3-Row SUV Face-off: Kia Telluride vs. Nissan Pathfinder

3-Row SUV Face-off: Kia Telluride vs. Nissan Pathfinder

In the recent past, the Nissan Pathfinder has been easy to overlook among newer SUVs in the class. It managed to distinguish itself from other 3-row SUV rivals with its robust 6,000-pound tow capacity and received faint praise for its smooth V6 engine. However, it was also handicapped by its minimal 3rd-row seating space and cargo capacity. In the end, the Pathfinder's middling scores kept it well outside of the Top 10 in the class.

But the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is all-new, with the potential to finally be considered a worthy rival to the Edmunds Top Rated Kia Telluride, which, for now at least, remains the best 3-row SUV for 2021.

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

Tale of the tape

In general, the Telluride is less expensive and has more features in the lower trim levels. In higher trims, the two are similarly priced and equipped. The base front-wheel-drive 2022 Nissan Pathfinder S starts at $34,560. At the top of the lineup, the all-wheel-drive Platinum model will set you back $49,240. For the sake of this comparison, we're evaluating the second-highest SL trim with all-wheel drive. Our test vehicle also includes the optional SL Premium package that adds several Platinum features (20-inch wheels, a sunroof, heated second-row captain's chairs, premium audio, a tow hitch and a wireless phone charger). The grand total: $45,540 as tested.

The base 2022 Kia Telluride LX starts at $34,015 while the top SX all-wheel-drive model that we're using in this SUV comparison starts at $45,815. In the interest of full disclosure, our Telluride SX was equipped with a handful of packages that aren't applicable to this test, which brought the as-tested price to $50,180.

Both the Pathfinder and Telluride are similarly equipped with features that include a power liftgate, a comprehensive suite of advanced safety features, premium audio and second-row captain's chairs.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

Hit the road

Both the Pathfinder and Telluride come standard with stout six-cylinder engines. The Pathfinder's 3.5-liter V6 (284 horsepower, 259 lb-ft of torque) is a carryover from the last generation, though a new nine-speed automatic replaces the previous continuously variable automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available on all models for an extra $1,900.

The Telluride goes with a 3.8-liter V6 (291 hp, 262 lb-ft) and an eight-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is also available for an additional $2,000, except on the SX, where it costs $1,900. Towing capacity maxes out at 5,000 pounds for a properly equipped Telluride. That's one area where the Pathfinder has a definite advantage — it can pull up to 6,000 pounds.

The Pathfinder comes in at an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined whether you go with front- or all-wheel drive, though the top Platinum trim with AWD will drop you to 22 mpg. The front-drive Telluride is also rated at 23 mpg combined, but the AWD model is a bit lower at 21 mpg.

In Edmunds' testing, the Telluride gains the slightest of advantages in terms of acceleration, posting a 0-60 mph time of 7.4 seconds. The Pathfinder is barely behind, needing 7.6 seconds. Braking and handling tell a similar story, with the Telluride coming to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet — 4 feet shorter than the Pathfinder. We praise the confident cornering that both SUVs exhibit, with body roll well managed. Neither feels out of sorts on a twisty mountain pass, and both deliver a pleasantly smooth ride. As far as driving impressions go, it's as close as it gets between the Nissan and the Kia.

Kia Telluride vs. Nissan Pathfinder

Kia Telluride vs. Nissan Pathfinder

The new Pathfinder's interior is a dramatic improvement over its predecessor's. It's more attractive and easier to use, with fewer physical buttons to clutter the dash and more functions intuitively placed into the large touchscreen. Materials quality is also significantly improved, with soft-touch surfaces replacing hard plastic. It's certainly worthy now to compete against the top SUVs in the class, but the Telluride remains our pick for its execution that flirts with luxury-class levels of refinement.

The Pathfinder does earn an advantage when it comes to personal item storage, with a very large bin underneath the center console and a narrow dash shelf in front of the passenger. The Nissan also wins points for its versatility. The center console between the second-row captain's chairs is easily removable without tools, providing narrow access between the seats to the third row. It might be easier to climb in through the back than flipping the second-row seats forward, or less stressful if a child seat is in the second row.

Third-row seats in SUVs of this size are generally intended for occasional use by children, but both the Pathfinder and the Telluride have more room than the average 3-row SUV. Adults can indeed fit back there, but the lower seat cushions provide very little thigh support. While the third row is usable for short trips, only smaller passengers will find them comfortable on longer treks.

Behind the Pathfinder's 3rd-row seating area is 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space, which is smaller than the Telluride's 21 cubes, but the Nissan's handy underfloor storage bin with dividers helps even the playing field. With the second and third row of seats folded, the Pathfinder offers up to 80.5 cubic feet of storage, which is comparable to the Telluride's 87 cubes of capacity.

Kia Telluride

Kia Telluride

Edmunds says

Competition is fierce among the best 3-row SUVs, with only 0.7 of a point separating the Edmunds Top Rated Kia Telluride and the all-new 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in our ratings. The Pathfinder comes tantalizingly close to challenging the Telluride, with a handful of advantages to offset a few minor drawbacks, but the Kia remains comfortably in the lead. If your priorities include maximum towing ability, however, the Pathfinder's 6,000-pound capacity should be enough to win you over.

Kia Telluride vs. Nissan Pathfinder

Kia Telluride vs. Nissan Pathfinder


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