During my early days at MotorTrend, there was a running joke that Kia had abandoned the long-term Borrego it had lent us. Long-term test vehicles typically stay for a year, but our burnt-orange Borrego was a fixture for almost twice as long before it finally went back to Kia. Coincidentally, just as we were saying bye to the Borrego, so was the rest of America. Kia discontinued the SUV after just one model year.
The big Borrego wasn’t a bad SUV. In fact, the notes in our logbook were generally positive. But with high gas prices and a recent recession on buyers’ minds, there had been better times to launch a full-size, body-on-frame SUV.
Almost a decade after the Borrego’s demise, the new 2020 Kia Telluride debuts on a more practical front-drive based unibody platform aimed directly at big sellers like the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Toyota Highlander.
The Telluride makes a strong first impression based on styling alone, especially compared to the a forementioned competitors. Sure, it has a simple and boxy silhouette, but Americans can’t seem to get enough of boxes on wheels (see Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes G-Class). Exterior brightwork is also restrained, with a few interesting touches like the upward kink at the bottom of the B-pillar. The taillights— which Kia describes as an “inverted L”— are the most polarizing design element, but they fit well on the Telluride and look sharp illuminated at night.