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2021 Toyota Highlander vs Kia Telluride

2021 Toyota Highlander vs Kia Telluride
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2021 Highlander vs Telluride - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

There are traditional SUVs, and then there are SUVs that go above and beyond for buyers. The 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride fall into the later of these two categories. Displaying styles that are new and fresh, the outward appearance of the Toyota Highlander and the Kia Telluride stand out from the competition. Each model accomplishes this drastic differentiation from other SUV models in their own way, which gives buyers an opportunity to compare the two side by side. In a market space that is saturated by SUV selections, the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride can maintain their solid reputation and appeal to buyers in a way other SUV models simply can't.

The 2021 Kia Telluride is a model that has gained a cult-like following from consumers interested in its undeniable reliability and distinguished attributes. It varies from any other SUV model, which is a difficult feat with so many options available. Likewise, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is birthed from a brand that is renowned for creating reliable and long-lasting vehicles. These key qualities transfer over to the 2021 Toyota Highlander, as well. It helps that the Highlander is attractive and offers a hybrid powertrain option, as well. As one can see, the 2021 Kia Telluride and the 2021 Toyota Highlander incorporate many attributes that help differentiate their style from others and advance their following of enthusiastic buyers.

Not only are the 2021 Kia Telluride and the 2021 Toyota Highlander preferred as new models, but they also maintain their value as used models, too. Buyers connect with the reliability of both SUV models long-term, which gives them confidence to invest in these SUVs as used models, as well. This is the exact reason why the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride are models worth considering for a potential purchase. In the content below, we have gathered information on several facets of each model and compared them for your benefit. We hope you use this information to make an informed decision on the SUV that will be the best fit for you.

The Powertrain

Putting its straightforward attitude on display, the 2021 Kia Telluride relies solely on a single engine that is prevalent across all models. This standard engine is a V-6 that is naturally-aspirated and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It tops out at 291 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of raw torque. Aside from these statistics, the 2021 Kia Telluride incorporates front-wheel drive as standard with an option to upgrade to all-wheel drive. The responsibility to motivate a large third-row SUV is great, and the 2021 Kia Telluride handles it well. Although it could acceleration a bit more quickly, the Kia Telluride incorporates under the hood exactly what we would expect it to.

Although the 2021 Toyota Highlander does not offer a substantial number of engine options, it does give buyers the choice between a standard gasoline engine and a hybrid engine layout. A 3.5-liter V-6 engine that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission can produce 295 horsepower for drivers to utilize. A choice between front-wheel or all-wheel drive allows shoppers to select the drivetrain that best aligns with their expectations for a new SUV model. For buyers who like to mix it up a bit or have a conviction to reduce their emissions for the benefit of our environment, the 2021 Toyota Highlander hybrid model is a valid option to consider.

The Highlander's hybrid system relies on a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is paired with two electric motors. This entire setup can produce 243 horsepower, which can be shocking for some buyers who may be skeptical of hybrid models. The 2021 Toyota Highlander hybrid is paired with a continuously variable transmission that makes it feel more modern than prior model years. This hybrid SUV is a great option for those who need extra space and power but want to accomplish it in a way that is friendly to the environment and affordable at the fuel pump.


With two different powertrain options, the ride quality of the 2021 Toyota Highlander varies based on which model you choose. The ample power of the gasoline V-6 takes on anything you throw at it with ease. Quick acceleration and predictable handling are expectations of this model, though the ride is quite unexciting. Creating the perfect environment for parents with kids in tow, the simple ride of the 2021 Toyota Highlander gets you where you need to go in comfort. The 2021 Toyota Highlander hybrid trades off a hybrid powertrain for slightly slower acceleration. With a lower horsepower rating, the hybrid Highlander is substantially more fuel efficient and affordable.

Lacking a turbocharged engine, the 2021 Kia Telluride leaves much to be desired in its ride quality. A lack of responsiveness is the direct effect of the standard engine of this model. This vehicle's rather firm ride can result in noticeable jarring of passengers within and can be substantial enough at times to make it stray from its path on the road. Buyers would benefit from investing in the available rear air suspension that is an optional upgrade. Precise steering and exemplary braking are strong points of the 2021 Kia Telluride that should also be taken into consideration by potential buyers.

The way to a buyer's heart is through a comfortable interior, and this is how the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride maintain their status among buyers. Varying configurations for the 2021 Toyota Highlander change up the seating capacity of this SUV from seven passengers to eight passengers. This is often determined by the type of second-row seat a buyer chooses, as a bench seat offers one more seating spot than captain's chairs. Generous passenger space and quality materials transform the cabin of the 2021 Toyota Highlander into an extremely comfortable ride. The 2021 Kia Telluride is rather comfortable, itself, as well. Upscale and luxurious, the Kia Telluride can also seat eight or seven passengers, depending on the second-row seat type that is chosen.

Many buyers also choose SUV models for their inherent space, but the 2021 Toyota Highlander does not meet consumer expectations in this area. In fact, this third-row SUV is expected to have ample cargo space for passengers to enjoy, but it fits a mere four carry-on suitcases in its cargo area behind the third-row seat. With similar restrictions in the 2021 Kia Telluride offering space for four carry-on suitcases behind it third-row, this model opens the rear to fit a total of 35 carry-on suitcases with both backseats folded down flat.

Buying Tip:

To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.


There are two main safety rating agencies that play a role in developing a vehicle's sense of worthiness in accident prevention and collision mitigation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are responsible for providing accurate ratings of the overall safety of vehicles on the market. Interestingly, the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride both scored exceptionally well on tests and evaluations performed by these entities.

To start things off, the 2021 Toyota Highlander achieved a five-star safety rating by the NHTSA and was named as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. Not only did it perform well in crash tests, but it also includes a comprehensive suite of driver assistive safety features that are standard across all models. This is the key to achieving a high safety ranking, because not all SUV models make their safety features standard. Automatic high beams, automated braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control are some notable highlights of the standard safety features this SUV entails.

While many SUVs differ vastly in their safety feature offerings, the 2021 Kia Telluride comes in close to the Toyota Highlander in its safety achievements and features. As with the Highlander, the 2021 Kia Telluride also scored a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA and was awarded a Top Safety Pick title from the IIHS. A comprehensive suite of modern driver assistive safety features and technology is also provided across all Telluride trim levels that mimics the offerings of the Toyota Highlander. Forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring are some standard safety amenities that can be expected to be included in every 2021 Kia Telluride model.

Which Has the Best Value?

When a buyer considers an auto model for purchase, one of the first things they evaluate is the price. After all, if they cannot afford it what good are extra safety amenities or third-row seating? The 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride are relatively comparable in their MSRP with the Toyota Highlander being priced a bit higher than the Kia Telluride. Sometimes this price difference is acceptable if a vehicle has more benefits than the model a buyer is comparing it against. Yet, in the battle between the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride these vehicles are nearly identical in many ways. So, even the smallest variants make a big difference.

The inclusion of a hybrid model in the 2021 Toyota Highlanders creates a big advantage over others. Not only is this feature a new and desirable attribute, but the ability to offer it at a cost that is like the gasoline models of competitors is even better. Unfortunately, the 2021 Kia Telluride cannot compete in this area. Yet, the Telluride does offer many more upscale attributes than the down-to-Earth Toyota Highlander offers. This is also something to take into consideration in your evaluation of the inherent value of each of these models.

Which is Better?

At the end of each vehicle evaluation leads to a decision whether a particular model is worth purchasing or not. Thus, it is crucial to take every single facet of the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Kia Telluride into consideration in determining which model is the best. The truth is that every buyer may have a different idea of which SUV they consider to be a better option.

For buyers who are interested in a tech-savvy model or one that is sustainable, the hybrid version of the 2021 Toyota Highlander is a great option. It provides a few facets the 2021 Kia Telluride does not, which makes it even more exclusive. Other than that, the gasoline Toyota Highlander works better for buyers in search of a more practical model. Its interior is comfortable, and its cabin is convenient without being too upscale for daily use.

In contrast, the 2021 Kia Telluride is quite luxurious, modern, and rich in safety features. Its quality interior materials make it feel upscale and luxurious, while its exemplary space with two rows of fold-flat seats create more cargo area than you would ever imagine. Buyers who need extra room or want to make a statement with their new SUV would likely enjoy the 2021 Kia Telluride better than the Toyota Highlander.

Used 2021 Toyota Highlander: