The 2023 Palisade has a bold new look and some clever new tech, and although it lacks power and a couple of basics, it's the ideal stylish alternative to a minivan.

In just the third year the Hyundai Palisade has been on sale in Australia, 2023 is ushering in the big SUV’s third update already, but this is the biggest the model has had to date. Sporting all-new looks, a long-awaited digital instrument cluster, and a smartphone app for extended vehicle control, it incurs a price increase of between $3700 and $5711 depending upon the model grade, further cementing its position as the brand’s SUV flagship.

Furthermore, the slow-selling base model has now been nixed, with the Elite model on test here taking the place of the range’s entry-level offering. Priced from $65,900 before-on road costs when equipped with a V6 petrol engine, we’re testing the diesel which starts at $69,900.

The new looks are the most instantly noticeable of the changes, with its much bolder front-end highlighted by a black grille and badge that looks a lot smarter when combined with the new headlight design. It also looks a bit less American than the thick matte-chrome grille surround of the pre-facelift model, although the Palisade’s sheer size clearly reminds you of just what its primary market is. New 20-inch wheel designs and reworked LED taillights round out the exterior changes.

Inside, there are a few more changes to be found, with a new four-spoke steering wheel design that looks far smarter than the old tiller, while the infotainment screen has grown in size from 10.25 inches to 12.3 inches and the system now adds voice control. Also a welcome addition is the faster 15-watt wireless phone charger, although there’s no wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (you’ll still need a cable) to take full advantage of it.

The most in-demand feature, however, has to be the matching 12.3-inch instrument cluster which replaces a small 7.0-inch display flanked by mechanical dials. It’s the same digital instrument design you’ll find in other Hyundai models – it’s also been fitted to US-spec Palisades since it first launched – and while the change is certainly welcome, I do wish this screen was a bit more customisable as you can’t even bring up a map on it.

Hyundai has also added a slew of safety upgrades to improve upon the old model’s four-star ANCAP safety rating, with a front centre airbag, autonomous emergency braking with intersection support, multi-collision braking, traffic sign recognition, and safe exit assist all added to boost that rating to five stars. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane centring, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert with detection and braking, driver attention warning, rear occupant alert, tyre pressure monitoring, and automatic headlights with auto high-beam were already on the list of standard equipment.

Perhaps the most interesting new feature, though, is the new Hyundai Bluelink app which makes its debut on the 2023 Palisade. Once you’ve set the app up on your smartphone, it can alert you of any vehicle issues such as low fuel or tyre pressure, and can be used to check whether the car is locked and all the doors and windows are closed if you’re already at work or in a shop and get that horrible feeling you forgot to check.

The app also allows you to remotely start the vehicle from your phone, or get the air-con and heated seats running before you return to the vehicle so it’s not boiling hot or freezing cold inside it. It even connects with the car’s sat nav system to provide you with augmented reality navigation directions to the doorstep of your destination, or to help you find your way back to the car if you can’t remember where you’ve parked. Not all of Bluelink’s functionality is for when the car is parked up, however – it also has an SOS button for calling upon roadside assistance, and an ‘automatic collision notification’ function that calls emergency services if you’re involved in an accident.

What’s worth highlighting, though, is that the Palisade’s basic cabin design remains largely unchanged, with heated front seats, a sunroof, and leather upholstery still standard on this Elite model. It’s still available as both a seven-seater with second-row captain’s chairs or as an eight-seater, with my tester having the latter seating arrangement. If you’re the sort of person who needs a people mover but doesn’t want one, the eight-seat arrangement is one worth considering as it is genuinely capable of carrying eight.

There are plenty of other luxuries to keep all eight occupants of the cabin comfortable as well with tri-zone climate control, 16 cupholders, a hands-free tailgate, and a range of charging outlets for all three rows. There’s also a 12-speaker Infiniti audio system as standard, although one feature that has been ditched – likely due to semiconductor shortages – is a powered front passenger seat with controls on the side for passengers in the second row to move it when unoccupied.

One feature that was very obviously missing, however, was automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers – a feature reserved for the top-spec Highlander model. Given many cars much cheaper than the Palisade have these as standard, and given all the new connected technology it features, you think something simple like auto wipers would be standard, but unfortunately not.

Under the skin, the 2023 Hyundai Palisade remains unchanged with the same two drivetrain options. The cheaper drivetrain is a 217kW/355Nm 3.8-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, but for $4000 extra, you can have the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with all-wheel drive as tested here.

Making 147kW and 440Nm, it’s the same engine used in the Staria and Staria Load, and although it’s detuned in that pair of vans, progress isn’t much less stately here. Given the Palisade’s hefty weight, the little four-pot by no means makes it feel quick, but the strong mid-range torque it produces – all 440Nm are available from 1750-2750rpm – prevents it from feeling too stressed. At higher revs, however, it does start to feel quite breathless, so the limits of this engine’s performance are easily found.

Where it does excel, however, is with fuel economy. Hyundai claims fuel consumption of 7.3L/100km, and even though the Palisade weighs 1980kg in this specification and its little diesel engine needs to be worked hard at times, I used just 8.3L/100km during my 452km of testing. For an eight-seater this size, that’s remarkably impressive – especially since that meant it still had half a tank left when I handed back the keys.

But what the Palisade lacks in performance, it makes up for with comfort. It’s an easy car to drive for something this size, with pleasantly weighted steering and a ride that soaks up all but the very worst of bumps even with it riding on 20-inch wheels.

Where there are some compromises is in the corners, where the Palisade turns in confidently enough but its ultimate heft means there’s a healthy dose of body roll to contend with when you throw it at some corners. However, on the city streets you’re more likely to see it on, that body roll is far less present.

But with all-wheel drive fitted to diesel models as standard, there’s no need to limit it to city streets as the Palisade is actually pretty competent on loose gravel trails for an SUV. It even has a range of off-road driving modes for surfaces such as snow or mud, and you can monitor how it distributes the power between the two axles with a handy display on the instrument cluster.

If you want any more proof of how competent it is off-road, I was even told this particular car had just returned from a trip through the red centre of Australia – something backed up by a few battle scars it wore and the 19,000km shown on its odometer.

As with all Hyundai models, the 2023 Palisade is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, along with one year of complimentary roadside assistance and 10 years of free map updates. Like all Hyundai models, it’s also covered by lifetime capped price servicing. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km with the first five services costing $489 each.

Given this Palisade Elite Diesel costs just $3350 more than the one-size-down Santa Fe Highlander Diesel, it’s easy to see why Hyundai is selling the two models in almost equal numbers here in Australia; just 595 more Santa Fes were sold here last year. With both offering similar drivetrains and close-enough equipment levels, size is the defining trait with this pair.

While the Santa Fe is a great five-seater, it’s not an amazing seven-seater unless you’re only occasionally seating younger kids in the third-row. This Palisade, however, is a legitimate eight-seater you could use all three rows in constantly. I’d argue it’s the better large family car than the awkward and oversized Staria, too.

Where it lacks, however, is with the omissions of key features such as auto wipers, its lack of outright power in this diesel version, and its less competent handling than the surprisingly sporty Santa Fe. However, with its bold new look and massive interior, this is the ideal car for any large family that wants to avoid the stigma of a minivan.

2023 Hyundai Palisade Elite Diesel AWD (8-Seat) List Price: $69,900
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: It’s a genuine eight-seater, packed with safety and convenience tech, impressive fuel economy, bold new looks make it a stylish alternative to a minivan
Cons: No automatic wipers, can feel underpowered, noticeable body roll through the corners, a Santa Fe offers more equipment for less if you don’t need the space

In a nutshell: Need a minivan to fit your family but can’t bear to be seen in one? The 2023 Hyundai Palisade is the car for you.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Hyundai Motor Company Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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