2020 Hyundai Palisade Review: Surprise and Delight Across Three Rows

Hyundai built a fully competitive 3-row SUV sized on the larger end of the midsize spectrum

Christian Wardlaw | 
Apr 10, 2020 | 9 min read

Christian Wardlaw

For 2020, Hyundai adds several new SUVs to its growing lineup, topped by the midsize, three-row Palisade.

Spending a day driving the 2020 Hyundai Palisade in northern Idaho—at Hyundai’s invitation—it is easy to imagine the engineers and designers checking off every single box on a list headlined, “How to Build the Best SUV.” After more than a hundred miles behind the wheel and hours of poking and prodding while seated in each of the SUV’s three rows of seats, it’s downright difficult to come up with anything substantially wrong with the brand’s newest and most serious entry into the midsize SUV market.

Starting from a base MSRP $31,775 the Palisade comes in SE, SEL, and Limited trim levels. A 3.8-liter V6 engine is standard, as is an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is an available option.

Among the three trim levels, the SEL offers the greatest variety in terms of mixing and matching. You can get it with two different size wheels, cloth or leather seats, a second-row bench seat or captain’s chairs, and three different option packages. During my drive in Idaho, I sampled the SEL AWD with the Premium and Drive Guidance option packages, and the Limited AWD.

Christian Wardlaw

Emotional Appeal, Practical Value

With the Palisade, Hyundai deftly infuses the SUV with emotional appeal and practicality. It’s a tough feat for any vehicle to be drenched in value, yet not feel like a compromise.

Equip the mid-level SEL trim with every available option, and the SEL looks and feels like a luxury SUV despite a sub-$44,000 MSRP. The top-of-the-line Limited trim adds premium quilted leather and a suede-like headliner, 64-color ambient interior lighting, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, and premium Harman Kardon audio components to the mix. The result is an SUV that feels and smells like it should cost significantly more than it does.

Beyond tactile appeal, the Palisade is highly practical, supplying plenty of in-cabin storage and up to 86.4 cu.-ft. of cargo space. And that’s before taking into account Hyundai’s ownership benefits, which include five years of 24-hour roadside assistance, a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty, and complimentary maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles (whichever comes first).

Christian Wardlaw

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is full of surprise-and-delight

Walking up to a silver Palisade with attractive 20-inch aluminum wheels, and then climbing aboard to find appealing light beige leather, blonde wood-like trim, and fabric-wrapped roof pillars, I assumed I’d just gotten into a top-of-the-line Limited. But no, this was the mid-grade SEL with the Premium Package, which can be had for less than $40,000 MSRP.*

The Hyundai Palisade is full of surprise-and-delight moments like that.

Attention to detail is everywhere, from the texture of front door panel speakers to the second row’s airplane seat-style USB ports for second-row occupants.

Surface textures and tones limit glossiness, and the way Hyundai ties the 10.25-inch infotainment system display with the instrumentation into what looks like a single freestanding panel mimics modern Mercedes design, but with extra style.

Some of that extra style does come at a cost: the silver buttons and knobs on the dashboard have dark, low-contrast labels. It looks premium, especially with a black interior, but the markings are really hard to read during the day—backlighting makes this a non-issue at night, however.

Christian Wardlaw

Three Rows of Seats Means Three Full Rows of Seats

Up front, heated leather thrones are standard on starting on the SEL trim, while the Limited trim includes ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel is available.

Second-row seating is bench-style in the SE, with captain’s chairs included with SEL and Limited trim. On the latter, they’re heated and ventilated just like the front seats.

Regardless of seat style, second-row comfort is excellent thanks to generous legroom and a high seating position. Deserving special mention, the second-row magazine pockets include smartphone holders and in SEL and Limited trim the manual side window shades supply full glass coverage—something those shuttling infants in reverse-facing child safety seats will appreciate. Triple-zone climate control also ensures maximum comfort in SEL and Limited trim.

Hyundai provides three sets of seatbelts in the Palisade’s third-row, but if you’re stuffing adults back there, you’ll likely only fit two. A third-row seat assignment would be acceptable for short, cross-town trips for most grown-ups, which is more than can be said for more than a few of the Palisade’s competitors.

Cargo space behind the third-row seat measures 18 cu.-ft., and the Palisade includes a sizable well beneath the cargo floor. Fold the third-row seat down to create 45.8 cu.-ft. of cargo space. Maximum volume measures 86.4 cu.-ft.

Christian Wardlaw

Tech Features Made for the Modern Family

There is no shortage of technology aboard the 2020 Palisade. From an available 10.25-inch infotainment screen and 12.3-inch digital gauge panel to innovative driver assistance and child safety systems (more on those in a minute), this 3-row SUV is ready to serve modern families.

One key differentiator is the free 3-year trial subscription to Blue Link services (if equipped). Optional for the SEL and standard for the Limited, Blue Link includes automatic collision notification and SOS emergency calling. It also allows parents of young drivers to program speed, curfew, and geographic boundary alerts, helping to monitor children while they’re away from home in the family car. You can even set up a panic notification in the event of trouble, or find the Palisade if you forgot where you parked it.

Also available is a Driver Talk intercom that allows parents to use the stereo speakers as an intercom to calmly tell their children to chill out, rather than yelling from the front seat. A Rear Sleep Mode turns off the SUV’s second- and third-row speakers to let passengers snooze after a busy day of adventuring.

Exclusive to the Limited trim, an available Harman Kardon premium audio system supplies impressive sound while a head-up display projects a wealth of data onto the windshield, reducing the need to take your eyes from the road.

Above and Beyond the Call of Safety

As an example of the safety-first engineering built into Palisade, 59% of the SUV’s underlying structure is composed of high-strength steel, with the intent of providing maximum protection in a collision.

Hyundai also equips the Palisade with a comprehensive suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The usual suspects are present and accounted for, but Hyundai expands on the typical offerings in the segment with Highway Drive Assist and Blind View Monitoring.

Highway Drive Assist debuts in the Palisade, and builds on the SUV’s standard adaptive cruise control and lane keeping systems. It is designed to center the vehicle in its intended lane of travel, maintain safe distance from traffic ahead, and adjust for GPS-mapped changes in speed limits. It works well, but isn’t predictive with regard to speed limit changes, so as you’re entering a town with a much lower limit than the highway leading into it, you need to pay attention or you run the risk of a ticket.

Blind View Monitoring enhances the blind-spot monitoring system with cameras on either side of the Palisade. They show what’s on each side of the Palisade Limited, replacing the left or right gauge within the digital instrument cluster with the corresponding view. Some people will no doubt find this helpful, but with side mirrors and blind spot monitoring already present, it comes off as unnecessary.

There’s also an available ultrasonic version of the standard rear occupant alert system, which is designed to prevent owners from leaving important people or items inside. The ultrasonic system includes motion detection, and if a sleeping child awakes or becomes trapped in the vehicle, the lights will flash, the horn will sound, and the owner will get a smartphone alert.

Safe Exit Assist is another differentiator for Palisade, using the blind spot monitoring system’s radar to detect when vehicles are approaching from behind, preventing occupants from opening a door—it’s particularly useful when parallel parking.

Enough Power to Get the Job Done

Equipped with a 3.8-liter V6 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Palisade offers front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The EPA rates the SUV to get 22 mpg in combined driving with FWD, and 21 mpg with AWD. Hyundai says it can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

With 291 horsepower peaking at 6,000 rpm and 262 lb.-ft. of torque available at 5,200 rpm, extra motivational force is in short supply until the transmission kicks down and revs the engine into the heart of its powerband. Under most driving situations, however, the V6 feels plenty powerful and, at all times, the transmission is a model of civility.

A Hyundai SUV with a BMW Mentality

Sitting up high in a plush interior, you expect this SUV to be soft and mushy, but it’s not. Suspension tuning limits body roll in curves and corners, and you get a good feel for the road without much impact harshness. Credit is certainly due to the Palisade’s robust vehicle architecture, premium German shock absorbers, and Hyundai’s capable engineers, who are led by the man formerly responsible for tuning BMW’s M-badged vehicles. In short: ride and handling qualities impress the driver.

In a sizable SUV, you want smooth rather than sudden braking, paired with consistent, low-effort steering. Together, these qualities add a sensation of stability and calm and, in the Palisade, they’re both present and accounted for.

Christian Wardlaw

A Worthy Candidate for the Next Family Shuttle

With the 2020 Palisade, Hyundai built a fully competitive 3-row SUV sized on the larger end of the midsize spectrum.

Sheer value and intriguing design are the primary draws, while a practical, upscale, and spacious interior filled with modern technology help seal the deal. On a regular basis, the Palisade surprises and delights driver and occupants alike.

If you’re shopping for a capable family shuttle, the new Palisade deserves your consideration.

Vehicle Stats

2020 Hyundai Palisade
Trim: SEL

Base: $33,500
As Tested: $43,155

Selected Specifications
Fuel Economy: 19/24/21 mpg (city/hwy/comb)
Power: 291
Torque: 262
Seating Capacity: 8 (7 with available second-row Captain’s Chairs)

Standard Advanced Safety Systems
Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking
Lane departure warning and lane keeping assist
Driver attention monitoring
Rear occupant alert
Automatic high-beam headlights

Key Trims:*


*MSRP does not include destination fee

Written by humans.
Edited by humans.

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