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HYUNDAI PALISADE

When Korean carmaker Hyundai first showed its super-sized Palisade SUV at the 2018 Los Angeles Motor Show, I, like many other local motoring journos, thought that the shapely seven-seater would never debut here. Happily, that prediction was wrong.

To date, Hyundai has not been hugely successful with super-sized SUVs in this market. The highly-underrated Terracan, for example, never quite shot the lights out on the sales front, as it faced an uphill battle to compete with the likes of Toyota’s Prado at the time. When the Terracan was, well, canned, I was convinced that we would not see its likes again.

CALIFORNICATION

Taking its name from the Southern California suburb of Pacific Palisades, the new Hyundai Palisade takes everything about Hyundai SUVs to a new scale. Sporting two derivatives – with the only difference between them being that you can have either seven- or eight seats – the Palisade shares its platform with the KIA Telluride. At 4,980 mm long and 1,976 mm wide, the Palisade is longer (by 195 mm) and wider (by 75 mm) than its sibling Santa Fe, while virtually mirroring the size of the hefty Land Cruiser 300. However, its roofline is significantly lower than the Cruiser, at 1,750 mm vs 1,945 mm.

Why does this matter? Well, the Palisade is Hyundai South Africa’s first “million Rand car”, and when you’re playing in the big leagues, expect to be drawn into comparisons with established premium SUVs such as the Cruiser 300, BMW’s X5, and the Volvo XC90. Heck, even the VW Caravelle is fair game, considering that the eight-seater Palisade equals the bus’ passenger-carrying capacity.

Taking this into account counts in favour of the Palisade in some instances but against it in others. For example, although the Palisade offers excellent value for what is included, the R999,900 price tag (regardless of seat layout), brings Palisade buyers within reach of more established premium products. Also, the Palisade offers only one engine option – a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel producing 142 kW and 440 Nm of peak torque – where most rivals have at least two powertrain choices available.

That said, to judge the Palisade by German premium product standards is to overlook some of its most endearing qualities.

Firstly, it’s a Hyundai, which means that you’re buying a quality product with a market-leading warranty (seven years/200,000 km), service plan (seven years/105,000 km), and roadside assistance for seven years or a distance of 150,000 km.

For its size, the Palisade is not as unwieldy as one might expect. Granted, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel is a lot more agile in the 207 kg-lighter Santa Fe where it also does duty, but for most applications (and for most buyers), the 10.5-second zero to 100 km/h sprint, and ability to tow 2,200 kg (braked) should prove more than sufficient.

ROOM TO LIVE

The Palisade’s all-purpose nature, high levels of standard specification, and mega cabin room make it an ideal family car. Whether you choose the eight- or seven-seater, the One-Touch second-row seat allows one-touch movement of the seat forward and out of the way for easy access in and out of the third-row seats. Second-row captain’s chairs are available in the seven-seater version. In the eight-seater, front and second-row seats can be heated, with ventilation for the front only. Every seating row offers USB outlets for all passengers, for a total of seven available USB outlets. 

The 8” audio and navigation display (there is also a 7” TFT LCD instrument cluster for the driver) left me somewhat disappointed. It is not so much at the screen itself, but rather how it is positioned in the upper console, surrounded by vast swathes of shiny black plastic. Hyundai missed a trick here, either to have a more elegant console or a larger screen. I would have preferred a bigger screen. 

The centre console houses a shift-by-wire transmission control unit that I struggled to get used to in the Santa Fe but somehow feels more comfortable in the Palisade. The shift-by-wire system includes automatic park logic that shifts the vehicle into park when the engine is off, and the driver opens the door. The Palisade’s centre console bridge design also frees up convenient storage space underneath with driver and passenger access.

The car’s air-conditioning is very effective and includes an industry-first, new roof vent diffuser design that provides a focused, partially diffused or fully diffused stream of air to rear passengers. This new diffuser vent design makes the rear air conditioning airflow significantly quieter – a problem that appears more often than one might imagine.

On the subject of sound, the Palisade’s premium sound system will keep you entertained via either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay and lives up to the promise of the car’s upscale interior. There’s also a wireless charging pad for compatible Android devices and Apple iPhones. I also found the Palisade’s Rear Seat Quiet Mode system intriguing. When activated, it allows the driver’s row to listen to their selected audio without the same audio being transmitted to the second-and third-row audio speakers, sparing sleeping passengers.

SAFELY ON THE ROAD

Hyundai has a knack for flying under the radar regarding their usual high levels of standard safety specification. The Palisade takes an already high standard of safety across the Hyundai range to a new level, with unique new features such as a Safe Exit Assist system that uses radar to detect cars approaching from the rear, warning passengers who are about to open the rear door. A visual and acoustic warning will alert the driver if a passenger tries to open the door while a vehicle approaches. What’s more, if the driver attempts to deactivate the electronic child safety lock, Safe Exit Assist will override the driver and ensure the rear doors remain locked until the approaching vehicle has passed. 

Continuing the list of sophisticated safety tech, Rear Occupant Alert will remind the driver to check the rear seat before exiting the vehicle. Should the ultrasonic sensor detect movement on the middle-row seat after the driver has locked the car, it will sound the horn and flash the lights until the driver unlocks it.

There are also six airbags as standard (the side curtain airbags extend to the third-row seats), multiple active safety systems (blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and more), and a super-rigid body shell, thanks to the strategic use of ultra-high-tension steel plates in key suspension and crash areas, to provide increased tensile strength. Hyundai also designed the Palisade’s underbody and side structures to increase energy absorption and cabin intrusion in a severe collision, while multiple load paths under the car’s belly better disperse potential crash energy in the event of a crash.

LAST WORD

Measured side-by-side with its key rivals, the Hyundai Palisade is a compelling offer that buyers – especially existing Hyundai customers looking to trade up – will find hard to ignore. In time, an engine upgrade won’t do the super-SUV any harm, and neither will a slight tweak of the dashboard layout. Yet, I do not doubt that Hyundai will sell every unit they can lay their hands on, and those who buy them will love them. It’s human nature to want to have our cake and eat it, which makes the Palisade rather irresistible. 

Report by Bernie Hellberg Jr | Images © Hyundai SA

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