2021 Hyundai Palisade Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jan 22, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Hyundai deals!

When the Hyundai Palisade debuted last year, it was clear the automaker was taking family-sized, three-row SUVs seriously. Now, the 2021 Hyundai Palisade lineup expands to include a new, more luxurious trim level called Calligraphy. It tops a lineup that also includes SE, SEL, and Limited trim levels, and 2021 Palisade prices range from $32,525 to $46,050, not including a destination charge of $1,185.

In addition to the new Palisade Calligraphy trim level, Hyundai makes the entire Palisade lineup more appealing. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enhance the infotainment systems with an 8-inch display, and Hyundai adds the ability to pair two devices to the Bluetooth at the same time. The SE trim gains LED headlights as standard equipment, while the SEL adds a power sunroof. Limited trim adopts the popular look of the SEL when the SEL has the Convenience or Premium option packages.

Furthermore, the SEL with the Premium package gains a widescreen infotainment system with navigation, satellite radio, Blue Link connected services, a Driver Talk in-car intercom, and a Quiet Mode. Hyundai's sophisticated Level 2 advanced driving assistance system (ADAS), Highway Drive Assist, also comes in the Premium package this year. 

Additionally, Hyundai upgrades the Palisade's trailer pre-wiring connector from a 4-pin to a 7-pin design, making it easier to use the SUV's 5,000 pounds of towing capacity. Also, don't forget that Hyundai began offering three years or 36,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance for all of its vehicles during the Palisade's first year on the market. That continues for 2021.

What Owners Say About the Hyundai Palisade - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Moonlight Cloud Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 60% of Hyundai Palisade owners are male (vs. 56% for the segment), and the median age of a Palisade owner is 54 years (vs. 55).

Owners say their favorite things about the Palisade are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Interior design
  • Feeling of safety
  • Setting up and starting

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Palisade are (in descending order) the: 

  • Getting in and out
  • Driving comfort
  • Powertrain
  • Infotainment
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Palisade ranked number two out of 13 Upper Midsize SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Hyundai Palisade - Find the best Hyundai deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Palisade Calligraphy equipped with the following options:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Carpeted floor mats

The price of the test vehicle came to $49,115, including the $1,185 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Beige Interior Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Palisade's bold styling and full-size SUV design cues make it look big and imposing in photographs. But, up close and in person, it's not any larger than other midsize three-row crossover SUVs, which means it is easy to enter and exit 

Naturally, the third-row seat is harder to access, but the Palisade is easy to load and unload with passengers compared to other models in the segment. One-touch, fold-and-slide second-row seat functionality provides instant access to the third row.

Seat comfort impresses, and in all three rows. Our Calligraphy test vehicle came with 8-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and rear side-window sunshades. Additionally, the driver's seat had a power thigh support extension, and rear-seat passengers controlled their own climate settings. 

The rearmost bench seat might not be as roomy and spacious as what you'll find in a Volkswagen Atlas, which arguably has the most hospitable third-row seat in the segment, but you can stash adults back there for cross-town trips.

With Limited and Calligraphy trim, the Palisade boasts digital instrumentation, 64-color ambient cabin lighting, and premium Nappa leather upholstery. The leather is perforated, piped, and quilted for a luxurious look and feel. Calligraphy trim further adds stitched and quilted leather to the door panels and a simulated suede headliner, making it seem like a genuine bargain even at sticker price.

Of course, Hyundai keeps the price affordable by using simulated wood trim and piano lacquer trim, faux metal surfaces and accents, and hard plastic on the lower parts of the interior. But for the most part, nothing about the interior's feel causes cognitive dissonance with the way it looks.

Hyundai locates the controls where they are easy to find and use. Some have metallic surface trim, making them hard to read in certain light. Electronic push-button transmission controls take some getting used to, but they allow Hyundai to provide impressive amounts of in-cabin storage, both in and under the center console.

2021 Hyundai Palisade Infotainment System Review

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Using the infotainment system and the driver information display within the instrumentation, you can choose settings for the SUV's various vehicle features and functions. It takes some time, but it's easy. And once you've found your preferred collection of preferences, you won't need to revisit them often.

Hyundai offers two different infotainment systems for the Palisade. Lower trim levels come with an 8-inch touchscreen display, while higher trims provide a 10.25-inch touchscreen. 

Both setups newly offer the ability to pair two smartphones to the Bluetooth connection at the same time. Curiously, Hyundai restricts the new wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability to the smaller screen. Palisades with the larger screen still require a wired connection for smartphone mirroring.

Additionally, our test vehicle's top-shelf infotainment system had: 

  • SiriusXM satellite radio
  • A navigation system
  • Blue Link connected services with a free three-year subscription
  • A Harman Kardon premium sound system with 12 speakers and Clari-Fi digital music restoration technology
  • A Driver Talk in-car intercom
  • Quiet Mode cancellation of the rear-seat speakers

The Palisade's 10.25-inch infotainment system is terrific. Aside from its logical menu structures, separate stereo volume and tuning knobs, and a row of shortcut buttons on the dashboard, it offers a capable voice recognition system and a long list of connected services. However, if you want a vehicle with a Wi-Fi hotspot, you'll need to look elsewhere. Blue Link does not support internet connectivity.

Blue Link does, however, supply automatic collision notification, panic notification, safe teen driver settings, a car finder function, and remote engine starting. While some of the Palisade's competitors offer trial periods amounting to as little as one month of access to similar features, Hyundai provides three free years of access.

Driver Talk and Quiet Mode are perfect for parents. Driver Talk allows Mom or Dad to communicate with rear-seat occupants without yelling, while Quiet Mode turns off the rear speakers to let children sleep while the driver and front passenger continue to enjoy audio entertainment.

What It's Like to Drive the 2021 Hyundai Palisade

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Moonlight Cloud Side View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Every Hyundai Palisade has a 291-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 engine. An 8-speed automatic transmission powers the front wheels, and all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional. Drivers can choose between several driving modes, including Eco, Comfort, Smart, Sport, and Snow. With AWD, a Lock function evenly splits power delivery between the front and rear wheels to maximize traction.

For most of our driving, we used Smart mode, which automatically adjusts its behavior depending on how you drive the Palisade. It is mostly successful in this regard, occasionally exhibiting a delay in response when stepping harder on the accelerator pedal to exit a curve or corner or to pass slower vehicles.

The V6 engine supplies plenty of power, making it easy to accelerate onto freeways and get up to speed on wide suburban boulevards. The transmission delivers clean and crisp gear changes, and the AWD Lock function proved helpful on a moderately challenging trail.

Though the Hyundai Palisade shares its platform and powertrain with its corporate cousin, the Kia Telluride, it has a unique ride-and-handling character. The Palisade feels firmer and better connected to the road, with less body roll and float. Simultaneously, it successfully filters out impact harshness, providing a more serene and quiet drive.

However, the Hyundai is not quite as good as the Kia at eliminating head-toss, a common byproduct of any SUV's taller center of gravity and greater curb weight. There isn't much of it when the Palisade crosses undulating pavement, but there is more than you'll experience in the softer Telluride.

Boxy dimensions and clear sightlines make the Palisade easy to place on the road and maneuver in parking situations. It handles well, too, providing a driver with confidence on freeway exit ramps and mountain roads. The tuning won't inspire you to drive it fast, but if you do, it doesn't turn into a sloppy mess before the all-season tires send signals that maybe it would be a good idea to slow down.

Hyundai SmartSense and Highway Drive Assist Review

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy ADAS Settings

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Hyundai equips every 2021 Palisade with SmartSense, its collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). It includes:

  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
  • Forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Front automatic emergency braking
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Lane-centering assistance
  • A driver monitoring system

With SEL trim, the Palisade adds the following safety features:

  • Blind-spot warning
  • Blind-spot collision avoidance assistance
  • Rear cross-traffic warning
  • Rear automatic emergency braking
  • Safe Exit Assist (warns occupants not to open doors if it is unsafe)

Moving up to Limited trim, the Palisade adds numerous additional safety features: 

  • Front parking sensors to go with the standard rear parking sensors
  • 360-degree surround-view cameras
  • Ultrasonic rear occupant detection system to replace the standard rear-seat reminder system
  • Camera-based Blind View Monitor
  • Highway Driving Assist

Highway Driving Assist (HDA) is a Level 2 advanced driving assistance system (ADAS). It requires a driver to hold the steering wheel, but it will operate in a hands-free mode for longer than many similar technologies. This, of course, is not advised.

In any case, HDA is smooth, refined, and trustworthy. The Palisade's other safety-related technologies, from Blue Link's panic notification system to the Blind View Monitor, demonstrate a thorough and thoughtful approach to safety. 

This is perhaps most evident in the ultrasonic rear occupant detection system. If you leave and lock the Palisade while a child or a pet is sleeping in the vehicle, when they awake, the technology will sense motion in the SUV, will honk the horn and flash the lights, and will send the owner a text message and alert via a smartphone app.

2021 Hyundai Palisade FAQ - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Cargo Area

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

How much cargo space does the 2021 Hyundai Palisade have?

Cargo capacity behind the 2021 Palisade's third-row seat measures 18 cubic feet. Fold it down, and the SUV supplies 45.8 cu.-ft. of volume. Maximum capacity with the second-row seats folded down measures 86.4 cu.-ft. These are competitive numbers in the segment.

Hyundai offers a hands-free power liftgate on the Palisade. Useful when your arms are full and you need to access the cargo area, this feature detects when the key fob is near the back of the vehicle, beeps three times to let you know it is active, and then automatically raises the liftgate.

This approach is safer than other designs, which require you to balance on one leg while waving your foot under the bumper to activate the hands-free function. But if you simply want to have a conversation with someone and you happen to be standing near the back of your Palisade, it's not helpful. You can turn it off using a menu in the instrumentation display.

Hyundai also offers power seat folding controls in the cargo area, making it easier to maximize space when necessary.

Does the 2021 Hyundai Palisade get good gas mileage?

The EPA says you can expect to get 22 mpg in combined driving with a front-drive Palisade and 21 mpg with a Palisade AWD. Our Calligraphy AWD test vehicle averaged 21.1 mpg on our testing loop. This result means the SUV's 18.8-gallon fuel tank provides up 395 miles of maximum range, or 350 miles between stops at the gas station.

Is the 2021 Hyundai Palisade safe?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Hyundai Palisade is a safe SUV. The IIHS gives the SUV top marks in all crash-avoidance and crash-protection tests, and it earned a "Top Safety Pick+" rating in 2020. As this review is published, the IIHS has not established whether that rating will continue for 2021.

Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Palisade top 5-star ratings across the board, except for rollover resistance, for which the SUV earns a 4-star rating. These ratings represent an exceptional crash-test performance in NHTSA testing. 

How much is the 2021 Hyundai Palisade?

Base prices for the 2021 Palisade range between $32,525 (SE) and $46,050 (Calligraphy AWD), not including a destination charge of $1,185. The Palisade SEL price is $35,175, while the Palisade Limited costs $45,125.

What are the 2021 Hyundai Palisade competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Kia Sorento was the highest-ranked model in the Palisade's segment. In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the Kia Telluride was the highest-ranked model.

Other competitors to the 2021 Palisade include the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, and Toyota Highlander.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Moonlight Cloud Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

If you love the way the 2021 Hyundai Palisade looks, you're going to love almost everything else about it, too. And if you're looking for luxury on a budget, the new Palisade Calligraphy delivers.

However, be advised that Hyundai uses synthetic leather to cover the head restraints in Palisades equipped with leather seats. In 2020 and early 2021 models, this material may emit an unpleasant odor. Hyundai dealers have a way of deodorizing them, so be sure to take advantage of this should your new Palisade start to smell funny inside.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2023 J.D. Power

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