Think big seven-seater and Hyundai Sante Fe ranks right up there. Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, Ford Everest, all the big makes and models all have a big SUV - but Hyundai takes it a step further with the Palisade, and American-derived, right-hand-drive version of the SUV where bigger is better.
But is it really?
Dismiss probably isn’t the right word, but I’ll admit I did initially look down my nose a little at Hyundai’s Palisade. From Series I to II, the two-model engine choice is now down to just the one, the popular 2.2-litre diesel four-cylinder as also seen in the Sante Fe.
Sometimes cynicism has basis; after all, it’s American, a car building culture not always known for building the likes of SUVs able to compete with the Euros, Japanese, or even Koreans on local soil. We are massively spoilt for choice for SUVs and on my list of big SUV loves, Palisade was often forgotten.
It was also partly down to its "generation-old" technology, when we are spoilt, so used to driving the latest and greatest cars and tech. But after a week and 1000km in the large 'Murican, its negative perceptions have been largely washed away... even if it was also going in with low expectations. Either/or, the Hyundai Palisade has made a mark with some familiar strong points and some memorable USPs.
It's 210mm longer than Santa Fe. That could be the difference between cramped and comfy.
The tech might be old for us lucky enough to drive the latest every day, but it’s not old for new customers, including features like three-zone climate control - and if ever there is a large difference between a climate control setting and the cabin temperature, the seat and steering heaters switch on automatically.
Other additions include multi-function Forward Collision-Avoidance, Rear Cross-Traffic Avoidance systems, and Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go.
Generation-old tech isn’t actually that bad, when everything is touch-this, haptic-that and projection 2025.
While other weird folk (other being the adjective for peers in the office) scoffed at the grey gold champagne paint, it was the second thing that struck me - after its sheer size. It’s big! But then, so is a Santa Fe; the Palisade is 4980mm long vs 4770mm for the Sante Fe. Now, 21cm might not sound a lot, but it’s 4 per cent, and could be the difference between cramped and comfy.
The other perceived bugbear, generation-old tech actually isn’t actually that bad. When everything is touch-this, haptic-that and projection 2025, my Gen X brain sometimes covets the simple things: indicators on the right, wipers on the left and lots of tactile buttons. There are lots of those! Maybe the Palisade’s console is a little overwhelming at first, but after some time, it’s both easier and faster to navigate than the complex menus of touchscreens and layers. Want heated seats? Button! Gear selection. Button; radio, cooled seats, turn up the heat? Lovely, simple, fast and tactile buttons.
The seating is the big selling point, available in either seven or eight seats.
Of course, there is quite a sting of price. Hyundai private sales in NZ carry a... let’s say "premium", and a Palisade retail price starts at $106,990, up to $119,990, and then there’s the Clean Car fee (for now of almost $5k). Big bikkies and certainly a reminder that there are many cheaper alternatives, even within Hyundai’s own stable (a top-spec like-for-like Sante Fe is $83k). But a premium car attracts a premium buyer.
The seating is the big selling point, available in either seven or eight seats, with the width of the Palisade accommodating three seats across the second and third rows.
In addition, unlike some seven-seat SUVs, the boot is positively huge with the third row folded down, and still large with them raised. Add in rear window blinds, dual sunroofs for the first two rows and a huge amount of interior space, and it all starts to make a little more sense. Like buying a home, it’s comfort and space that appeals. Big center consoles, wireless charging, a single USB port but multiple USB-Cs, there’s also Hyundai’s cutesy audio ambiance features, ranging from a lively forest to ocean waves, falling rain, a fireplace or the ability to replicate the Driver Talk feature that allows the driver to communicate better to the rear passengers via the C-pillar speakers. There’s even a Quiet Mode that mutes rear speakers for chatting or dozing kids.
Driving the Palisade is unsurprisingly similar to the Sante Fe, with the torquey 2.2-litre diesel engine offering urgency that somewhat contradicts its 2000kg. We saw between 7.5-8.5l/100km with mostly motorway driving, close to its claim of 7.3l/100km, offering a range of over 800km from its 71-litre tank. Its towing is a little down on Sante Fe, however, at just 2200kg.
Australian-tuned suspension also makes it an arguably better package than its US-version, too, offering a comfy ride without the wallowing.
Better, bigger and bolder, the Hyundai Palisade is a pleasant surprise for those premium buyers wanting something a little different.
HYUNDAI PALISADE II CALLIGRAPHY
ENGINE: 2.2 turbo diesel
GEARBOX: 8-speed auto, AWD
PRICE: $106,990-$119,990 (clean car fee $4772)