2021 Hyundai Palisade review

Massive but elegant Hyundai Palisade grand SUV is a big jewel in the Hyundai crown

2021 hyundai palisade

Things we like

  • Bold but not brash
  • Astonishing levels of spec

Not so much

  • It's a big beast; heavy, too

Let’s not even talk about where the Hyundai brand was in the eyes of the Australian consumer a few years ago.

That’s because any previous animosity toward the brand - once synonymous with cheap and cheerful driveaway bargains - has been justifiably forgotten.

And after 35 years in Australia, Hyundai has become a formidable force that is not just worrying rival brands in more accessible markets but is progressively rolling out threats to almost every segment.

Palisade Highlander 19 Jpg

Milestones include its Genesis family, which proved it could do luxury motoring like a Lexus, its i30 N which served a big helping of humble pie to everything in the hot hatch arena, and the Nexo hydrogen-powered SUV, which is barrelling into an alternative energy future quite literally without any competition.

But it’s a big day for the big H with a new flagship joining its Australian range and... it’s big.

The Palisade and Palisade Highlander will land in local Hyundai showrooms like a rugby forward in a sharp suit – large and imposing but with substance and panache.

Palisade Highlander 16 Jpg

Where models such as the Infiniti QX80 failed miserably to make large proportions work aesthetically, Hyundai’s 'big' design execution is much more successful.

Some big SUVs make you want to jump in quickly so you don’t have to look at them anymore, but the Palisade causes you to pause for a moment to take it all in.

And there’s a lot to take in. And it wasn’t just us that loved the incredibly bold LED light accents that stand vertically on the Palisade’s nose and tail; lots of craned necks from passersby confirmed that.

Hyundai Palisade SUV is ready to make eight seats sexy

Or perhaps it was simply the sheer size of this plus-size SUV and the dominating silhouette it plonks on any road that commanded all the attention.

Either way, this Hyundai lets you know it has arrived.

Take or leave the huge cascading grille at the front and the unashamedly big features of the tail end, but the profile is where the Palisade is most handsome.

Palisade Highlander 12 Jpg

Price and spec

The entry-level Palisade gets front-wheel drive and a petrol V6 engine from $60,000 but we focused on the range-topping Palisade Highlander fitted with the 2.2-litre turbo diesel and all-wheel drive, priced from $75,000.

If a 75-grand Hyundai makes you wince a little, stop it. The Palisade’s kit list is as mighty as its presence.

Check out our pricing and features story for the full list of inclusions on both levels of specification but the standout is certainly space.

Palisade Highlander 38 Jpg

As you might expect for a car that measures about 5.0 metres in length and 2.0m wide, the Palisade is available as a seven-seater but more unusually, it also offers eight seats.

And we’re not talking some gesture of a third row that could only accommodate dolls or the most flexible of passengers. At 6’2” I fit.

With cup holders, USB charging sockets, air vents and seat adjustment, the Palisade’s third row is more comfortable than most compact hatchback’s second rows.

It’s also worth noting that with full-length curtain airbags, the third row doesn’t compromise on safety – a big tick for families wanting to use the three ISOFIX child seat anchors provided in the third row (one out back and two in the second row).

Palisade Highlander 42 Jpg

To put its cavernous space into easily digestible figures, the Palisade has a 704-litre boot, but even with the third row of seats in use it still offers a boot bigger than a Corolla’s at 311 litres!

The second row is just as above-par especially if you go for the seven-seater, which ditches the three-seat bench in favour of two ‘captain’s’ chairs with their own arm-rests, heating and cooling and more adjustments than Trump’s tax return.

It’s the same story up front where you’ll find acres of room and loads of features.

The Highlander we tested sported beautiful Nappa leather in a combination of light grey and a weirdly likeable dark slate blue colour, complemented by a delicious suede-effect roof liner.

Palisade Highlander 45 Jpg

It also gets the flying-buttress style centre console which places a dominating slab of switches and gear high up in the cabin for easy access but offers storage underneath to avoid wasting space.

Another highlight is the generous 10.3-inch central touchscreen which feels bigger due to its cinematic proportions and offers up slick graphics and intuitive operation.

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Another (7.0-inch) display nestles between the driver’s gauges and transforms into a blind-spot eliminating camera display when an indicator is flicked.

There’s no full digital instrument cluster akin to the Palisade’s smaller Santa Fe sibling but a head-up display makes it easy to forgive that.

The Palisade easily nails the comfort and equipment formula, and the grand appeal continues on the road.

Palisade Highlander 57 Jpg

Driving the Hyundai Palisade

The 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel unit is the same as you’ll find under the bonnet of the updated Santa Fe which might seem a little breathless for such a large application but performance is surprisingly good.

Power is an adequate 147kW but the important load-lugging torque figure is a more impressive 440Nm.

That means prompt off-the-mark acceleration and decent performance for overtaking and cruising without gasping every time you click off the fuel bowser.

Speaking of, the generous 71-litre tank and a claimed range of 7.3L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle means the Palisade will almost cover the Sydney-to-Melbourne run on a single tank.

It’s only at higher speeds that the Palisade’s large frontal area and resulting drag start to bog down the diesel’s muscle.

Palisade Highlander 14 Jpg

An eight-speed automatic is not the same snappy unit offered by the new Santa Fe diesel, but it's a good pairing for the grunty four-cylinder.

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Standing out from all the other pleasing road manners, however, is the Palisade’s ride. Front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link arrangements have been deftly tuned for local roads and use the big SUVs weight and size to its advantage.

Not only is the ride quality sublime, but it's also accentuated by a cabin that's as quiet as Melbourne airport’s international baggage claim hall.

The Palisade's handling is far in excess of expectations; it's reassuring and it defies the size of this machine.

Palisade Highlander 18 Jpg

But the Palisade’s scale does not limit it to the freeway or out of town cruising.

Huge areas of glazing and considerate roof pillar design and placement offer excellent visibility.

And for the less confident driver or parker, a host of driver assistance features shrink this behemoth in town.

Opt for the diesel version and you’ll get Hyundai’s H-TRAC all-wheel-drive system for what promises to bring some genuine off-road capability.

With it comes a number of driving modes for different surfaces and, combined with more than 200mm of ground clearance, the Palisade is a convincing dirt tracker (if not rock crawler).

Palisade Highlander 11 Jpg

It’s hard, in fact, to place a black mark on the Palisades score sheet.

A hybrid version might appease the growing alternative energy audience, and a more efficient petrol engine option would probably better suit a competitive market.

Its relatively low tow rating of 2200kg might surprise and disappoint some, while a relatively sparse Gross Vehicle Mass figure of 2680kg against the Palisade eight-seater's 2059kg heft means that six adults on board will take up most of the payload figure before luggage is factored in.


Viewed objectively, the Palisade is quite simply without rival. Virtually any other eight-seat option in the market is either a repurposed van or a people mover devoid of any SUV qualities.

Add to that a quality and equipment list that puts the model into some premium territory and you have a seriously compelling package.

Palisade Highlander 22 Jpg

In fact, slot in the Genesis GV80’s gorgeous six-cylinder diesel and the Palisade could easily wear the same badge with pride.

If you’re after something that can brag the same set of attributes for less than $100,000, you’ll be looking for quite a long time.

Hyundai Palisade specs

Model Hyundai Palisade Highlander

Engine 2.2l 4cyl turbo diesel, dohc

Max power 147kW @ 3800rpm

Max torque 440Nm @ 1750-2,750rpm

Transmission 8spd auto

Weight 2069kg (AWD, 8-seat)

Economy 7.3L/100km

Price $75,000

On sale Now


Things we like

  • Bold but not brash
  • Astonishing levels of spec

Not so much

  • It's a big beast; heavy, too


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