HomeDRIVENBattle of the Super SUVs

Battle of the Super SUVs

Hyundai Santa Fe vs Hyundai Palisade |

Now in its fourth generation, the Hyundai Santa Fe is one of Hyundai’s most iconic cars, and has long been its flagship offering in South Africa, sitting firmly atop the Korean manufacturer’s long list of SUVs (starting with the compact Venue and moving up to the Creta and Tucson). At close to 4.8 m long, it is a formidable vehicle, so it was surprising that Hyundai would effectively topple the Santa Fe off its flagship pedestal with an even bigger offering – the recently released Palisade. I spent two weeks driving the Santa Fe and Palisade back to back, giving me an excellent opportunity to compare the two top guns in Hyundai’s arsenal. 

Spec sheets, engine sizes and exterior looks are one thing, but, for me at least, purchasing a car should be just as much about how it makes you feel when you slip behind the wheel and pilot it for the first time (and hopefully every subsequent time you drive it). 

The best way I can describe how I felt driving the Santa Fe for the first time was: like a badass! The elevated seating position, the instant torquey feel from the powerful turbodiesel engine, my favourite tunes pumping through the speakers, and that distinctive cascade grille – blingy and eye-catching, just like diamond-encrusted grillz you might see on a gangsta rapper – all add to the thrill of the drive.

The Palisade exudes a different kind of energy – one of luxury, supreme comfort and, dare I say, regality. It has similar power on tap as the Santa Fe and is surprisingly agile, considering its added weight. Still, it’s the kind of car you want to cruise, not race, in – gliding effortlessly along the highway, its auto gearbox slipping seamlessly through gears like a hot knife through butter. 

The badass and the boss – yet both the Santa Fe and the Palisade boast Hyundai’s excellent build quality, sophisticated design and top-notch tech. And both were desperately hard to hand back once the test week was up. 

Hot Off the Grille

There’s no denying that it’s hard to miss the imposing grille adorning the faces of both cars. Love it or hate it, it stamps Hyundai’s design signature on both models and will ensure that neither gets lost in the crowd. 

On the Santa Fe, the cascading grille is integrated with the headlights to form a more streamlined wide “smile” across the car’s front. In contrast, the Palisade’s equally blingy grille has a squatter, more vertical treatment, which for some reason reminds me a bit of the Rolls-Royce Phantom Tempus (which would not be completely unrealistic considering this is Hyundai’s first local SUV to come within millimetres of kissing the R1 million mark). The Palisade’s separated composite headlights follow this vertical theme, as do its stacked taillights. 

The Santa Fe, on the other hand, continues its low and wide stance at the rear, with a sweeping horizontal line of lights across the boot, connecting the taillights on either side with another line of lights on the bumper. The Palisade’s derriere, though more restrained, is not entirely without embellishment, though, as it happens to be the only Hyundai model to have its name emblazoned across the tailgate. 

Party of Eight?

When you have a big family, you need a big car, and both the Santa Fe and the Palisade offer the convenience of a third row of seats. 

The Santa Fe promises space for seven passengers, though the third-row seats are best suited to children due to their limited legroom. The Palisade may only be 195 mm longer, 135 mm wider, and about 20 mm taller than the Santa Fe, but this translates into a fair bit more space for third-row passengers, where you can upgrade from kids to short-ish adults.

Both models offer one-touch access buttons on the second-row seats, and both provide for folding away both rows of back seats to increase luggage space. The second row of seats in the Santa Fe, and both back rows in the Palisade, feature split seat folding, allowing for several configurations to fit everything from a surfboard to a small chest of drawers. 

Due to its size, the Palisade boasts eight seats to the Santa Fe’s seven, but you can also opt for a seven-seater Palisade with captain’s chairs in the second row. After being chauffeured around for an afternoon, my parents tested these out and reported feeling really “posh”.

Both cars have ISOFIX child seat mountings for much smaller passengers, though the Palisade boasts three sets, which is rare, and will be a boon for parents with more than two kids of car seat age. Front passengers get heated seats in both models, while second-row occupants also get extended this luxury in the eight-seat Palisade. Again, both models offer USB ports for front and rear passengers, with the lowly third row also being included in the Palisade. 

Steering the Ship

One of the first things you’ll notice when you climb behind the wheel of both cars is the lack of a gear lever, which has been replaced by Hyundai’s “shift-by-wire” transmission control buttons on the central console. It takes a little while to get used to, but once you do, it’s effortless to use, just like many things in these two SUVs. The added benefit of scrapping the gear lever is that it frees up space under the central console, where you’ll find a really handy shelf – big enough for a medium-sized handbag. There are also a host of other useful storage options dotted around both cabins, as well as charging and auxiliary ports. Both cars boast 8″ touchscreen infotainment system displays complete with Bluetooth and Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity. 

When it comes to features, Hyundai is renowned for providing a comprehensive shopping list of nice-to-haves as standard, with both the Santa Fe and the Palisade including adjustable steering, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof each, hands-free tailgate, ABS and EBA brakes, hill-start assist and six airbags each (and that’s just the start). 

Front and rear park distance controls are a lifesaver when piloting these super SUVs, as is the standard reverse camera; however, considering the price point of the Palisade, in particular, surround/bird’s eye cameras would have been an excellent addition, and made narrow parking garage manoeuvring that little bit easier. A head-up display for both vehicles would also be a bonus, but now I am just being greedy. 

Rev Those Engines

The Santa Fe comes with a Smartstream R2.2 turbodiesel engine which produces 148 kW of power and maximum torque of 441 Nm. It also benefits from a new 2,200 bar injection system to improve overall engine performance. The engine is mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission for some of the fastest and smoothest auto gear changes in the game. 

Under the Palisade’s bonnet, you’ll find a highly efficient four-cylinder R2.2 CRDi engine with a max power output of 142 kW with 440 Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed auto box that also changes gears like a dream. The Palisade’s extra weight (though it’s surprisingly only 120 kg heavier than its smaller sibling) counts against it somewhat in terms of top speeds (190 km to the Santa Fe’s 205 km/h), but as neither are legal, it’s a negligible difference. What you will notice is that the Palisade is marginally slower off the mark than the Santa Fe, but feels just as powerful and almost as agile out on the road. Both cars feel smaller and significantly more responsive than their third-row seats imply, with no noticeable body roll around corners. This is impressive for such large vehicles, as is their claimed fuel consumption figures (7.9 l/100 km for the Santa Fe and 8.2 for the Palisade). 

Both the Santa Fe and the Palisade come equipped with Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD system with Terrain Selector (Sand, Mud and Snow) and Drive Mode Selector (Comfort, Sport and Eco), with a noticeable difference between each (with obviously the Sport mode being the most fun, and least economical, to drive in). 

Both cars come with Hyundai’s generous seven-year/200,000 km manufacturer’s warranty, but Palisade owners will benefit from an extra year and an additional 15,000 km on their service plans (seven-year/105,000 km). 

Last Word

So, which one should you pick? Both are excellent family cars with oodles of space, offer a raft of attractive standard features, and are easy and fun to drive, and both are in my Top Ten test cars I have ever had the pleasure to live with. In the end, money will undoubtedly play a part in your decision, as the Palisade does add over R100k to the Santa Fe’s price. That, and which one makes you feel like your best self – the badass or the boss.

Report by Nicky Furniss | Images © Hyundai Motor Company

Previous article
Next article




Most Popular