The billboards are up, the ads are on TV and we’re starting to see these big Hyundai SUVs in showrooms and out on the open road – so, what is the Hyundai Palisade really like?

Back in 2018 Hyundai showed the world the direction in which the Korean giant was taking its passenger car design – “Sensuous Sportiness”. Alliteration aside, the design language that Hyundai was showcasing proved once and for all that it is a company that is getting serious about how it’s products look and feel. 

Unlike the futuristic looking HDC-1 concept car, the HDC-2 Grandmaster concept looked almost production ready. Unsurprisingly, 2021 sees the local launch of the Hyundai Palisade – an almost mirror copy of the HDC-2 concept (albeit, minus the massive wheels and pumped guards that make concept cars so very alluring). 

A massively important model for Hyundai, the Palisade has finally landed here after first being launched in South Korea and the USA in late 2018. It took a while, and no doubt COVID-19 didn’t help, but it’s definitely been worth the wait. 

Locally, the Palisade is available as a two-wheel drive petrol V6 or a four-wheel drive diesel – both with an eight speed automatic transmission. Furthermore, the Palisade is available in two levels of trim: Palisade or Highlander. Of the two, rarely has it been so important to tick the option for the higher grade. The level of equipment on the Highlander spec car transforms what is a competent and comfortable family hauler into something that really is a pleasure to use for commuting or long distance work. 

Pricing, while by no means cheap, is competitive, with the V6 2WD Palisade kicking off at $64,957 and topping out at $77,103 for a diesel AWD Highlander. Metallic paint and the choice of seven or eight seats are no cost options on the Highlander. 

In fact, it is the simple addition of the seven seat option that makes the Highlander such a distance killer for a family of four or five. In seven-seat configuration, the front and second row seats are all independently adjustable, heated and cooled reclining buckets. A small ‘walkway’ exists between the two rear bucket seats, giving another means of access to the rearmost row of seats. Along with multiple USB ports and front and rear and independent rear climate control air conditioning, the Highlander is a superb place for a family to cover some miles. You really would need to be carting a lot of people a lot of the time to justify the eight seat option. 

The safety features fitted to both specs are commendable, however, the Highlander takes this to extraordinary levels considering the price point and intended market. Along with the regular array of advanced safety features, all Palisades come with trailer sway assist, trailer traction control, blind spot warning, car/cyclist/pedestrian detection, stop/go active cruise control, front and rear parking assist with guidance lines, multi connection bluetooth and Sat Nav with live traffic updates. 

Jump up to the Highlander though and you are blessed with Blind Spot View Monitor (where a rear facing side camera displays the car’s blindspot on the dashboard – a system that I first thought was a gimmick, but now consider invaluable), Safe Exit Assist (where sensors monitor passing cars and bicycles, preventing doors from being opened into their path), Head Up Display, LED headlights, 360 degree parking camera along with some niceties such as wireless phone charging, leather, hands free power tailgate and the aforementioned heated and cooling seats all around. Like I said, it’s a hell of a lot of kit for the price. 

The front wheel drive V6 configuration is the least impressive in the range. Peak torque is achieved way, way up at 5200rpm, while the two wheel drive chassis struggles to deal with the 217kw that the engine produces. This engine would be a weapon in a rear wheel drive sedan, but in front wheel drive SUV guise it is simply too much of a good thing. 

A much better fit is the all wheel drive diesel option. The on-demand all wheel drive system shifts drive seamlessly across the chassis. Further, the torque of the 2.2. litre arrives at a low 1750rpm. Peak power arrives at a typically diesel-like 3800rpm. These numbers work wonderfully with the slick eight speed transmission. Ever tighter emissions standards mean that diesel engines are as popular as an overseas visitor with a sniffle at the moment, but in this application the result is effortless motion. Besides, Hyundai has managed to achieve Euro 5 emission standards on both the petrol and diesel engines, so it is a no-brainer – go diesel. 

For the last few years it has been unnecessary to make excuses for Korean products, such as Hyundai and Kia, when comparing them with the big players from Japan, such as Toyota and Mazda. The arrival of the Palisade really should put to bed any such discussions. Sure, it’s the same price as a Prado, but so it should be – it’s a much better family car than a Prado. Ultimately, if you’re in the market for a big family hauler you would be mad to not consider the Palisade – in seven seat Highlander guise it really is a fabulous car.