Remember the Smart car? The original micro machine was pitched to drivers as the clever solution to congestion. Two decades on, Hyundai has a different idea of what a smart car should be.
Roughly triple the weight of the tiny two-door and able to carry four times as many people, the new Hyundai Palisade has brains to match its brawn.
Running changes to Hyundai’s largest model deliver new looks, improved refinement and a major lift in technology.
The most obvious changes are on the outside, where a bluff grille, sharper headlights and reshaped 20-inch alloys join minor tweaks to the tail.
The interior also benefits from a new 12.3-inch digital dash and 12.3-inch central touchscreen that bring it into line with the brand’s latest models.
More importantly, the car has a five-star safety rating on the back of a reinforced body, new centre airbag, reverse automatic braking and a forward collision avoidance system that looks sideways for hazards at intersections.
Those features could save your life. And if a crash occurs, the Palisade will automatically dial a call centre for help. Operators will then pass detailed information to emergency services so paramedics know what to expect.
The Palisade is also the first Hyundai with BlueLink, a smartphone app similar to FordPass, myAudi, Porsche Connect or the Tesla App. Owners can use their phone to find the car’s exact location, check whether the doors are locked, preheat (or cool) the cabin and check the wear of key maintenance items. You can send satnav destinations to the car from your phone, and the car can pass navigation duties back to your handset if you need to walk from a carpark to an appointment.
Parents can set geo-fencing and speed-limit alerts that tell them if teenagers drive too far, too fast, or too late at night.
The app is free for five years, which is a better deal than American customers get – it costs $US99 ($142) per year in the states. Expect to see it added to next-generation models as they reach showrooms from 2023.
Other tech upgrades include a 360-degree parking camera and a switch from older USB-A to faster charging USB-C outlets for six power sources in the cabin.
Priced from $65,900 plus on-road costs (about $71,000 drive-away), the upgraded Palisade costs $5900 more than the original model that launched in 2020.
The standard engine is a 3.8-litre V6 that needs 10.7L/100km of petrol to make 217kW and 355Nm, driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Customers can pay $4000 to upgrade to an all-wheel-drive variant powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel combining 7.3L/100km economy with 147kW and 440Nm of grunt.
Both engines are available in top-end Highlander trim for an extra $10,000, adding a range of extras including a two-tone steering wheel, quilted leather trim, metal speaker grilles, a head-up display, rear sunroof and heated and ventilated seats in the first two rows.
The Highlander trim also adds blind-spot monitoring and reverse auto braking to the regular car’s list of safety features. Hyundai expects the majority of owners to go the whole hog, paying about $87,500 drive-away.
Petrol versions offer hearty acceleration accompanied by a throaty exhaust note and wallet-burning fuel bills. The big V6 also has a tendency to trouble the front tyres, particularly on slippery surfaces such as damp tarmac or loose gravel.
Diesel options are a better bet, with confident all-wheel-drive traction, superior economy and adequate punch.
Both models benefit from running changes to the body structure, transmission and suspension intended to improve the car’s ride and refinement.
The finetuning serves to polish a car that already impressed with rare poise for a car this size, taking the edge off sharper bumps without blunting responses to driver input.
Big and clever, the updated Palisade deserves a space on driver shortlists.
Hyundai Palisade 2.2 CRDi Highlander
PRICE About $87,500 drive-away
ENGINE 2.2-litre 4-cyl diesel, 147kW and 440Nm
WARRANTY/SERVICE 5-yr/u’ltd km, $2445 for 5 yrs
SAFETY 7 airbags, front and rear auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert
CARGO 509 litres
Originally published as Driving the new Hyundai Palisade Highlander