Family affair of family feud?
The days that Hyundai and Kia were just cheap forms of transport are far behind us. Both manufacturers proved more than effectively and more than once they can compete in the middle to lower premium segments. They even show up in even higher segments without leaving the encounter with a bloody nose. The clever method of offering more comfort and luxury for a considerably lower price is undoubtedly the key to success . But can they also use these tactics against each other?
Hyundai shift buttons
Before I get to the exterior design, I first jump into the Palisade because I have already driven the Telluride earlier this year. First impressions are positive, with comfortable and supportive seats and a view of the dashboard that looks very similar to that of the Telluride. The center console in the Palisade has a cleaner and more organized design though, which is a result of the four shift buttons labeled R, N, D and P replacing the conventional shift handle as found in the Kia. The materials and build quality are well above average and the quilted leather offers a nigh on luxury car experience. The amount of space available to the second-row passengers is generous and there is a choice of either a three-seat bench or two captain’s chairs for that row. The third row is much tighter and is therefore best reserved for children or very small adults.
The Telluride offers a very similar experience on the inside, but there are a few differences. There is for instance slightly more luggage space behind the manually foldable third row seats compared to the Hyundai with its electrically foldable setup. The layout of the center console is also different, or a bit more traditional you could say. Maybe the (fake) wood veneer contributes to that feeling… Instead of a single covered bin, the Kia offers more versatile storage space in the center console and even two grab handles alongside it, which may come in handy when the going gets rough on an adventurous drive.
Behind the two very differently shaped grilles, both SUVs house the same 3.8-liter V-6 producing 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Both also have a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels, or only the front wheels in cheaper models. To increase the return chances when venturing into the wilderness, the AWD equipped Kia and Hyundai have a switch on the center console to lock the front and rear axle together. Trying the Telluride on all-terrain tires at an earlier occasion this year left quite an impression, as it was digging through mud and clawing up hills like it was designed for it. With lower profile Michelin tires as seen here, the Kia’s on-road performance is obviously much better, but there is of course a trade-off when the terrain gets a little challenging. The same is true for the Hyundai on its 245/50R20s, but even equipped as such the Palisade will get through terrain and over obstacles that would terrify much of the target audience, as their idea of an adventure is probably a trip to the mall or a day at the Zoo. Driving both cars back-to-back around the Star Hill Ranch in Austin, I got the impression that the Palisade is a tiny bit more comfortable that the Telluride, but it is really hard to tell as they behave like twins in virtually all conditions.
Texas Truck Rodeo
The Palisade and Telluride are not just closely matched in size, technology and capabilities, but also in price. MSRP for the Kia and Hyundai base models are starting at $31,690 and $31,550 respectively, but those are front-wheel drive SE and LX models with hardly any of the bells and whistles that make these Korean alternatives so attractive. The test cars I drove at the yearly Texas Truck Rodeo in Austin – organized by the Texas Auto Writers Association – were stickered at $46,860 for the Telluride SX V6 and $47,605 for the Palisade Limited, both with optional all-wheel drive.
After concluding that both these three-row family vehicles are better equipped than their competitors, perform quite impressively under rough conditions and have levels of luxury that other manufacturers only offer in higher segments, there is only one question left to answer: which of these two is the one to buy. As disappointing as it may be, there is no clear-cut answer to that question. The Palisade and Telluride are so closely-related and so evenly matched, that only the design and appearance make a real difference, so that is exactly where you will find your deciding factor.
It looks like Hyundai is trying too hard
I would go for the Telluride because I prefer the more traditional square looks of it, emphasized by the rather heavy D-pillar and the accentuated waistline. To me the Palisade looks like Hyundai is trying too hard to make it look different with unnecessary design gimmicks like the large grille and funky headlights, but unlike the Telluride, the basic design does not stand out and there is no way of fixing that afterwards with just a few details. Whichever you choose though, rest assured that you really can’t make a wrong decision here. The Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD and Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD are both very good SUVs that offer much more bang for your buck than anything else in this segment or at this price level.
Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD:
- Interior quality and design
- Rugged traditional exterior looks
- Off-road capabilities
- 3.3 twin-turbo V6 not available
Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD:
- Very comfortable
- More spacious than competitors (except Kia)
- Off-road capabilities
- Typical (generic) exterior design
Images by Kevin McCauley (@capturingthemachine)