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Kia Telluride vs. Hyundai Palisade vs. Ford Explorer — 2020 Midsize SUV Comparison Test

Feb 27, 2020
DAN EDMUNDS: Three-row


SUVs provide a lot of utility at a reasonable price, usually between $30,000 and $50,000, if you don't go crazy with the options. They're perfect for a growing family and a stylish alternative to the minivan, which in most cases doesn't offer all-wheel drive. You can expect plenty of advanced safety features, along with capable acceleration. JONATHAN ELFALAN: The KIA Telluride is our number one-ranked three-row


SUV, recently surpassing our previous favorite, the Honda Pilot. KURT NIEBUHR: Now we have the new Hyundai Palisade and the all-new Ford Explorer. We wanted to include a Honda Pilot in this



, but Honda refused.
kia telluride vs hyundai palisade vs ford explorer 2020 midsize suv comparison test
JONATHAN ELFALAN: We put these SUVs through our rigorous, standardized


ing and evaluation process to determine which of these three you would have at the top of your shopping list. DAN EDMUNDS: But before we get started, remember to visit the next time you're ready to shop for a new car, truck or SUV. And to see more videos like this, click Subscribe. JONATHAN ELFALAN: One of the most important aspects of any three-row midsize SUV worth its salt is interior space. And we've toured these three cabins quite extensively. What did you think? KURT NIEBUHR: I thought when we talk about the front rows at these things, drivers of any size will be able to sit in them.
kia telluride vs hyundai palisade vs ford explorer 2020 midsize suv comparison test

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kia telluride vs hyundai palisade vs ford explorer 2020 midsize suv comparison test...

There is plenty of leg, head and shoulder room. That's not the problem. It's when you enter the second row. That's when things... DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, there's definitely some differences back there. All of them have sliding and reclining middle row seats. It is interesting that the Ford comes standard in most cases with captain's chairs and an optional bench, while in the Hyundai KIA it is the other way around. But with a seat all the way back (I'm 6' 2, so I notice it more) there's a little less legroom in the Explorer. I felt like my knees were a little closer to the back of the front seat.
kia telluride vs hyundai palisade vs ford explorer 2020 midsize suv comparison test
And technically I can sit behind me if I configure the driver's seat to my liking. But in the other two I have a lot of space and the seats also have better cushioning. JONATHAN ELFALAN: This is probably a good time to mention car seats. So I tried installing car seats in all three cars. As for the seat anchors, I found that the Ford had anchors that are a little more visible, which made them easier to find and click, while in the Telluride and Palisade, the anchors were a little more recessed . But when it came time to install the seat base, all three were relatively easy.
kia telluride vs hyundai palisade vs ford explorer 2020 midsize suv comparison test
But having a larger, rear-facing car seat, I found there was much more room in the Telluride and Palisade than in the Explorer, where I could barely fit a hand between the driver's seat and the car seat when I suggested myself. I'm about 5' 9 so it wasn't a problem. But I think drivers who are 6 feet or taller might have a problem with that. KURT NIEBUHR: Speaking of size issues, these are three-row SUVs, but that extra row isn't really for someone like you. But it was still eye-opening to be behind these. I'm about 6 feet tall, so I'm on the edge of what can reasonably be expected for a vehicle this size.
But here we also saw that two of the vehicles had enough space for people like me. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Third-row seats are usually intended for children. But I feel like Telluride and Palisade did an exceptionally good job of making it quite comfortable for adults. Now, in terms of access to the third row, again, the Telluride and Palisade have similar ways of getting back there. There is a release button that you press. And they actually have two: there's one on the shoulder and one on the bottom, making it easy for kids to access. And when you press that button, the seat slides forward and you can just get in.
DAN EDMUNDS: One thing I noticed about the Ford is that if someone wanted to sit in the third row, but it was folded down, they couldn't. Don't do it from the door. You would have to go around the hatch, open it and use the buttons there to turn on the third row and then go around it and enter. JONATHAN ELFALAN: With the KIA with manual folding seats and the Palisade with power seats folding the seats, it didn't matter. You could lift the third row seat from the rear passenger door or from the trunk. KURT NIEBUHR: Now, once we sat in the back ones, I felt like it was more comfortable in the Hyundai and the KIA as well.
There was just a lot more space, not only for our bodies, but it was a better place to sit. The Hyundai and the KIA...they both had a cup holder, they had USB power outlets back there. And the Ford, on the left side, had armrests. But your side... JONATHAN ELFALAN: That's right. It was really strange that Ford had any kind of asymmetrical layout. I went to put my arm on the armrest and found it in a container, which was very uncomfortable. KURT NIEBUHR: Speaking of containers, that brings us back to the front row. And each of these vehicles has a different way of handling small item storage.
DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, the last car I was in was the Explorer and I really liked the way they used the space there. It has a rotary shift lever. I think all three handle the shifter differently and the Ford has a nice rotary knob. It's really easy to understand. But what it means is that it doesn't take up much space. So there's room for a nice big container in front that you can close, and that's where the USB port is. There are a couple of cupholders next to the gear shift and a small slot where you can put your phone, so you can still use the cupholders without having to put your phone in a cupholder, which is nice.
Yes, and there's a little spot where you can prop a phone against a wireless charging pad right behind that. And then there's the center console, which isn't too big. But since you have the one in front, it's not bad. And then the door pockets are big and the glove box is big. And even the back seat has large door pockets. The center console of the Ford Explorer does not exist, it is more of a tray on the floor. They say it so you can jump to the back row between the captain's chairs. Okay, but it's just a tray on the floor.
But still, it's a pretty good setup. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I found that the Palisade also made good use of that storage space in the front. It also has a shift by cable, gear selector on the front. Therefore, this mechanical mechanism does not take up much space. DAN EDMUNDS: Push buttons, though. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Push buttons... yeah, I know. I mean we can argue that point. I think some people might like it and some people might not. But I think the fact is that it saves space from the beginning. KURT NIEBUHR: As big as that space is, I think within a month or two it will become a junk drawer in someone's house.
I think you're going to throw hair clips in there, like cell phone cords, sunglasses, and car keys that will get lost because it has a little slot for the cargo bed that actually disappears under the shifter. And I didn't encounter a time where I couldn't find my car keys. And in fact they had slipped in there. And I had to go fish it. But I think normal life just accumulates a lot of stuff inside that container. Yes, the KIA has an older shifter. I like that better. It has less space, less real volume. But I think the KIA uses it better.
I think you have cup holders that hold the cups well. You have a place to put your phone. You don't have as much space, but I think it just utilizes the space and is better. And if you open the center console bin, you can place a roll of paper towels in there vertically. I don't know why you would want to do that, but... JONATHAN ELFALAN: You know you can. KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah. JONATHAN ELFALAN: It's just great. KURT NIEBUHR: Exactly. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I know it doesn't have as much space as the other two, but I didn't find myself needing the extra space.
So even though it didn't have that much space, like you said, I think it makes good use of the space it has. And I also think it looks better. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, sure. KURT NIEBUHR: I think as long as you're sitting in the front seats of these vehicles, we can talk about climate control because each of these SUVs handles it in their own way. The KIA has three vents in the center, tons of airflow. I was always comfortable. The Hyundai Palisade has two. And the Explorer also has two. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, but the Explorer is a little bit different because it has that screen in the middle and the vents are on the side.
And so that there really is no air flow through the center of the car. It's like right in your hand. So I didn't really like that that much. But the other thing that was almost a little more annoying was that I could never be comfortable without always being worried about the temperature. It's actually not very good to just pick a temperature, set it, and forget it. JONATHAN ELFALAN: One thing I liked about the Explorer was how effective the seat ventilation and heating were. I mean, noticeably better than the KIA and Hyundai. I think that's maybe enough to make up for their lack of climate control.
DAN EDMUNDS: But this is a great way to talk about the interior of an SUV. But it's about hauling cargo and doing some work. Then we should talk about usefulness. All three, when you have the rear seats folded down and the middle one is in use, all have about the same amount of space. But things start to be different when you lift the third row to place people in it. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Yes, in fact we tried to load the three of us with carry-on luggage. And what we discovered is that we could fit five regulation-size carry-on suitcases in the back of the Telluride and the Palisade and just press the hatch button and it would close the hatch on its own.
DAN EDMUNDS: Five is good. You could pick someone up at the airport and take the kids with you. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Right. As far as the Explorer goes, and we did the same kind of method with a self-closing automatic hatch, we can only fit three. Now we were able to lay four types of them down and squish them a little bit. But it depends on how much you care about your luggage. If that's okay with you, then four will fit in the back of the Explorer. KURT NIEBUHR: All three also have their own way of folding the third row.
The Hyundai Palisade and Ford Explorer are electric, the KIA are manual. In fact, I prefer a manually folding seat. It is fast and easy. I am tall enough and my arms are long enough that I can reach out and grab the strap and then the seat folds down. But one thing to keep in mind is that if the weather isn't so great outside, if you don't live in sunny Southern California, to reach out and grab that handle to raise the seats, you're going to be leaning over some muddy ground. bumper or a wet bumper, or a snow covered bumper and your clothes are going to be ruined.
DAN EDMUNDS: Right, and if you're not very tall, you might have a little more difficulty stretching the strap up. KURT NIEBUHR: Yes, I agree. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I also liked how quickly and easily those KIA seats folded down. But I have to say, I was holding my baby and trying to lower the seat, and you actually need to use two hands to raise and lower the seat. So when you grab the leash, you need to pull it back and hold it in place when you let go. DAN EDMUNDS: You just left your son. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Exactly. Having the energy release, aside from its convenience, still has some utility in real-world situations.
DAN EDMUNDS: The other thing is getting into the hatch of all these vehicles. Everyone has a cool, hands-free way to open the hatch. But they are not exactly the same. JONATHAN ELFALAN: With the Ford, you have to do this kicking motion. And I think you tried several times. How did you find that? DAN EDMUNDS: Well, you have to stand on one foot and slide the other foot underneath. And there's a certain place he wants you to be. If you don't do it right, you look a little stupid. But going back to your earlier point about ice and snow, whether this was winter and it was freezing, standing there on one foot trying to get the door to behave, I don't know...
JONATHAN ELFALAN: While holding shopping bags or your son. Trying to do that is a little awkward. Whereas KIA and Hyundai have this smart tailgate where you just have to stand behind the tailgate and it beeps to let you know something is happening. And then the tailgate just opens, which I think is a brilliant solution. KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah, when I first got in and tried that in the Hyundai Palisade, I put my foot in and the hatch opened. And only later did I find out that no, it can detect where the key is, then it beeps and then it opens.
They can just approach like they both said, they can approach with their arms full and just wait. You may look a little strange and people may look at you and think you've lost your keys. Butjust wait and go. JONATHAN ELFALAN: But it's also not a perfect solution because there are times when I was standing in the driveway talking to my neighbor and I was behind the Telluride and all of a sudden it starts beeping. And you say, oh wait, I don't want it to open. DAN EDMUNDS: I guess if you stand back there and then start talking, and a passing dog walker interrupts you...
JONATHAN ELFALAN: Yeah, but it's also nice to know that you can turn that feature off if you don't like it. . DAN EDMUNDS: Yes. JONATHAN ELFALAN: In addition to hauling things inside, SUVs are generally more capable of towing things than other types of vehicles. But since I don't have any real experience with this, maybe our resident towing expert can shed some light. DAN EDMUNDS: Sure, and you know there are some big differences here because the Ford, in its two-wheel drive form, is rear-wheel drive. In the last generation it was front-wheel drive, but they changed back to rear-wheel drive.
At their core, Hyundai and KIA are front-wheel drive machines. So really, that's an advantage for Ford because they want the weight of the tongue to press down on the drive wheels. And you get that with a Ford. And that's part of the reason I can tell a little more. Its maximum towing capacity is approximately 5,600 pounds. And they have four engines and even the hybrid can tow 5,000. What's also nice about the Ford is that the hitch is there where you can see, the connector for the four and seven pin wiring is there. Seven-pin wiring means it will support electric trailer brakes.
You have to add your own trailer brake controller, but that's a plug and play operation using a flexible cable that comes in the glove box. Kudos to Ford for that. But Hyundai and KIA are not far behind either. They can tow 5,000 pounds. And the good thing about them is that with them you can get load-leveling rear shock absorbers. In the case of the Telluride, it comes when you get the hitch. In the case of the Palisade, it's something that comes when you get the 20-inch wheels. So it works even if you're not towing if you have three rows of people there.
And 5,000 pounds is a good solid number. And the only thing the Ford has over both is that it has a tow mode. And that changes the shift points and makes it a nice ride when you're towing a trailer. KURT NIEBUHR: So the rear-drive platform has more benefits than just being able to do power slides in an SUV. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, I think so. But that's a good one. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Speaking of power slides, let's talk about performance. DAN EDMUNDS: Finally. KURT NIEBUHR: For Ford to be fast. Alright. That Ford is really fast. And in fact, we had two of the four engines available.
We had platinum with a triple leading twin-turbo V6. And we had a Limited with a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. And both were faster than the KIA and Hyundai. DAN EDMUNDS: The four-cylinder, the 2.3-liter four-cylinder, hit 60 miles per hour in seven seconds. And the V6, the 3-liter V6, did it in 5.8 seconds. As you say, that's pretty fast. KURT NIEBUHR: Just what you'd expect from a three-row SUV. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I don't think anything else in this segment even comes close to those three liters. I mean, they've put their stamp on it. And that's not the only thing Ford does well.
In fact, it handles surprisingly well. I think you said it on the track, where this looks more like a tall truck than a three-row midsize SUV. But having said that, Hyundai and KIA are not far behind in a straight line. I think 7 and a half seconds at 60. Considering these things are primarily for moving people, I think we could consider both to be adequate. DAN EDMUNDS: Oh, right. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Now, in terms of handling, I felt like the Telluride and Palisade weren't bad either. They won't feel like a vehicle you can go out in and want to attack a back road.
But at the same time, they handled themselves quite well. DAN EDMUNDS: Driving the Ford Explorer would be a little more enjoyable. It's really nice on a winding road. The steering is loaded well in corners. And he just has good balance and composure. JONATHAN ELFALAN: So it's fun to talk about performance, but it's not just about performance, especially with these types of vehicles. So the drivability... I think with the Ford and its new 10-speed automatic transmission, I found it wasn't as smooth as I would have liked if I were driving this every day. Just like acting, it has it.
Has it. But it seems like it's tuned too aggressively, do you think? DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, he's feeling very anxious. You really feel the impulse, not so much the echo. And he really wants to leave. And that shows in our mpg results. The Hyundai and KIA have a combined rating of 21 miles per gallon. And the Ford 2.3-liter is rated at 23. So it should be two better based on similar driving. But what we saw is that everything got 21 miles per gallon. JONATHAN ELFALAN: With the Ford, the way it's tuned, you almost want to take advantage of that boost, which will cost you mpg.
KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah, that excitement in the Ford, where it's always on and feels like it's always ready, was also found on the ride. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Yes, you comfortably raise a good point. So with the Ford, I found that it had good primary handling but not good secondary handling. And what I mean by this is that he was able to handle the important things very well. But some of the finer undulations of the road really stood out and made the ride seem a little choppy, following every little detail of the road surface, something I didn't feel in Telluride or Palisade.
Now, those suspensions are by no means perfect. But I felt like they absorbed a lot more of that secondary nervousness better. DAN EDMUNDS: I think they were a little more consistent over a wider range of road surfaces. JONATHAN ELFALAN: All of these SUVs can be had with all-wheel drive. And all of our test cars came with all-wheel drive. These systems are not necessarily designed for just any off-road vehicle. It is a more inclement climate. But that being said, we spent quite a bit of time with this stuff off-road. And by we, I mean Dan. So Dan, what do you think?
DAN EDMUNDS: Inclement weather is the main reason to have all-wheel drive here. But they can do a little more than that. We had a small off-road circuit, we could take on them. Both the Hyundai and KIA have a four-wheel drive lock button, which doesn't necessarily lock the center differential, but ensures the front and rear axle have the same amount of torque. It's not about waiting for the slide to activate on one axis, it's simply about making it activate all the time. The Ford has something similar, but it's buried in an environment they call a trail. And then there's another one for sand and deep snow.
So you have a couple of different settings there. They all have about the same level of articulation. None of them lifted the wheel higher off the ground than the others. But ultimately, if we all took all three of them somewhere, it's not like one of them would slow down the other two. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Pretty equally capable. DAN EDMUNDS: Yes, but they will be dirt roads, not the Rubicon Trail. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Okay, moving on to technology. All of these SUVs were equipped with some pretty advanced driving aids, such as adaptive cruise control. They had lane-keeping assists. They had blind spot monitoring.
And it all worked out quite well, I think quite well even in that field. But I think what draws people's attention even more today are infotainment systems and smartphone integration. What do you guys think about that? KURT NIEBUHR: As expected, the Hyundai and KIA systems were basically exactly the same. It has its own source. Yes, surprise. But also, they were both the same size. Like 10.25 inches for both, it's the traditional horizontal layout. DAN EDMUNDS: Panoramic landscape, really nice. KURT NIEBUHR: Yes, but Ford had a better idea. DAN EDMUNDS: The one that everyone is talking about is the 10.1-inch vertically oriented screen that's right in the middle.
It looks like an iPad sitting there. And we like the portrait-oriented screen at around 1500, but this one is a little narrower. So when you run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the screen is a little small, the useful part. The lower half has nothing to do with it either. That's why I like the eight-inch screen on the lower level, which is oriented toward the landscape. And underneath you have a little tray, which I like. I mean I can put my phone right there. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Now, what is this about having CarPlay connected and using native navigation? DAN EDMUNDS: As soon as you plug in your phone, it asks you to use the navigation system through Apple CarPlay and the native navigation flashes.
And it's like, no, I need to be in both environments at the same time. The Ford really isn't too happy with it, while the Hyundai and KIA are fine. JONATHAN ELFALAN: But I will say this: the benefit of that larger vertical screen on the dash is that if you're using the native navigation system and you like to run in the direction of travel, you've got a long runway to cover. look what's coming. DAN EDMUNDS: Oh, yeah. JONATHAN ELFALAN: You can see many streets. DAN EDMUNDS: You know, the only thing we haven't talked about yet is probably the most important thing: price.
So how much do these things cost? KURT NIEBUHR: Well, that's a difficult question to answer. All of these things have a pretty wide price range. And I think it depends on what you want as far as options. You can buy these three vehicles in a basic two-wheel drive configuration. That Palisade starts at 32,645, the Telluride at 32,785, and the Explorer XLT starts at 37,870. Now, there is a more basic Explorer than the XLT, but that's probably just for fleet sales. But if you can find one of those, it will start at 33,860. All the ones we drove are all-wheel drive versions with plenty of options.
The Palisade Limited is priced at 47,605, the Telluride SX at 46,860, and the Explore Platinum at 61,330. Now, 61k is pretty steep and most people probably won't pay that much for an Explorer. So we brought in a limited version with a four-cylinder engine to see if that would help its case. No, that read 53,120. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I mean, that just goes to show you where Telluride and Palisade are. For example, I don't think you can get that stuff above 50 if you throw everything at it. However, they had the same amount of features as the Ford and in some ways felt better built.
I think the interior quality of both cabins was really nice, the materials they used, everything felt solidly bolted together. So KIA and Hyundai offer real value at this price. And I think they've set a new benchmark for this class in that regard. So with the Ford, I mean, that's a high price. So what are we getting? DAN EDMUNDS: I think where the money is in the Ford is the rear-wheel drive layout. They have some really cool forged aluminum control arms underneath. There are the four turbocharged 10-speed automatic engines. So there is a lot of money in engineering.
But it's not the kind of thing you'll see every day. It leads to more precise handling and a couple of other things. But as far as just scrolling to the store or whatever, you won't necessarily see it. So it's like a case of you don't get what you pay for. KURT NIEBUHR: We talked about a lot of things. We count all the scores. And one of these vehicles leaves first. But that means one of these vehicles comes in last place. JONATHAN ELFALAN: This is the best Explorer Ford has ever built. And I think it could be an attractive option if you're going to be doing a lot of towing.
And if you live in the mountains, you may have to drive on a lot of mountain roads. But the fact is that the reference point has moved. And the KIA and Hyundai are really good SUVs. KURT NIEBUHR: Both vehicles really have no defects. They do everything they're supposed to do: they're smooth or quiet, they're comfortable, they carry people. Plus, very comfortably, they can still tow. My preference, however, would lean towards the KIA. I think it has a richer interior. And I think it fits the brand. I know that styling is very subjective and always will be.
But the KIA is instantly recognizable as a KIA. And I think the Palisade doesn't seem to fit in with other Hyundais. DAN EDMUNDS: Yes, I totally agree with you. I like Telluride because it has its own personality. People stopped me at gas stations and asked me what it was. One of them thought it was Land Rover. And I don't see that exactly, but I do see that it seems really unique. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Looks like we decided. Explorer, Palisade, Telluride. The Telluride remains our top pick in this segment against some pretty formidable competition. It received an impressive score of 8.4 out of 10 overall, which means we really like it.
But let us know what you think in the comments. Make sure to subscribe if you want to see more great content like this and until next time.

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