In a crowded midsize SUV segment, two family haulers stand out. For decades, the Toyota Highlander sat at or near the top of this niche. However, in recent years, several well-deserving challengers entered the market. One challenger, the Kia Telluride, debuted in 2020 and quickly surpassed the Highlander. Here at Huffines Kia in Corinth, Texas, we had our SUV experts put together a head-to-head comparison of these two vehicles to help you decide which family hauler you should purchase.
2023 Kia Telluride vs. 2023 Toyota Highlander: Trim Levels and Pricing
Kia offers the Telluride in 10 trims, each with compelling features to fit various budgets. Toyota makes the Highlander in six trim levels designed to appeal to different buyers. Here’s an overview of their respective models and pricing:
|Kia Telluride Trim
|Toyota Highlander Trim
|Kia Telluride LX
|Toyota Highlander L
|Kia Telluride S
|Toyota Highlander LE
|Kia Telluride EX
|Toyota Highlander XLE
|Kia Telluride EX X-Line
|Toyota Highlander XSE
|Kia Telluride SX
|Toyota Highlander Limited
|Kia Telluride SX X-Line
|Toyota Highlander Platinum
|Kia Telluride SX X-Pro
|Kia Telluride SX Prestige
|Kia Telluride SX Prestige X-Line
|Kia Telluride SX Prestige X-Pro
Edge: Kia Telluride
The Telluride comes in more trims, giving it a significant advantage over the Highlander to buyers looking for something unique. It also has more high-end models to choose from, including the X-Line and X-Pro equipment packages that add impressive all-wheel drive (AWD) and towing equipment.
2023 Kia Telluride vs. 2023 Toyota Highlander: Exterior
Kia refreshed the Telluride for 2023, redesigning the front and rear bumpers and grille, adding a new taillight design, and offering all-new alloy wheels in 18-inch to 20-inch sizes. The Telluride is longer, wider, and taller than the Highlander and rides on a longer wheelbase. Standard models have 8 inches of ground clearance. However, opting for the X-Line or X-Pro trims gives you 8.4 inches of ride height, increased approach and departure angles, high-utility roof rails, and all-terrain tires. Rugged, bold, and modern perfectly describe the Telluride’s exterior.
The Telluride has dual sunroofs, power-folding heated side mirrors, a rear roofline spoiler, and a hands-free tailgate with auto-close capability. LED lighting includes projector beam headlights with automatic control, fog lamps, daytime running lights, and taillights.
The smaller Highlander lends itself to a sleeker profile as it rolls by on 18-inch to 20-inch wheels in various styles and colors. You also get an LED lighting system, power-folding heated side mirrors, a power liftgate, and a rear spoiler. The Highlander offers low-profile roof rails on the top tiers, but ground clearance stops at 8 inches.
Edge: Kia Telluride
Both vehicles have similar exterior styles and equipment offerings. However, the Telluride’s higher ground clearance and high utility roof rails provide it a slight edge over the Highlander.
2023 Kia Telluride vs. 2023 Toyota Highlander: Performance
Looking under the Telluride’s hood, we find a 3.8-liter V-6 engine with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder with dual continuously variable valve timing and gasoline direct injection technology. Kia paired this engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. As a result, this powertrain produces 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. In addition, you can tow 5,500 pounds and still get up to 26 mpg.
The Kia Telluride has a capable standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) system, or you can opt for AWD on any model. This active on-demand system constantly monitors surface conditions and distributes power to the wheels with the most grip for maximum traction. Telluride FWD models come with a Drive Mode Select system, including Comfort, ECO, Sport, and Smart settings, that tune your throttle, steering, and suspension to match the conditions. With AWD models, you can engage the AWD Lock or Snow mode in extreme conditions.
The Highlander uses a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission in every model. This powertrain makes 265 horsepower, 310 lb-ft of torque, tows 5,000 pounds, and gets 29 mpg. Toyota also has selectable drive modes for the Highlander. However, it doesn’t have the locking capability for AWD or Snow mode.
Edge: Kia Telluride
Surprisingly, the Highlander’s higher torque doesn’t translate to a higher towing capacity. It does get slightly better mileage, but the Kia’s off-road prowess puts it ahead.
2023 Kia Telluride vs. 2023 Toyota Highlander: Interior
Kia has made excellent use of the Telluride’s larger dimensions. Slipping inside the Telluride, you immediately notice the spacious cabin that seats up to eight people. Lower trims have Kia’s SynTex upholstery, a durable yet beautiful synthetic leather. Higher trims feature a premium Nappa leather in various colors and styles. Heated and ventilated first- and second-row seats come standard on the upper trims but are available as an upgrade on lower trims.
Second-row seats slide and fold with one touch, and the 60/40 split-folding third row folds flat too. So you have 21 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third row, 46 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 87 cubic feet with the second and third rows both stowed.
Every Telluride model has a 12.3-inch touch screen with built-in navigation powered by Kia Connect. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth technology come standard, enabling hands-free calls, texts, streaming music, etc. A quiet cabin mode shuts off the rear speakers to let passengers relax peacefully. You also get a wireless charging pad and USB ports in every row.
Toyota uses cloth upholstery in the lower trims, SofTex in the middle tiers, and premium leather on the top level. The Highlander’s top trim, Platinum, comes with heated and ventilated front seats and heated front seats on the middle models. However, you can’t get second-row heat or ventilation.
The Highlander has an 8-inch touch screen on the lower trims. Only the Platinum comes with a 12.3-inch version and a wireless charging station. All models have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth systems, and USB ports in all three rows. So it’s no surprise the smaller Highlander has less cargo capacity, with 16 cubic feet behind the third row, 48 cubic feet behind the second row, and 84 cubic feet with both rear rows folded down.
Edge: Kia Telluride
The Telluride’s premium cabin outpaces the Highlander in every way.
Kia Telluride for the Win
Kia continues to impress with high-end style, exceptional performance, and competitive prices. Unfortunately, the Highlander doesn’t measure up. If you want to explore your Telluride options in Corinth, we invite you to shop our virtual inventory, or you can visit Huffines Kia Corinth at 6940 S. Interstate 35E at your convenience, and one of our staff will assist you. Find a great Kia SUV for your family