When Hyundai asked owners of its current three-row crossover, the Santa Fe XL, what attributes could be improved, two of the most common answers were more space and a nicer interior more befitting its elevated price. Sure enough, that vehicle's replacement, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade, provides exactly that.
Actually, Hyundai went above and beyond in those areas. The Palisade makes a splash by being one of the most spacious and luxurious cabins in the increasingly populated three-row SUV segment, and we think it's a must-drive. Not just because of that cabin, mind you, but also because it's very well-rounded with generous feature content, a fair price, a lengthy warranty and a generally agreeable driving experience free of overt flaws.
What's new for 2020?
The Palisade is all-new for 2020. It technically replaces the old three-row Hyundai Santa Fe, but it's larger and better suited to compete with other large, three-row family crossovers. It is mechanically related to the 2020 Kia Telluride.
What's the interior and in-car technology like?
The Palisade cabin can provide a bit of a "wow" moment if you've just come from test driving a Honda Pilot or Subaru Ascent – both nice and well-constructed, but not stylish. The Palisade, by contrast, has a uniquely elegant cabin highlighted by a wide, Mercedes-like touchscreen panel, distinctive trim types and a center console that rises to meet the dash, leaving extra storage underneath. It's both attractive and functional. Quality is also shockingly good, grossly outclassing the three-row Santa Fe it replaces, and challenging luxury models in its Limited trim level. The top trim levels of most rival SUVs can't make the same claim.
Every Palisade comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen, which is the upgrade unit in other Hyundais. It's easy to use, and thanks to the Palisade's design, easy to see. A new 10.25-inch widescreen unit is available on upper trim levels, much as it is in the Hyundai Sonata. You can devote the entire thing to one function, split it 70/30 between two (such as the navigation map and audio system information), or leave it on the home screen that shows three functions. It's similar to what you increasingly see in various luxury brands, and it's just as well-executed, if even a bit better, in the Palisade. Note that the mechanically related Kia Telluride offers a very similar system.
The Palisade also comes standard with a multitude of standard infotainment features including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and five USB ports. An extra pair of USB ports is added to upper trim levels, which can also be outfitted with wireless smartphone charging, integrated navigation and an impressive Harman/Kardon surround sound audio system. Also shared with the Telluride is a rear seat mute function that easily disables the rear speakers (for sleeping kids, or those who don't want to listen to your lame old music) as well as the Driver Talk in-car intercom system that transmits the driver's voice to those sitting in the back.
How big is it?
The Palisade is one of the largest three-row crossovers. Few are as long and wide, while third-row leg- and headroom are among the most generous in the segment. Even a tall adult can fit back there quite comfortably, while three pre-teens should be easily be shoehorned in. Better still, the large rear quarter windows and the wide, upright vehicle sides mean they won't feel too claustrophobic back there. Access to the third row benefits from one-press power release buttons, as well as unique grab handles integrated into the C pillars, but the resulting gap between that pillar and slid-forward seat is merely average. The second row offers a standard 60/40-split bench seat that results in an eight-person overall capacity, or captain's chairs that reduces capacity to seven. Space and comfort are excellent with either, but that's to be expected in this segment.
Cargo capacity is also better than most, at 18 cubic feet behind the raised third row, although it has 3 fewer cubes than the more spacious, boxier Telluride. That's still enough to fit four sizable suitcases. There is 45.8 cubic feet when the third row is lowered, and 86.4 when both rows are lowered – both are pretty average for the segment, which is just fine. The second row features a standard power-folding release, while a fully power-operated third row is optional on the SEL and standard on the Limited.
Finally, storage for small items is a stand-out Palisade feature. The front center console has a sizeable under-armrest bin, and there's another bin forward of that one covered by a sliding cover that houses the wireless smartphone charging pad (if so equipped) and nifty cupholders pictured below that disappear to free up extra space when not in use. Then, there's an expansive space under the console big enough for a purse, plus decently sized door bins and lots of back seat cupholders.
What's the performance and fuel economy?
Every Palisade comes with a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Front- or all-wheel drive are available, and an eight-speed automatic is standard. The towing capacity is 5,000 pounds on every Palisade. A class III hitch and an auto-leveling rear suspension are optional.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive only lowers those estimates to 19/24/21.
What's it like to drive?
Much like the Kia Telluride that shares its mechanical underpinnings, the Hyundai Palisade offers a well-rounded driving experience free from bad habits but also bereft of anything particularly memorable. Effectively, it reaches the bar set by the vast majority of buyers in this segment. The V6 engine produces plenty of power, but ultimately produces acceleration on-par with most other vehicles in the segment. The steering is precise and gains a little extra effort when in Sport mode, but it also doesn't keep you particularly engaged in the driving experience. Similarly, the suspension capably controls body motions and the stock tires do a good job of gripping pavement (or even loose gravel), but again, those looking for more zest should visit their local Mazda store for a CX-9.
During our first drive in northern Idaho, the suspension sopped up poor pavement well despite our test vehicle riding on 20-inch wheels. Road noise was also nicely quelled and the V6 engine is quiet, but we noticed a surprising amount of wind noise at the pillars of both sides of the car.
The Palisade's available all-wheel-drive system has a function that locks the front/rear power distribution at 50/50 for added traction while off-roading. We found it capable enough driving on a lengthy gravel road with plenty of tight turns. However, its 7.9 inches of ground clearance is unremarkable, and unlike several competitors, the Palisade doesn't offer any sort of off-road driving modes. It's no off-roader, which was certainly proved when we buried it while testing on a beach. But its AWD system should provide some peace of mind in slick or snowy conditions.
What more can I read about the 2020 Hyundai Palisade?
We take a closer look at the Palisade's range-topping Limited trim level, focusing on its infotainment and driver assistance technology features, plus its general performance during a family road trip.
We put the Palisade's cargo area to the test by trying to stuff as much luggage as we can behind its third row, as well as how much seating capacity remains when you stuff all of our luggage inside.
Our first full test of the Palisade on American roads, including in-depth information about its design and engineering.
See how the Palisade's dimensions and engine specs compare to other three-row family crossovers. There is also this comparison, which includes the Kia Telluride and 2020 Ford Explorer.
What features are available and what's the price?
Pricing for the 2020 Palisade starts at $32,595, including the $1,045 destination charge, for the base SE trim level. The SEL starts at $34,545, while the range-topping Limited starts at $45,745. All-wheel drive is a $1,700 option on every trim level.
Base equipment for the Palisade SE includes an unmatched amount of standard safety equipment (see Safety section below), plus 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED exterior accent lighting, adaptive cruise control, a six-way manually adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split second-row bench seating (includes remote folding from the cargo area and one-touch sliding for third-row access), an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and five USB ports.
For about $2,000 extra, the SEL adds worthwhile features like blind-spot warning, roof rails, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control, seven USB ports, plus fancier interior trim. You can also add many of the range-topping Limited trim's features as options, including the 10.25-inch touchscreen, digital instrument panel, wireless smartphone charging, proximity entry and push-button start, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, power-folding third-row seats and second-row captain's chairs (the bench remains optional on the SEL, but is not available on the Limited).
What's its safety equipment?
Every 2020 Hyundai Palisade comes standard with forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, lane-keeping assist, a driver inattention warning system, a safe exit assist (warns passengers of on-coming traffic when opening doors), and adaptive cruise control. There are also front, front-side, side-curtain and driver knee airbags standard.
Among the Limited trim level's upgrades is a blind-spot camera system that beams a view from the vehicle's side into the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. Signal left and the speedmeter fills with a view from the left side of the car. Signal right and the tach disappears in favor of the view right.
The Palisade received a perfect five stars from the government for overall, side and frontal crash protection. It was named a Top Safety Pick by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for its best-possible crash protection and crash prevention scores. The headlights on the SEL and Limited trim levels also received the best-possible rating of "Good," thought the base headlights got a second-out-of-four rating of "Marginal."