Review update: 2020 Hyundai Palisade does family like suppertime

Family vehicles like the 2020 Hyundai Palisade are team buses for a new generation. There’ll be a long list of children soon who will roll their eyes at their parents’ music choices, fall asleep in the bench seats, loose milk money in the cushions, and kick the back of the seats ahead of them filled with misbehaving siblings.

The new three-row crossover from Hyundai is far more refined than any boxy, dent-magnet that regularly rotated through our garages of yesteryear. We only wish we were 8 again.

That’s because kids these days have it too good. The retching scent of fermented sweaty feet, ground Cheetos and Honey Nut Cheerios, and spilled milk on fabric in direct sunlight in the cars we grew up in could stop traffic. This Palisade’s interior cleans up and wipes clean like a spit-soaked wipe from mom’s thumb on our faces. Its air conditioning chills the cabin well enough to hang slabs of Waygu from the optional dual-pane sunroof, there are even six vents to push comforting air conditioning way back into the wayback.

Oh, how we wish we had A/C when we were 8 years old.

We first drove an early version of the Palisade in Korea that was equipped with an engine that won’t be available in the U.S. at all. We traveled to Northern Idaho last week to drive U.S.-bound vehicles, revisit our impressions, and relive our childhood memories. Here’s what we found out:

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Hit: Better powertrain

The version of the Palisade that will arrive in the U.S. later this summer is powered by a 291-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 and an 8-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive as standard, or all-wheel drive for roughly $2,000 more.

Our first drive of the Palisade was tuned for roads in Korea. In parts of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, the native Sami language has more than 300 words for “snow.” We expect there are just as many words for “speedbump” in Korea.

The U.S. suspension is softer, with a more generous area in the middle of the steering wheel to track the Palisade straight down Kansas on long hauls. The Palisade’s steering is tinge heavier—heavier still in “sport” mode—but this is the kind of car worth taking the long way.

In repeated stamps between 60 and 80 mph—normal passing maneuvers—the Palisade hesitated and then ran ahead without much of a fuss. Rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, the Palisade won’t compete with the 5.7-liter V-8 in the Dodge Durango, which is the towing champ among competitors, but not many families will need to haul much more than a couple of toys on the way to the summer cabin.

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Bad: Dark interior that can feel a little plain

The interior space is airy, bright, and sitting in the third row—which we did for more than 40 miles—never felt like looking through a periscope. Limited trim levels get dressier shades of softer leather, but SE and SEL models manage better with some interior colors compared to others. The SEL Premium that we spent half a day in was dressed in rich black—printers call it “four-color black”—that swallowed ambient light from the airy cabin.

The gray accents near the dash helped break up the visual weight of the interior, but lighter shades do the Palisade better justice.

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Good: Upscale looks…

The Palisade and Kia Telluride underneath are nearly identical. What’s notably different? The exterior, which like the names imply bend toward ritzy or rugged, respectively.

The Palisade was sculpted to punch up to the best-looking vehicles in its class: Mazda CX-9, Buick Enclave, and the new 2020 Toyota Highlander.

The Palisade’s vertical headlights are split in front to make room for a wide grille, finished in a matte silver paint that Hyundai says is resistant to rock chips. On the body sides, the Palisade’s chrome kicks down on the rear roof pillar, which makes it visually thicker with more weight; a symbol of strength, lead designer SangYup Lee told us. Around back, the liftgate is framed with the same vertical themes as up front. A large, block-letter “Palisade” stretches from side to side, above the small rear bumper.

The Palisade has a strong look that reads “upscale” rather than “ready for the trail.”

2020 Hyundai Palisade

2020 Hyundai Palisade

2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

Bad: …but some will prefer the Telluride’s shape

In a short test at home, the Telluride’s blockiness attracted fans of the Chevy Tahoe and other body-on-frame SUVs despite sharing running gear with the Palisade. Your mileage may vary, but in mountain states the Telluride may seem like the sturdier, more rugged pick between the two.

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Good: Infotainment system

Hyundai’s native infotainment system has been refined to near perfection—provided you’re willing to learn it. Owners can get around that by using the built-in Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility, but Hyundai owners would do well to sit with the system for an hour.

The Palisade comes with three years of complimentary service from Hyundai’s smartphone app, which can remotely start the crossover, condition the cabin, send navigation destinations to the native system, among other features. It’s a helpful system, and one worth exploring. The only downside? Menus for days to find specific features that may seem cumbersome at first.

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Better: Value compared to competitors

At about $32,500 for a base Palisade SE with front-wheel drive, Hyundai undercuts competitors by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. The base SE is equipped with 18-inch wheels, active lane control, seats for eight, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, automatic emergency braking, and active lane control. All-wheel drive is a $1,700 upcharge from front-drivers (a couple hundred less than the Telluride, which Hyundai says is accounted for due to the Palisade’s availability in other parts of the globe) and optional extras are reasonably priced.

The sweet spot is SEL versions that cost less than $45,000 with all-wheel drive blind-spot monitors, keyless ignition, and second-row captain’s chairs as a no-cost swap. Options packages on the SEL go further with 20-inch wheels, a wireless phone charger, parking sensors, a load-leveling rear suspension, power rear liftgate, and second-row USB power ports for $2,200. A 10.3-inch touchscreen is available too. Its warranty is among the best in the business, too. Hyundai offers a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that few rivals can match.

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Best: Interior space

The interior of the Palisade is open like a gymnasium. Three rows of seats that can fit actual adults in nearly any position—except perhaps the middle seat in the rear bench that’s very narrow—with enough leg room for 6-foot-3 editors like ours at more than 40 inches in the second row. Behind the third row? There are 18 cubic feet for cargo that balloons to nearly 47 cubic feet with the third row folded flat.

The Palisade is value like families need, at a price that’s reasonable compared to others. We’d ride all day on that team bus.


2020 Hyundai Palisade

Base price (including mandatory destination): $32,595

Price as tested: $43,155 (SEL Premium with Convenience package, Navigation, and Sunroof options)

EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined

Observed fuel economy: 21.6 mpg over 240 miles

Hits: Smooth powertrain, copious interior space, good value

Misses: Dark interior in base versions, split style compared to Kia Telluride, a learning curve for infotainment


Hyundai provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand review.

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