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Comparison: 2022 Kia Telluride versus 2022 Mazda CX-9

Which of this pair of mainstream three-row midsize SUVs does the best job targeting luxury-brand buyers?

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2022 Kia Telluride

Pros

  • Powerful V6
  • Modern styling inside and out
  • Roomy cabin offers space for up to eight occupants

Cons

  • “Discount” Kia pricing is history
  • So-so fuel economy

What are the highlights of the 2022 Kia Telluride?

The 2022 Kia Telluride three-row midsize SUV is indisputably a top choice. Spacious, affordable, well-equipped, and well-mannered with aggressive styling, the Telluride may entice some luxury SUV shoppers on a budget.

The Telluride becomes even more compelling this year with a larger infotainment touchscreen and additional standard features.

 

How much does the Kia SUV Cost?

The base EX is the first of four 2022 Telluride trims, starting with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $46,995 in Canadian dollars.

Along with a V6 gas engine, automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive, standard gear includes a 10.25-inch multimedia interface with integrated navigation, Kia Connect services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, collision-avoidance assist, and Kia’s Safe Exit Assist System. 

The priciest Telluride—the $56,695 SX Nightsky Edition—builds on the SX trim’s goodies (like heated and air-cooled front seats, Nappa leather, and a heads-up display) and adds exclusive black exterior and interior trim.
 
Every Telluride receives a basic warranty of five years and/or 100,000 kilometres.

 

What’s the interior of the Telluride like?

Average-sized adults can fit in the third row, which gives an idea of how spacious the Kia is. The seats are accessed easily, and that high roof provides plenty of headroom. Each row is a little higher than the one in front, stadium-style. All the Kia's seats are comfortable, materials are classy, and the interior design has a pared-down/uptown vibe. Especially with the steering wheel sporting the new Kia logo.

Both of these midsize SUVs can be had with second-row captain's chairs that limit seating to seven on board. But the Kia can offer up to eight seats with a second-row bench, one more than the Mazda's seven-seat maximum. 

The luggage space behind the Kia's third-row measures 601 litres, a big advantage over the Mazda's 407-litre volume. Folding down the Telluride's rearmost row creates 1,304 litres, again, more than the 1,082 litres in the CX-9.

 

How does the 2022 Kia Drive?

Just as Kia gets high scores with virtually everything else in the Telluride, the driving experience is correspondingly favourable. The Kia’s ride quality is not so soft that it might induce car sickness, but still comfortable. And the 3.8-litre six-cylinder gas engine makes more horsepower (291 versus 227 to 250, depending on fuel octane) than the Mazda’s turbocharged four-cylinder.

With an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Kia has enough muscle for passing and getting up to highway speeds. Even the fuel-saving engine stop/restart function nudges in quite smoothly.

When drivers want a little help, the standard-issue adaptive cruise control with Highway Driving Assist is easy to activate and live with. It also reads road signs and adjusts speed if necessary.

 

2022 Mazda CX-9

Pros

  • (Almost) fun-to-drive
  • Good fuel economy
  • Affordable pricing

Cons

  • Third-row seating space not great
  • Cargo space trails rivals

What are the highlights of the 2022 Mazda CX-9?

The 2022 Mazda CX-9 isn’t like other mainstream midsize three-row SUVs. It looks, feels, and drives like it belongs in the luxury bracket. The main area where it overlaps with its rivals is pricing, with a lower starting price than the Telluride.

Some aspects to be aware of, though. Mazda debuted this second generation of CX-9 for 2016, and although it has plenty of standard safety tech, the vehicle is due for an update. 

 

How much does the Mazda SUV cost?

Starting at $41,300, the 2022 CX-9 starts considerably less in base GS trim than the Kia.

Still, standard equipment is generous, highlighted by a 10.25-inch centre display, Mazda Connected services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and heated front seats.

At $50,300, the GT is the CX-9's top trim. Like the Telluride, it features luxury-brand features like ventilated front seats and a hands-free tailgate. For 2022, two special editions built on the GT are mainly distinguished by interior and exterior design elements and materials: the $51,800 Kuro and the $53,200 Signature.

Mazda Canada's basic warranty is three years. That’s less time than Ka Canada's coverage, but with unlimited mileage.

 

What’s the interior of the CX-9 like?

With quilted Nappa leather seating surfaces and fine wood trim, the interior of the top Signature CX-9 could easily pass muster in a luxury marque. Cabins in the rest of the 2022 range aren’t far behind.

Every version has a decent-sized infotainment display, but it’s not a touchscreen. The system is controlled with a rotary dial in the center console. In higher trim levels, a pair of captain’s chairs for the second row becomes available, raising the comfort quotient but reducing the occupant count to six from a maximum of seven. 

There are just a few gripes. The wide center console results in front footwells that we wish were slightly larger. The accommodations of the third row are more suited to kids than grown-ups. 

 

How does the 2022 CX-9 drive?

It didn’t need to be this enjoyable, but we’re glad the 2022 CX-9 has talents beyond efficient and safe transportation for a large family. Although it doesn’t offer a V6, with more torque than the Kia (310 to 320 lb-ft, compared to 262), the CX-9 seems relatively light and sprightly, and its turbocharged four-cylinder engine rarely feels short on power. Despite only having six gears in its automatic transmission, the Mazda’s 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres combined city and highway estimate beats the Kia’s 11.3 rating.

From behind the CX-9’s steering wheel, drivers and passengers who like the softest suspension possible may want to look elsewhere, but there’s still comfort mixed in with the poise and agility. As mentioned elsewhere, AWD is standard. It’s an intelligent system that can distribute torque to whichever wheels can best use it at any given time.

Another piece of standard tech working behind the scenes is G-Vectoring Control Plus. It adjusts engine output and applies subtle braking when required, all according to steering input. For example, a slight dip in power when going into a corner transfers weight more onto the front wheels for optimum traction.

 

Should you buy a 2022 Kia Telluride or a 2022 Mazda CX-9?

If the Kia or Mazda wore luxury-brand badges, we think plenty of buyers would be just as satisfied as if they wore a BMW or Audi badge. Both offer plenty of features and style to compete with three-row midsize SUVs costing tens of thousands of dollars more.

The 2022 Telluride’s modern looks, V6 power, and roomier cabin make it a more practical choice.

However, the 2022 CX-9’s combination of a lower starting price, relatively athletic handling, and decent fuel economy make it the better overall pick. 

Specs

2022 Kia Telluride

2022 Mazda CX-9

Starting MSRP

$46,995

 

$41,300

Engine

3.8-litre 6-cylinder gas

 

2.5-litre turbocharged  4-cylinder gas

Horsepower

291@ 6,000 rpm

227/250 @ 5,000 rpm

Torque

262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm

310/320 @ 2,000/2,500 rpm

Transmission

8-speed automatic

6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy L/100 km

12.7 city/9.7 hwy/11.3 combined

11.6 city/9.0 hwy/10.4 combined

Recommended Gas

87 octane

87/93 octane

Powertrain

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Max Towing

5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms)

3,500 pounds (1,588 kilograms)

Basic Warranty

5 years/80,000 kilometres

4 years/80,000 kilometres

Max Seating Capacity

7/8

6/7

Wheelbase

2,900 millimetres

2,930 millimetres

Overall Length

5,000 millimetres

5,065 millimetres

Width

1,990 millimetres

1,999 millimetres

Height

1,759 millimetres

1,716 millimetres

Min Ground Clearance

203 millimetres

224 millimetres

Headroom, 1st Row

1,004 millimetres

998 millimetres

Headroom, 2nd Row

1,022 millimetres

978 millimetres

Headroom, 3rd Row

969 millimetres

899 millimetres

Legroom, 1st Row

1,120 millimetres

1,041 millimetres

Legroom, 2nd Row

1,077 millimetres

1,001 millimetres

Legroom, 3rd Row

798 millimetres

754 millimetres

Shoulder Room, 1st Row

1,564 millimetres

1,471 millimetres

Shoulder Room, 2nd Row

1,544 millimetres

1,476 millimetres

Shoulder Room, 3rd Row

1,404 millimetres

1,349 millimetres

Volume Behind 2nd Row

1,304 litres

1,082 litres

Volume Behind 3rd Row

601 litres

407 litres

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