If you were paying attention when Hyundai and Kia’s new mid-size SUV siblings arrived three years ago, you may be surprised to learn how each has subsequently performed in Canadian sales.
At launch, Kia’s version, the Telluride, hogged the limelight, winning armfuls of awards, including North American Utility of the Year and overall World Car of the Year. And yet, at least in Canada, its apparent Cinderella sister, the Hyundai Palisade, has been consistently the better seller.
Hyundai Motor Co. does have a few more dealers in Canada than its corporate relative Kia, but not enough to fully explain the sales difference. On the other hand, in the United States, the Telluride has outsold the Palisade, so perhaps Kia just couldn’t get enough Tellurides in Canada.
But let’s not get too fixated on the sibling rivalry. What really matters is how the Palisade – which has received a mild makeover for 2023 – compares with all its other rivals in the mid-size three-row crossover segment.
Possibly one reason the Hyundai was overlooked in awards season was the Kia’s more appealing look. And while a mid-life nip and tuck can’t fundamentally alter a vehicle’s basic shape, the 2023 Palisade does benefit from a redesigned grille and lights, as well as resculpted fascia/bumpers front and rear.
Hyundai also says the dashboard, steering wheel and driver’s seat are new, though to our eyes, the only difference that jumps out is the design of the air vents. New optional features include second-row armrest angle adjusters on eight-seat models, heated third-row seats, USB-C ports and a more powerful wireless phone-charging pad. There are also substantial upgrades to the suite of advanced driver-assistance (ADAS) features.
The lineup has shed the previous base model and now starts at $47,999 for the Preferred trim. A new intermediate trim called Urban asks $52,999, while the top Ultimate Calligraphy (our test car) has a price of $56,599. Not available in Canada is a new XRT “off-road” version offered in the United States. That said, it’s basically a cosmetic package and the multimode all-wheel drive that’s standard on all Palisades in Canada includes an all-wheel-drive Lock function that should give it an edge in traction-challenged situations.
You can certainly pay less for a mid-size three-row crossover, and some rivals are lighter on gas. But the Palisade has a premium feel that justifies the slightly higher asking price for a mid-size crossover that packs slightly better than average interior space into one of the segment’s smaller exteriors. You’ll be rewarded with a high-quality interior, loads of standard tech, a well-sorted chassis and a large-displacement V6 engine that’s teamed with a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission.
2023 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy
- Base price/as tested: $47,999/$56,599
- Engine: 3.8-litre naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle V6
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 12.6 city/9.5 highway
- Alternatives: Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas
The basic shape still vaguely suggests a minivan, but the revised front end for 2023 adds some definition and authority. The wheels, now 20 inches on all trims, are redesigned too.
If you really need the people room, the Palisade contains more of it than most rivals. Third-row legroom, in particular, is best in class. Even with the second-row seats adjusted fully rearward (which they won’t need to be for most adults), I could insert my 5-foot-8 frame into the back row without splaying my knees. Seat count is eight on the base and Urban trims, but if you want the optional captain’s chairs on Urban, which are standard on the top trim, that takes it down to seven.
Up front, the driver’s every-which-way power-adjustable seat enables a lofty seating position for those who want it, with decent visibility. The dashboard and secondary controls strike a happy balance between traditional and avant-garde, with a digital gauge cluster that’s recessed into the dash next to a free-standing horizontal 12.3-inch touch screen. An ample array of hard knobs and buttons allow Luddites familiar controls for the audio and climate, but also includes buttons for shifting gears P-R-N-D (with steering-column paddle shifters substituting for the missing L – low gear – function).
Performance is one thing, and by traditional yardsticks, the Palisade is competitive – expect a 7.5-second run to 100 kilometres an hour. Performance feel is the Palisade’s ace in the hole, however. You get the effortless power delivery of a large-displacement engine (no waiting for a turbo to wake up) and the gear changes of a slick conventional automatic transmission (no random rev surges of a continuously variable transmission), all delivered with an under-the-hood soundtrack worthy of a luxury brand. Discerning drivers will also appreciate the real and natural feel of the steering, confident cornering, progressive brakes and a firm but mostly viceless ride (though it can jar heavily over crater-like disturbances).
Hyundai habitually pushes the envelope in driver-assistance features, and the 2023 Palisade builds on an already extensive inventory. Most notably, navigation-based smart cruise control can now automatically adjust speed for curves in the road, and forward collision-avoidance assist can detect and react to a greater variety of potential hazards. New features include reverse-parking collision-avoidance assist, proactive lane following, and remote smart-parking assist. New available infotainment tech includes a WiFi hot spot, USB-C ports, more powerful wireless charging, a smartphone-based digital key and digital interior rear-view mirror.
By the numbers, the cargo capacity is about average for the segment. The seats fold nicely flat and there’s an under-floor storage compartment that also houses the cargo cover when it’s not in use. The tow rating of 5,000 pounds (with trailer brakes) is par for the class.
The 2023 upgrades haven’t changed the essence of the Palisade as a refined and thoughtful execution of a traditional concept. Some hybrid alternatives, however, promise better fuel economy.