, Eco and Snow. AWD models add Mud & Sand and Rock & Dirt options for additional traction in sloppy conditions. Kia keeps it simpler with options for Comfort, Sport, Eco or Smart driving modes.
On the driver-aid front, every 2022 Highlander features Forward Collision Alert with Automated Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Tracing Assist and Lane Departure Warning with Keeping Assist. Kia matches that and adds semi-autonomous highway driving assist plus a driver attention warning across the Telluride lineup, systems you cannot find on the Highlander. Both offer a 360° view monitor and blind spot alert but only the Kia offers a live-feed monitor of blind spots, all of which combines to give the Telluride an edge here.
An interesting note in this Toyota Highlander vs. Kia Telluride comparison is that they are within one to two inches of each other on exterior dimensions. As well, they both have three rows of seating with eight positions and the option for second row captain’s thrones if you can make do with seven seats.
However, the Telluride boasts three extra inches of legroom and nine extra inches of shoulder room in the wayback row on top of a whopping 37 extra cubic feet of overall passenger volume. The theme continues with three more cubes of maximum cargo space, including an extra five behind the third row, versus the Highlander. This packaging coup is a major selling point for the family demographic these vehicles aim at.
Both offer leather upholstery in handsome colors like Glazed Caramel and Butterscotch, though if you want fancy Nappa hides, you’ll need the Telluride. Climatized front seats and heated outboard rears are common features to these SUVs, but again the Kia noses ahead by offering those second row positions with ventilation as well. This points to a theme of Kia going the extra mile with the Telluride all while charging less money than Toyota.
Toyota slices the 2022 Highlander into six trims ranging from $37,070 for the base L model up to a $49,225 Platinum. A Kia Telluride starts at $34,385 for an LX and gets up to $44,285 for the fourth and top-spec SX trim. Every new Highlander comes with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple and Android smartphone integration, plus a Wi-Fi hotpot. There is also a 12-inch display, 11-speaker JBL audio system and navigation included on Platinum models or as part of a package elsewhere. You can dive into more detail on the wide range of amenities available in our 2022 Highlander review here.
Kia offers a single infotainment interface, sized 10 inches, across the 2022 Telluride lineup. Like Toyota, smartphone mirroring and Wi-Fi is standard fare but Kia also adds navigation to this list. You can upgrade to a Harman Kardon stereo with the Kia, but it is only available in the SX model. There are a host of additional features that won’t fit in this comparison, so check out this 2022 Telluride review for more information. Both SUVs offer wireless charging pads, an in-cabin PA system and head-up display as well. The Highlander one-ups Kia by offering a standard power-adjustable driver’s seat and triple-zone automatic climate control to the Kia’s dual-zone setup.
Clearly, Toyota and Kia were reading one another’s notes on “How to Build a 3-Row SUV”, as the Highlander and Telluride are so closely matched. The reality is, if you’re in the market for an SUV of this ilk, you cannot go wrong with either option. That said, the Highlander is a no-brainer for buyers with fuel efficiency on the brain.
Tacking on the $1,500 hybrid powertrain results in a vehicle that’ll blow the doors off the Kia in an MPG comparison. On the other hand, Kia offers comparable features and amenities, plus more driver-assist systems, for less money than the Highlander does. Personally, the boxy, butch looks of the Telluride would seal the deal for me but it is certainly a nuanced comparison.