Sometimes, going with the flow is the best course of action. Not making waves, being consistent and taking your cues from those around you.
That strategy has certainly served Hyundai well over the years.
Going right back to the 1980s-era Pony, the South Korean company has kept a sharp eye on industry front-runners and built its products accordingly.
Not known for breaking new ground, Hyundai has nonetheless carved out a niche. It produces easy-to-get-along-with, competitively-priced mainstream vehicles that now hold their own against virtually anything from its chief competitors in Japan.
This applies to its SUVs in particular. The Tucson and Santa Fe are top sellers in Canada, mainly because they tick all the right boxes: they have a nice sense of driveability, don’t alienate drivers with incomprehensible switch gear and, paramountly, come with an easy-to-digest price.
Hyundai has five SUVs of various shapes and sizes for sale in Canada and the newest is the mid-size Palisade.
Available in six trim levels, the 2020 Palisade is powered by a 3.8-litre V6 engine that’s good for some 290 horsepower. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission only, and you can get the Palisade with either front or all-wheel-drive.
The engine is a nice surprise. Considering its comparatively modest size, it offers above-average punch and reserve power. Before I checked the spec sheet, I thought it was a V8 – it certainly behaves like one. It’s smooth and fluid in operation as well, with no bad habits.
No bad habits, that is, except maybe the automatic feature that shuts the engine off at stop lights and so on. Many cars these days have this feature; few do it well. Unfortunately, the Palisade is not the exception to the rule. It’s crude and far too obvious, with a mini delay before things get moving again. I wish you could disable this feature but you can’t. That’s a pity since it spoils an otherwise pleasant driving experience.
And I have to praise this vehicle’s noise, vibration and harshness: there isn’t any. Wind and road noise are minimal and the whole thing just feels well screwed together. It’s definitely a cut above in this department.
Interior cargo room is fairly generous at 2,447 litres (86 cubic feet). By way of comparison, direct competitors the Honda Pilot offers 3,100 litres and Volkswagen Atlas has 2,700 litres of cargo space.
My tester, the Ultimate model, also came with power folding rear seats. Just press a button and hey presto, full cargo room. That’s a nice feature.
And a few words about switch gear and ergonomics. Like virtually all Hyundai products, everything is readily usable and easy to comprehend. I didn’t struggle with simple things like adjusting the heating and air conditioning system, or changing radio stations. It has actual rotary dials for the sound system and legible, accessible controls for the seats and all the rest.
All Palisades also come with a heated steering wheel (excellent) and my Ultimate featured heated/ventilated front seats.
The gear selector is push-button, which I have mixed feelings about. It doesn’t bug me but I fail to see the point. The conventional centre-console-mounted T lever is tried and true and if I had my druthers, it’s what I would have preferred here. It’s not a deal-breaker, though.
This is not a small vehicle. With an overall length of just under five metres, it will seat seven adults in comfort and you can order an eight-passenger configuration if you choose.
Towing capacity – a major consideration for many buyers in this market – is 5,000 pounds (2,267 kg) and the Palisade has a 70-litre fuel tank. Good thing too, as fuel economy is 10.5 litres/100 for the front-drive version.
What stands out about the Palisade is that it doesn’t stand out. There is nothing off-putting about it and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s comfortable, roomy, powerful, easy to drive and pleasant to look at.
What else can you ask for?
2020 Hyundai Palisade
Engine: 3.8-litre V6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel or all-wheel
Horsepower: 291 at 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 foot pounds at 5,200 rpm
Price range: $36,499 to $53,99
Fuel economy: 12.3 litres/100 km city and 9.6 litres/100 km highway, with regular gas
Some alternatives: Honda Pilot, Nissan Rogue, Volkswagen Atlas, Mazda CX-9, Kia Telluride, Dodge Durango, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Mitsubishi Outlander
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).