The Kia Telluride has just won World Car of the Year 2020. But what is it?
The Kia Telluride has just won World Car of the Year 2020. But what is it?

The Kia Telluride is the car you have never heard of that’s just won 2020 World Car of the Year. At Changing Lanes, we thought it would be a good idea to discover a little more about this motoring obscurity that impressed the WCOTY jury so much.

So what is the Kia Telluride?

For Irish and European audiences the reason you have never heard of it is that the Telluride is not sold in Europe. It’s built primarily for the North American market. We can say the Telluride is part of Kia’s global SUV range, which includes the Seltos (we don’t get that one either), Stonic, Sportage, and Sorento. But the Telluride is clearly the big daddy of them all.

Trivia: Telluride is a town in Colorado, USA!

A few weeks ago, we brought you the story of the new Kia Sorento, at present the largest Kia SUV you can buy in Ireland and Europe. With seven seats, it’s what we in Ireland consider ‘big’. But when the photos were revealed a few weeks ago, there had clearly been a new deviation in styling. Check out the vertical split taillights. Now we can see where the inspiration came from!

Read 10 Things To Know About The 2020 Kia Sorento.

The history of the Kia Telluride

The Telluride has a relatively short history in that it was first unveiled as a ‘full size SUV’ concept in 2016 at the North American International Auto Show. At that time it was pitched as a ‘premium SUV positioned above the current Sorento’.

The 2016 Kia Telluride SUV concept
The 2016 Kia Telluride SUV concept

In 2019, the production version of the Telluride was revealed. It was designed specifically for an American audience at Kia’s design studio in California, and assembled in Georgia, USA. The Korean company declared that the new SUV was all about ‘big skies, desert roads, mountain passes, shady forests, smooth highways, and long coastal drives’. It was designed to convey the presence associated with original legendary SUVs – big, bold and boxy – and a go-anywhere, do-anything attitude. The interior of the car was touted as more ‘luxe living room’ than ‘utility vehicle’.

It’s the largest Kia ever built, is 5 metres in length and can seat up to eight. It has T E L L U R I D E spelt out in big letters across the bonnet and the rear of the car.

What’s under the big bonnet?

The Kia Telluride is clearly not a car for Europe. Why? Because it’s powered by an old fashioned 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine with 291 hp and 355 Nm of torque! There’s no diesel, no electric, no plug-in hybrid! It has an 8-speed automatic transmission and is available as front wheel or four wheel drive. In America, the Telluride is available from $31,890, which is about €29,000 in Ireland! It’s available in 5 exterior colours including ‘Sangria’, ‘Ebony Black’ and ‘Everlasting Silver’.

Motortrend reports how the Kia Telluride is selling exceptionally well in the US. In the US, the Kia Telluride competes against the Volkswagen Atlas, Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer.

Will the Telluride come to Ireland now?

A spokesperson for Kia Ireland has confirmed to us that there are no plans to launch the three row, extra large Kia Telluride in Europe or in indeed Ireland. It’s clearly not suitable for this market. Console yourself with the fact that we will see a new 7 seat Kia Sorento in Ireland before the end of the year.

The interior of the Kia Telluride
The interior of the Kia Telluride

How did it win the award?

The winners of the World Car Awards are decided by an independent international jury comprising 86 experienced automotive journalists from 24 countries around the world. The Kia Telluride beat off competition from two other finalists – the Mazda3 and the Mazda CX30 – two superb new cars. The Kia Telluride was rewarded by the judging panel for its “distinctive design and impressive practicality”.

The Telluride has already won more than 70 awards since its introduction in 2019. These include North American Utility Vehicle of the Year and MotorTrend SUV of the Year.

For the record, the Kia e-Soul won Urban Car of the Year at the World Car of the Year Awards. The e-Soul is no stranger to awards. It went home with three at the 2020 Irish Car of the Year Awards. It won Irish Green/Efficient Car of the Year, Irish Compact Car of the Year and the big one – 2020 Irish Car of the Year!

The World Car Awards have been running since 2004. They aim to reflect the reality of the global marketplace, and recognise, reward and inspire excellence, leadership and innovation in a rapidly changing motor industry. According to the organisers, the awards are intended to complement, not compete, with existing national and regional Car of the Year programmes. Ireland has one judge on the WCOTY panel – Eddie Cunningham, Motoring Editor of the Irish Independent.

The Telluride is describes as 'rugged luxury' and was designed for the American market
The Telluride is described as ‘rugged luxury’ and was designed for the American market