Living with the 2021 Hyundai Palisade Highlander

Hyundai’s eight-seater flagship spends some time with Ash Westerman

2021 Hyundai Palisade Highlander long-term review
Gallery4

Welcome: Bigger Fish to Fry

Price as tested: $75,000 (MSRP)
Fuel this month: 346km @ 11.6L/100km

What do you give the bloke who’s just handed back a large, seven-seater Korean SUV, in which he only ever managed to fill two of those seats at any one time?

Easy! Give him an even larger Korean SUV that seats eight.

Wheels Reviews 2021 Hyundai Palisade Highlander Side
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Not that I’m complaining, and the transition to this top-spec Palisade Highlander diesel will be instructive in terms of how it compares to that top-spec Kia Sorento I ran for the last four months.

No, the two are not eye-to-eye segment rivals due to the Palisade being slightly larger and featuring a three-seat third row (versus two in the third row for the Kia), but the model line-ups of both do overlap enough on price that they’ll surely be cross-shopped by some buyers for whom the third-row accommodation is not a dealer breaker either way.

In terms of price, there’s a fairly hefty premium attached to the extra size and additional rear seat of the Palisade. This range-topper, finished in Steel Graphite, is $75,000, so about $10K more expensive than the (same engine, and also AWD) Hyundai Santa Fe from the segment below, and about $13K dearer than the (again, same engine, AWD) Kia Sorento GT-Line I just vacated.

And no, you don’t get more equipment for your money in the Palisade. Straight away, I see the Palisade is missing a few features that are fitted to the Sorento, like a customisable digital dash, and controls for the front-passenger seat on the right-hand bolster.

Wheels Reviews 2021 Hyundai Palisade Highlander Interior
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Neither is a big deal for me, and ample compensation comes with some of the other neat details I find. As I open the sub-floor storage compartment that houses the cargo blind, I see it also contains a rolled-up tailored floor mat that neatly unfurls to line the boot floor when the third-row seats are folded, stopping any boot debris from dropping through the gaps. The full-length compartment is also the ideal stash spot for an umbrella and picnic rug (if you’re me or Mary Poppins), or maybe a sawn-off shotgun (if you’re Roger Rogerson.)

Up front, the lidded centre console box is appropriately XL-sized, while ahead of this is a generous storage space that can be configured to hold two water bottles, or allows the bottle retainers to be retracted, leaving the space clear for more of your personal stuff. There’s also an under-console storage space which will probably end up as the receptacle for my partner’s handbag, or my handbag if I go back to the cross-dressing thing.

In terms of price, there’s a fairly hefty premium attached to the extra size and additional rear seat of the Palisade.
Wheels Reviews 2021 Hyundai Palisade Highlander Third Row Seats
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There’s no wireless CarPlay, but otherwise general functionality and user-friendliness gets a big tick, as does visibility and seating. The front seats have generous electric adjustment for under-thigh support, so instantly feel super comfortable.

Admittedly the cabin’s off-white shade of leather isn’t the most practical choice for a knuckle-dragger like me, so I’ll need bring my hygiene A-game.

Speaking of trim, the attempt at pale beechwood veneer around the dash and door trims looks as if it came straight from Faux Appliqués R US, but that’s a small, subjective gripe. Otherwise the sense of quality is overwhelmingly positive, as is the overall intuitiveness of all minor controls and menus.

So how does it drive? With a degree of cohesion and wieldiness you may not expect from something with its own postcode. More next month.

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 before on-road costs

 

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Ash Westerman
Journalist

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