2020 Kia Telluride vs 2020 Mazda CX-9
By Jakob Hansen, 7/16/2020
Kia and Mazda have their sights set on having the top SUV, which is better?
The third-row SUV market has become saturated with options. From the excellent new 2020 Ford Explorer to the extravagant Mercedes-Benz GLS, there is an option for everyone. But how do you find that middle ground? The perfect place that combines utility, space, luxury, and most important; value.
Cue the 2020 Kia Telluride vs 2020 Mazda CX-9.
These two third-row SUVs are some of the top rated in the class, and have an extraordinary amount to offer. They both offer upscale interiors, loaded with features and space, all at an affordable price. So the question we wanted to take a look at is: Which one of these SUVs is capable of taking the award as the best third-row SUV available for the money?
The exterior is one place that both of these SUVs thoroughly shine. Kia and Mazda took their time when designing the exterior, and knew exactly what audience to design the exterior towards.
The Kia is designed and marketed as a rough and tough off-roader SUV that can tackle any obstacle in its path. In reality, the Telluride can tackle roads that are only slightly more difficult than a standard family sedan, but the image is where it counts, and Kia has sold the image with clarity. To be fair, they did a great job of it too. The exterior of the Telluride looks fantastic and tough, and it can handle what 95% of the interested consumer base will throw at it.
The Mazda, on the other hand, has an exterior that appears to have been sculpted by Greek gods. Mazda’s goal with the CX-9 was to create an SUV that can compete in a class far higher than its own, yet still cost the same as other economy-based third-row SUVs, such as Honda or Toyota. The CX-9’s exterior design is based on their Kodo “Soul of Motion” design language, and is meant to create “graceful, yet energetic lines.” Mazda describes it as a “unique expression of power and beauty seen in instantaneous motion at the very moment motion begins.” I’m not sure what that all means, but what I do know is it the CX-9 looks classy as hell and I love it.
Both Kia and Mazda figured out the way to take essentially a couple of boxes, and make them into a stylish, and contemporary design. Both vehicles look futuristic, yet fit in perfectly with modern design and are show stoppers on the road. When you actually notice an SUV drive by, that’s a testament to the designers.
Features are where the buck hits the road, where the cake gets eaten, where the...wait, my fellow writer just told me these are not actually idioms. Well, the features are where it matters. There, are you happy, Andy?
Features are what take these two SUVs to the next level. The features that are present in these are less common than one might think, and to see them wrapped up in such a great package at this price point is a rarity.
The Kia Telluride is packed full of features. Every safety feature you can think of, for one, is available on the Telluride. From automatic braking to adaptive cruise control to a full 360-degree camera, the Telluride has it all. It’s the features that you don’t really notice that are the life changers here though. The features that may not show up on a psec sheet, but make your life easier every time you hop into the vehicle. Things like an upper and lower lever to drop the second row, sliding second row, an announcing system to speak to back seat passengers, and many many more. It’s these unsung heros that take the Telluride past almost every SUV in the class, and indeed, past the CX-9 as well.
Though not as completely equipped as the Telluride, the CX-9 has the features that matter to its target customer base (makes sense). The impeccable interior quality and the simplistic design are a feature in itself. The heated and cooled seats, simple yet effective infotainment system, and digital gauge are all useful tools as well. What’s more is the driving dynamics of the CX-9. While not traditionally considered a feature, in this class that is full of dead-steering and emotionless rides, the CX-9 shines with a sporty and supportive ride quality that encourages and in fact, rewards, fun.
Both the 2020 Kia Telluride and the 2020 Mazda CX-9 have interiors that rival vehicles far out of their class. It is evident that the cabins were not only designed from a utilitarian standpoint, but also with real automotive design in mind throughout the process.
The Telluride’s cabin clearly took inspiration from models that nearly double its price. Although this can serve as both a positive and a negative. The positive of this is that the cabin looks absolutely gorgeous. The design is elegant and the cabin looks more upscale than it is. What’s bad about that, is the lack of identity to the Kia brand. Also, it may look like an upscale interior, but spending the budget on design imitating higher-end brands leaves little to spend on materials. Rather than designing an attractive interior that uses lower-end materials, it makes more sense to design an interior that makes use of affordable materials, and still incorporates them into an attractive design.
The Mazda uses this mentality when they designed their interior. They did an accurate cost analysis of their materials and made perfect use of affordable options in the right spots and high-end options where it counts. They created a simple, gorgeous interior that creates a luxurious space, in an affordable package.
These two SUVs lead their class for very different reasons. The Kia’s feature-packed interior combined with its excellent use of space are starkly different to the Mazda’s upscale interior and classy design.
Each SUV is a class leader in its own right, however, and deserves all the praise it gets. The Kia is perfect for those that are looking for the best all-around value third-row SUV, while the Mazda provides a luxury-based SUV in economy clothes. Each vehicle cut corners where needed to get to its competitive price point, but each hides those corners extraordinarily well in its own special way.
When shopping for your third-row SUV, each of these offer a competitive and stylish alternative to the sea of boring third-row vehicles