Once upon a time, the minivan showroom was Stop #1 for Canadian families seeking a new whip in which to carry their kit and caboodle. Sales figures prove those days are long in the past, with the box-on-wheels being long supplanted by high-riding three-row SUVs. What about the station wagon? Don’t be silly.

This popularity means the segment is extremely crowded, with automakers of all stripes jumping into the three-row SUV game in search of profit and market share. As such, if a vehicle wants to be a standout player in this packed field, they need to be good-looking, sensibly priced, and packed with smart convenience features.

Or, like this year’s victor, a slick combination of all three.

Kia is no stranger to winning awards, having packed its trophy case with many plaudits over the years. In fact, the Kia Telluride has taken top honours in this category for the past two years running, making it a three-peat winner in 2022. That streak is an impressive accomplishment in any context; in the murderously competitive three-row SUV segment, it’s nearly superhuman.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Even now, three model years after its debut, the Telluride continues to draw praise from our panel of experts. It was our pick in a head-to-head contest with the Toyota Highlander, an article in which the Kia was described as “the better pick,” especially for owners who tend to stuff all three rows of seats with human beings. This is worth noting because some of the Telluride’s competitors offer plenty of room for up to eight passengers but then inconveniently fail to supply sufficient cargo space for their gear. Kia packs 601 litres of area behind the third row, about a third more than the Highlander.

It’s not just the Way Back that shines inside the Telluride. As AutoTrader expert and jury member Jeff Wilson found during his road test of a Nightsky-trimmed 2021 model, the brand has paid ample attention to crafting a contemporary design that does an excellent job of integrating popular technology features. In fact, he went so far as to say certain design elements are “reminiscent of those in the Porsche Cayenne,” a comparison that surely pleases those in Kia’s corner offices. Unlike some half-hearted efforts in the class, this SUV’s attractive and high-quality finishes are not limited to the front row of chairs, ensuring no passenger is made to feel like a second-rate citizen just because they’re not sitting at the helm. Infotainment is easy to use with crisp graphics in its large display.

Kia built its reputation on building value-laden cars with reasonable price tags that are stacked with features. This trend continues today, even if the Telluride is priced astride some of its competition instead of undercutting them. Making up for this new price parity is the inclusion of equipment normally found on much more expensive machinery; even the entry-level EX trim is loaded to the gunwales with the likes of active driving aids, an enormous infotainment system, and USB ports in all three rows. It’s these features and level of attention to detail that raise this SUV’s cred in the eyes of shoppers and experts alike.

While world-destroying performance probably isn’t ultra important to shoppers in the three-row SUV segment, a winning car shouldn’t be a chore to drive. Its 3.8L V6 engine makes 291 horsepower, a sum that is neither insufficient nor class-leading, especially compared to some turbocharged competitors. Fortunately, the eight-speed automatic transmission is a willing dance partner that permits the large SUV to become a quiet cruiser even at extra-legal highway speeds.

Our jury of more than 20 automotive experts from all across the country considered every single new three-row SUV available for Canadians to buy and voted for the best ones using a dozen different criteria ranging from safety and quality to efficiency and performance. These criteria are weighted with a critical eye to the segment’s intended purpose; for example, passenger comfort was more important here than in the performance car category.

With well-built and snazzy vehicles like the 2022 Kia Telluride raising the bar for families seeking a modern three-row vehicle, it makes sense why wide swaths of Canadians are choosing them instead of a minivan.