As a mom and an auto journalist, I do all the driving, loading and unloading for my family on every day that ends in “Y,” so when I come across a vehicle that makes the hustle and bustle easier, it gets added to my all-star list. After spending a few days with the 2020 Hyundai Palisade as my family’s everyday grocery-getter, it just joined the roster. But how does it handle more demanding trips?
The Palisade, which replaces the smaller Santa Fe XL in Hyundai’s lineup, seats seven or eight across three rows. I tested a model with second-row captain’s chairs and, after spending 200-plus miles in the big SUV, I found a lot to like; its large, well-dressed cabin, pleasant road manners and great value make it a compelling package. All that looks great on paper and feels good from the driver’s seat — but then we took it camping and put it to the real test.
My family of five loaded it up with all the tents, sleeping bags and marshmallows it could handle and headed for the great outdoors. Call it trial by campfire.
Like many family-oriented SUVs, the Palisade is loaded with creature comforts, such as heated and cooled first- and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and second-row climate controls, but a few thoughtful features help the Palisade stand out.
First, the hands-free automatic-opening tailgate came in handy when loading the car with arms full of gear. The second row’s one-touch sliding feature also makes life easier, quickly and easily opening up a large pathway to the third row.
Third rows are notoriously uncomfortable, but Hyundai put some thought into the Palisade’s. With 31.4 inches of legroom, it’s not quite as roomy as the Volkswagen Atlas (33.7 inches). But it’s fine for kids and has a few conveniences that scored points from my family, like a couple of USB ports, plenty of small items storage and a power recline option. My 9-year-old — practically a professional third-row tester — approved.
Plenty of Stuff-Stashing Spots
The pictures don’t lie: Traveling with kids means packing a bunch of stuff both big and small. For everything between, the Palisade delivers with a few strategically placed bins to stash stuff.
One of my favorites is the covered bin under the shifter. I used it as a snack caddy; the space kept the goodies hidden from my snack-obsessed kids but within easy reach for me. Second, the center console box offers another large useful storage space, with a deep well that holds plenty, topped with a divider tray for separating smaller stuff. Lastly, there’s a small underfloor storage bin in the cargo area, handy for corralling small or fragile (or messy) items.
The Palisade has a bunch of safety features that are standard across the lineup, like forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, a driver attention warning and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. Again, a couple of extra features make it shine.
The optional blind spot monitor system is a favorite. It’s similar to Honda’s LaneWatch system but superior because it displays both sides of the vehicle. When you engage the turn signal to the left or right, a live feed from a camera mounted on the side of the Palisade displays the blind spot in real time in the instrument cluster area.
The standard rear occupant alert system is another innovative take on a safety feature other automakers also offer. It uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect something that may have been inadvertently left behind in the rear seats, like children or pets. Like other automakers’ systems, a message on the instrument cluster reminds drivers to check the rear seats when exiting. What’s different with Hyundai’s is the next part: If movement is detected after the driver exists and locks the doors, the vehicle will honk and send an alert to the driver’s phone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system. Although I didn’t test this feature, it gave me peace of mind.
Lastly, standard on upper trims is the new Safe Exit Assist function, which will prevent the rear doors from unlocking and opening if the car detects an oncoming vehicle on that side.
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Although I’d like to believe I’m teaching my children about the joys of minimalism and nature by taking them camping … we need a lot of stuff. Turns out, more stuff than the Palisade can handle. With 18.0 cubic feet of space behind the third row, it again trails the Atlas a bit, as well as its own sibling, the Kia Telluride.
To get extra space, we folded the 60 percent portion of the 60/40-split, third row down, which meant that bags were encroaching on my 9-year-old’s space. We also had to stash bags in the cabin at the base of my twins’ car seats. We fit everything in — but it wasn’t pretty.
I’m all about the Palisade’s creature comfort features… except for one. The Driver Talk in-car intercom system felt gimmicky when I first tested the concept on the 2018 Honda Odyssey, and Hyundai’s execution is no better. It projects the driver’s voice to the third row — which sounds handy for taming the munchkins in back, but it only works one way. I also consistently heard strange feedback noise, making it less-than-helpful. It’s bundled in an options package and not worth the extra money.
Third-Row Car Seat Accommodations
The third-row car seat setup isn’t ideal. There’s only one set of lower Latch anchors and two top tether anchors — better than none, but the set’s position is wonky. It’s set in the middle of the three-seat backseat, so one car seat takes up two spots.
As a mom of three kids in car seats — a number which multiplies when cousins and friends come to visit — I’d like more flexibility in this setup.
The Tribe Has Spoken
Overall, I was impressed by how smoothly the Palisade handled my family’s everyday needs, and as for the bigger stuff — for the most part — we were happy campers.
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