Whether exploring this big country or driving your kids to school, a 3-row midsize SUV will make the journey more comfortable and convenient. Thanks to their elevated ride height and large doors, these crossover SUVs are easy to get in and out of, and they’ll save your back if you’re frequently lifting small children.
In addition, mainstream midsize SUVs like the Kia Telluride and Toyota Highlander offer premium safety features and amenities once reserved for luxury-brand models. Both SUVs have a standard V6 engine. Toyota’s optional hybrid powertrain returns impressive fuel economy if you’re willing to give up some performance.
Consumers buy plenty of Tellurides and Highlanders, and the Kia ranks highest in the Upper Midsize SUV category in the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. If you’re trying to decide which one is right for you, this 2022 Kia Telluride vs. Toyota Highlander comparison should help.
Price and Value
2022 Kia Telluride Nightfall Edition
Consumers shopping for the 2022 Kia Telluride will find that this 3-row midsize SUV ranges in price from $33,090 to $43,990, not including the $1,255 destination charge. The Telluride comes in LX, S, EX, and SX trim levels. All trims have a V6 engine and front-wheel drive (FWD) as standard. You can get all-wheel drive (AWD) as a $2,000 option ($1,900 on the SX).
The Kia Telluride can seat seven or eight, depending on whether you select one with captain’s chairs or a bench seat in the second row. The third row has three seat belts, but realistically, this will be a 2-passenger bench for most families unless you find that magical combination of narrow booster seats.
Kia previously offered its connected services under the UVO brand; now, the automaker calls it Kia Connect. On the 2022 Kia Telluride, your 12-month trial subscription includes remote engine starting, remote door locking, and remote climate control operation. You also get automatic collision notification, rapid access to roadside assistance, customizable geofencing settings, and stolen-vehicle recovery assistance. As of this publication, any 2022 Telluride sold in Massachusetts will have its connected services disabled due to a controversial right-to-repair law passed in that state.
Kia does not offer complimentary scheduled maintenance.
The 2022 Kia Telluride will likely hold its value well. It’s the top-ranked Midsize SUV with three rows of seating in the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. ALG Residual Value Awards.
If you’re researching the 2022 Toyota Highlander, you’ll find that this 3-row midsize SUV ranges in price from $35,405 to $47,560, not including the $1,215 destination charge. The Highlander comes in L, LE, XLE, XSE, Bronze Edition, Limited, and Platinum trim levels.
You can equip Toyota’s midsize crossover with a V6 engine or a gas-electric hybrid powertrain that combines a 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor. Most trim levels come with either engine. The hybrid-only Bronze Edition is an exception, while the L and XSE take only the V6.
Like the Telluride, the Highlander has standard FWD. Depending on the trim, the optional AWD system costs $1,600 to $1,950.
Although the 2022 Toyota Highlander is slightly smaller than the Kia, it nonetheless offers seating for seven or eight, depending on the configuration. In the second row, buyers can choose between captain’s chairs and a bench seat.
The Highlander’s connected services include a one-year subscription to the Safety Connect package with automatic collision notification, live emergency assistance, rapid roadside assistance access, and a 3-month trial for the Wi-Fi hotspot (not offered on the Telluride). Most 2022 Highlanders also get a year of remote engine starting and door locking. Vehicles with a factory navigation system include a year of live concierge service.
Toyota provides complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 25,000 miles.
Advantage: Kia Telluride
Reliability and Quality
2022 Toyota Highlander XSE
Introduced for the 2020 model year, the Kia Telluride was not included in the J.D. Power 2022 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which measures the reliability of three-year-old (2019 model year) vehicles. It does, however, rank highest in the Upper Midsize SUV category of the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study (IQS). The 2022 Kia Telluride comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:
- Standard warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
- Roadside assistance: 5 years or 60,000 miles
The Toyota Highlander does not rank among the top three models in the Upper Midsize SUV category of the 2022 VDS. It ranks third among Upper Midsize SUVs in the 2021 IQS. The 2022 Toyota Highlander comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:
- Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Hybrid system warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles
- Hybrid battery warranty: 10 years or 150,000 miles
- Roadside assistance: 2 years or 25,000 miles
Advantage: Kia Telluride
Performance and Efficiency
2022 Kia Telluride
Every 2022 Kia Telluride comes with a 3.8-liter V6 engine that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard. Most consumers will enjoy this powertrain. Acceleration feels effortless in most situations, and the V6 has good stamina at high elevations. A properly equipped Kia Telluride has a 5,000-pound tow rating.
All-wheel-drive Tellurides offer Snow and AWD Lock modes. Ground clearance is 8.0 inches—adequate for snow-packed roads but not enough for off-highway adventures.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the FWD 2022 Kia Telluride at 23 mpg in combined city and highway driving. With AWD, the Telluride rates 21 mpg combined.
Consumers shopping for the 2022 Toyota Highlander must decide between two engines. The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 295 hp and 263 pound-feet of torque. It comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Toyota’s V6 is smooth and refined, but some drivers might notice a delay as the transmission shifts to a higher gear. It’s a minor annoyance. Properly equipped Highlanders are rated to tow 5,000 pounds.
The V6 Toyota Highlander is available with either of two AWD systems. The base AWD system has selectable terrain modes and hill-descent control. On the higher trims, Toyota offers an upgraded system with torque-vectoring technology that transfers engine torque between the rear wheels to enhance grip. Every 2022 Highlander has 8 inches of ground clearance.
The 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 186 hp and 175 pound-feet of torque. It also has a front-drive electric motor and a 1.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The total system power is 243 hp. All-wheel-drive Highlander Hybrids also have a rear-drive electric motor, but the combined power output is unchanged.
Instead of a conventional transmission, the hybrid Highlander uses an electric motor (different from the drive motors) to blend its gasoline and electric power sources. This is known as an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT). Properly equipped Toyota Highlander Hybrids have a 3,500-pound tow rating.
There’s a big difference in fuel economy ratings between the two engines. Six-cylinder 2022 Toyota Highlanders rate 24 mpg in combined city and highway driving with FWD and 23 mpg with AWD.
Front-wheel-drive Highlander Hybrids rate 36 mpg in combined driving. With AWD, the hybrid Highlander rates 35 mpg. Notably, the Highlander Hybrid returns these big mileage numbers without ever feeling slow. The 4-cylinder engine makes a lot of noise, though.
If acceleration is the priority, you’ll want the Telluride. If fuel economy matters more, the Highlander Hybrid gets the nod.
Safety and Driving Assistance
2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum
The 2022 Kia Telluride comes with a lengthy list of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), collectively known as Kia Drive Wise. Standard equipment includes a forward-collision warning (FCW) system with automatic emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning (LDW), lane-keeping assistance (LKA), and an active blind-spot warning (BSW) system with rear cross-traffic alert. The Telluride’s BSW system differs from most others in the 3-row midsize SUV class in that it will intervene to prevent you from changing lanes into another vehicle.
All Kia Tellurides provide basic Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance known as traffic jam assist (TJA), thanks to standard adaptive cruise control (ACC) with stop-and-go capability, and lane-centering assistance. The higher trim levels kick it up a notch with Highway Driving Assist (HDA). This more advanced TJA system uses a forward-facing radar unit and camera, GPS technology, and the navigation system’s map database to provide Level 2 driving assistance on divided, restricted-access highways. The driver’s hands must remain on the steering wheel when using HDA. Still, the system is adept at maintaining following distance and making steering inputs to adjust your heading or execute lane changes (if you signal your intention).
Every 2022 Kia Telluride comes with a low-speed rear automatic braking system, a rear-seat reminder system, and Safe Exit Assist, which aims to prevent occupants from opening the doors when the SUV’s radar detects oncoming traffic.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the 2022 Kia Telluride a maximum 5 stars for overall crash protection (4 stars for frontal-impact crash safety). In testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Kia is a “Top Safety Pick”—the Institute’s second-highest designation for safety. Although the Telluride has Good ratings in IIHS crash tests, its base halogen headlights rate Poor (the lowest rating). The upgraded LED headlights rate Acceptable.
The 2022 Toyota Highlander comes with a standard ADAS package known as Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+). One difference with TSS 2.5+ is that it doesn’t include BSW with rear cross-traffic alert. Toyota offers BSW as standard starting on the Highlander’s LE trim level, though it’s not an active system as on the Kia.
Another notable detail is that the Toyota Highlander’s FCW system can detect pedestrians and cyclists in both daylight and low-light conditions. It also includes intersection turn assistance (ITA), which helps prevent ill-advised left turns into oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. The Highlander also has evasive steering assistance (ESA), which actively assists with the steering to help you avoid a collision.
The 2022 Toyota Highlander also has a Level 2 TJA system with ACC and traffic-sign recognition. In addition, a rear-seat reminder system is standard on all Highlanders. The higher trims have both front and rear low-speed automatic braking.
Like the Kia, the Toyota has a 5-star overall NHTSA safety rating (4 stars for frontal-impact performance). The IIHS rates the 2022 Highlander a “Top Safety Pick+”—the Institute’s highest designation for safety.
The Highlander has a superior IIHS rating, but the Telluride’s active BSW system and available HDA are game-changers for consumers who plan to use ADAS.
Infotainment and Technology
2022 Kia Telluride Nightfall Edition
On the 2022 Kia Telluride’s lower trims, you’ll find an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. The EX and SX upgrade to a 10.2-inch display with a factory navigation system.
All 2022 Tellurides have six USB ports. The EX and SX have a wireless phone charging pad. An option package on the Kia Telluride SX provides access to a head-up display and a 110-volt outlet.
Most 2022 Toyota Highlanders also come with an 8-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You can get a 12.3-inch widescreen display on the higher trim levels. Factory navigation is available with either screen size.
All Highlanders have five USB ports. A wireless charging pad is standard starting on the XLE. Higher trims have a 110-volt outlet, but if you want to plug in appliances, the Highlander Hybrid (Bronze Edition and up) provides dual 110-volt outlets with a combined 1,500-watt output (vs. the 100-150 watts usually provided by in-vehicle outlets). The Toyota Highlander Platinum alone has a standard head-up display.
Screen sizes and feature content are similar, so your decision will come down to personal preferences.
Comfort and Utility
2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition
The 2022 Kia Telluride is one of those models that makes you feel like you got a bargain. The cabin is handsome, and the materials you’re likely to see and touch every day impart a sense of quality. Families will find all sorts of useful storage slots. There’s good access to all three rows of seating, too. Families needing to have kids sit in the third row every day will find the Kia plenty practical (and comfortable) in this regard.
Manual air conditioning is standard on the 2022 Telluride LX and S, but you get a separate rear air conditioning unit. The EX and SX have triple-zone automatic climate control and sunshades for the second-row windows.
Kia says the Telluride has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seat. Realistically, there’s about as much space back here as in other 3-row midsize SUVs—enough room for six bags of groceries or a folded stroller. The Telluride has 46 cubic feet behind its second row and a maximum cargo capacity of 87 cubic feet. The EX and SX have a hands-free power liftgate.
Compared to the Telluride, the 2022 Toyota Highlander doesn’t look or feel as special on the inside. Both SUVs have some budget-grade materials here and there, but it’s more evident in the Toyota. On the upside, you’ll have no difficulty finding and using the Highlander’s controls, and its first- and second-row seats offer ample comfort.
Access to the third row isn’t as convenient in the Toyota Highlander, so it’s not the best choice for bigger families carpooling to school. Triple-zone automatic climate control is standard. Second-row window sunshades are standard on the XLE and up.
You’ll find 16 cubic feet of grocery/stroller space behind the Toyota’s third row and 48.4 cubic feet behind its second row. With all rear seats folded, the Highlander provides 84.3 cubic feet. A power liftgate is standard on all trim levels, except the base L. The upper trims offer hands-free convenience.
Advantage: Kia Telluride
Learn More About the Kia Telluride and Toyota Highlander
If you’d like to learn more about these 3-row midsize SUVs, be sure to read our expert reviews of the 2022 Kia Telluride and 2022 Toyota Highlander. To find out how people like you rate models in this segment, check out our ratings from verified vehicle owners.
Also, please keep in mind that while the information in this article was accurate and valid on March 17, 2022, it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker’s website or your local dealership.