2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year
Kia took a bold step with its new midsize SUV and beat two strong competitors to be named 2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year on January 23, 2020 in Detroit. The other finalists for this coveted award were the Hyundai Palisade and the Lincoln Aviator. In the past, the award had been announced on the first morning of the media preview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but this year the show has moved from January to June with the press preview scheduled for June 9–10, 2020. This is the first time a Kia has won in this “of the year” competition.
Designed in America
A new addition to the Kia lineup, the Telluride midsize crossover offers bold styling, a premium interior, a powerful engine and seating for up to eight occupants. Designed specifically for the U.S. market at Kia’s design center in California, Telluride is built at Kia’s manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia, alongside the Sorento SUV and Optima sedan. Telluride resides in the Kia lineup next to the midsize Sorento and above the compact Sportage SUV.
Bigger and Bolder
The all-new Telluride is larger than the Sorento, Kia’s 7-occupant, 3-row midsize SUV that was the Korean automaker’s top-selling vehicle in the U.S for 2019. The additional interior room allows Telluride to offer a 3-passenger third row and additional storage behind the third-row seat. Telluride is offered with a second-row 3-passenger bench seat for 8 occupants, or second-row captain’s chairs for a 7-position configuration. Kia focused on creating an upscale user experience with quality materials, particularly within the top-line Telluride SX with the Prestige Package, which includes double-stitched Napa leather ventilated seats, a premium headliner, head-up display and dual-panel sunroof.
The Telluride design is deliberately boxy to recall larger, rugged truck-based SUVs of the past with key design elements such as a long hood, upright windshield and stacked headlights. The stacked lights are positioned back from the grille in the fenders with a distinctive rectangular shape; the top-line SX trim adds a ring of LEDs. At the rear, Telluride features inverted L taillights and both the hood and the liftgate display an elongated Telluride badge to emphasize the bold styling. Telluride rides on 18- or 20-inch alloy wheels, again depending on trim level.
Telluride draws power from a 3.8-liter V6 engine producing 291 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 262 lb-ft of torque at 5200 rpm, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Standard configuration is front-wheel drive or an optional electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive system that uses real-time active driving force distribution to transfer torque between the wheels depending on driving conditions.
About the Award
The winner of the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year gets awarded each January in Detroit. This award had always been announced at the North American International Auto Show; however, the show dates have moved to June, so the announcement took place independently of the show. Although most accolades of this type are presented by an individual publication or study, this award remains unique because it’s based on ballots cast by an independent jury of automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada. To be eligible, a vehicle must be all new or substantially redesigned. According to the group, winners excel in design, innovation, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.
2019: Hyundai Kona
Proving that the most expensive option is not always the best, the Hyundai Kona eclipsed two strong competitors to be named the 2019 North American Utility of the Year during the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.The Kona underscores the Korean automaker’s reputation for excellent value, wrapped in a fun-to-drive stylish crossover with looks that separate it from the rest of the CUV crowd. Built on an all-new platform with a choice of fuel-efficient engines or a fully-electric powertrain, the Kona has done well in the very crowded small-crossover marketplace.
2018: Volvo XC60
Volvo had some experience with winning at the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit — the larger XC90 won Truck of the Year in 2003 and in 2016. The XC60 carries on much of the styling and features of its larger sibling, so it made sense that it earned the top award last year. Built on the brand’s new Scalable Product Architecture, the 5-passenger XC60 is longer, wider and lower than the previous generation, which not only gives the new model a roomier interior — almost two more inches of rear-seat legroom — but also a more aggressive stance and better driving dynamics. Styling is now in line with the rest of the newer Volvos, with the signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights and large Volvo logo in the grille. In many ways the XC60 is a smaller version of the popular XC90.
2017: Chrysler Pacifica
An all-new minivan for the 2017 model year, the Pacifica has modern styling and a slew of innovations; it is arguably the best minivan Chrysler has built since it created the category more than 30 years ago. Pacifica can be equipped with seating for up to eight occupants, which still leaves plenty of cargo space in the rear. Stow n’ Go seats can be folded into the floor for a completely flat cargo area all the way to the front seats. Passengers enjoy an available Uconnect Theater featuring a 10-inch high-res touchscreen display with a variety of inputs and integrated games. There’s even an available Stow ‘n Vac — a powerful vacuum cleaner located conveniently behind the second row, and easily accessible from any door opening. A plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica is also available, making this the first hybrid minivan ever sold in America.