2022 Hyundai Palisade Elite diesel AWD v 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2D comparison


If you need to move seven people and their gear on a regular basis, one of these two Hyundai SUVs might be just the ticket for you.

Sibling rivalry is nothing new. It started with Cain and Abel, two brothers who came to blows fighting for God’s love. The Palisade and the Santa Fe may not be fighting for the affection of a god, but they are battling each other for consumers.

Both are big SUVs with seats for seven or more, and both have well-equipped variants priced around $65,000. So, while Hyundai might prefer that we conduct comparisons where each of these accomplished vehicles went up against rivals from other brands, we were also curious to see how they measure up against each other.

Let’s take a closer look, and hopefully learn which of these two big three-row SUVs is the better choice for active Australian families.

Hyundai has updated the Palisade large-SUV range barely 12 months after it arrived in Australia, reducing the entry price by $6000 and adding a third variant to the line-up in the hopes of attracting more buyers to the brand’s biggest vehicle. 

The Hyundai Palisade is a vehicle designed for growing families and gives the Hyundai Santa Fe and other medium-to-large SUV owners something to move into once they outgrow their current car. Available in seven- and eight-seat configurations, the Palisade is considerably longer, wider and taller than the Santa Fe, dimensions that put it close to the very big Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series

For 2022, Palisade pricing kicks off at $55,000 for the ‘just call me Palisade’ eight-seater powered by a 3.8-litre petrol V6 driving the front wheels. Buyers can opt for a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel all-wheel drive instead for $59,000, both before on-road costs (ORCs).

Compared to the MY21 base model, MY22 ‘loses’ the 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, satellite navigation, 12-speaker Infinity sound system, Driver Talk function, and the choice of seven or eight seats, replacing them with eight seats as standard, an 8.0-inch touchscreen without navigation, and an unbranded sound system.

Next up – and new to the range for 2022 – is the Palisade Elite, which is priced from $61,500 +ORCs for the petrol front-drive and $65,500 +ORCs for the diesel all-wheel drive. That’s just $1500 and $500 respectively above 2021 base-model pricing despite gaining all those goodies mentioned above that have been deleted from the base model plus bi-LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, wireless phone charging, LED ‘combination’ tail-lights, a power tailgate, heated front seats, a single-panel sunroof and rear privacy glass.

The Palisade Highlander variant continues atop the range, priced from the same $71,000 +ORCs (petrol FWD) and $75,000 +ORCs (diesel AWD) as before, and now represents even better value with the addition of new 20-inch ‘Calligraphy’ alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers and exterior cladding, and the no-cost option of black nappa leather upholstery in addition to existing beige and burgundy options.

The base Palisade is an eight-seater, while the Elite and Highlander are available in seven- and eight-seat configurations at no extra cost. 

For this review, we are testing the 2022 Hyundai Palisade Elite AWD powered by the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and in seven-seat configuration with ‘Rain Forest’ paint colour and grey/black interior. The MSRP of $65,500 becomes $71,590 on-road in Melbourne, final pricing may vary by location. 

As the top model in the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe range, the Highlander shown here isn’t just a family SUV – it’s an incredibly well-kitted family SUV.

With the bigger Palisade above it, buyers have a more roomy option if they need it, but for occasional third-row use, or something a little more city-sized, the Santa Fe fits the bill.

While the cheapest front-wheel-drive V6 Santa Fe starts from $44,700, opt for the range-topping 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander and its available turbo diesel engine and all-wheel drive, and you’ll be looking at $65,200 plus on-road costs.

It’s worth noting, too, that the V6 models are front-wheel drive only and diesels are all-wheel drive only in the Santa Fe range.

A flagship though it may be, the Santa Fe Highlander diesel still sneaks in well under the $70K mark before on-road costs. And its list price undercuts all-wheel-drive rivals like the top-shelf Nissan Pathfinder Ti V6, Toyota Kluger Kluger Grande, and top-shelf version of Mazda’s CX-8 and CX-9 twins.

From the outside, you can pick the Santa Fe Highlander thanks to body-coloured exterior plastics, LED head and tail-lights, power-folding, heated exterior mirrors, a massive panoramic sunroof, and machined-face 20-inch alloy wheels.

Key details 2022 Hyundai Palisade Elite diesel AWD 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2D
Price (MSRP) $65,500 plus on-road costs $65,200 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Rain forest green Glacier white
Options Premium paint – $695 Camel beige interior – $295
Price as tested $66,195 plus on-road costs $65,495 plus on-road costs

I’m tipping nobody will ever get into a Hyundai Palisade and say “gee, it’s a bit pokey in here”. I’m no Andre the Giant (5ft 8in or 172cm), so maybe I’m not the best guinea pig to prove the Palisade can take full-grown adults in every row. But my driver’s licence says I’m an adult, I stopped growing a couple of decades back, and I fit into all three rows. 

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I reckon there’s a chance you’d even get three of me across the very back seat, but my mother didn’t have triplets, so again I can’t be certain. Also, the wheel arches eat into the width so it wouldn’t be comfy. To be honest, the third row isn’t the easiest to get in and out of, and it’s not the most comfortable – a high floor means your legs are raised. Anyone bigger than me will need the second row to slide forward a bit, but that’s all possible. 

The first and second rows are obviously the best places for those of voting age. They’re all individual seats, which means there’s a walkthrough from the second to third row, and the second-row seats have fold-down armrests. 

All three rows are catered for in terms of cupholders and USB charging ports. The huge storage bin in between the electrically adjustable front seats has a wireless charging mat, and an even bigger storage area at ankle level below the main bin.

With all three rows in position, boot space is a smallish 311L, but this swells to a considerable 704L once the 60/40 split third row is stowed flat into the floor. A couple of handy buttons in the boot that flip the second row flat give you even more space (1297L) – enough to comfortably swallow me lying down (see above for measurements). The tailgate on the Elite is powered, unlike the DIY tailgate on the base variant.

As for baby seat capabilities, there are ISOFIX mounts in the two middle-row seats and one in the third row’s kerbside seat. Each second-row seat has a top tether anchor, and there are two more in the third row (kerbside seat and middle seat) for a total of four. 

The climate control has separate zones for driver, passenger and second row – third-row occupants get what they’re given. There are multiple vents supplying air to all three rows.

While you probably wouldn’t call the Santa Fe’s design direction avant garde, it’s perhaps not as conventional as the rest of its segment.

Major controls are laid out as you’d expect to find them, but a raised centre console, push-button gear selection, and a bold two-tone leather treatment give the Hyundai a distinct interior look.

The plush side of things is taken care of by nappa leather seat trim, electrically adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, heated outboard second-row seats, steering wheel heating, two-zone climate control with booster fan controls for the third row, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

The bridge-style centre console means that cupholders and oddments storage aren’t huge, but underneath the upper section is a large lower pass-through suitable for stashing a handbag, laptop or similar.

Seat space in the first row is generous, though the high console can (a little deceptively) make the Santa Fe feel a touch more compact than it really is.

The second row packs in plenty of adjustment, is able to slide fore and aft, and has an adjustable backrest. Bigger passengers can use this to get a just-right travelling position on long trips, but for young parents, the flexibility makes it easy to find the perfect child seat fit and ensure the little ones aren’t out of reach.

The rear doors also feature handy retractable sunshades behind already privacy-tinted glass. Access into the third row is via a one-touch release button that flips the seat backrest forward and allows it to slide easily to load the third-row seats.

The third-row seats don’t quite match the first two in terms of space and versatility. As expected there’s less space back there, but kids will fit with no major qualms. There’s even air ventilation, armrests, and cupholders back there. A proper three-row set-up, not just a cargo space with seats.

As for boot space, with the third row tucked out of sight, Hyundai claims a minimum of 571L or up to 782L depending on where the second row is positioned. With the third row up, there’s 130L available.

2022 Hyundai Palisade Elite diesel AWD 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2D
Seats Seven Seven
Boot volume 311L / 704L 130L / 571L-782L
Length 4980mm 4770mm
Width 1975mm 1900mm
Height 1750mm 1710mm
Wheelbase 2900mm 2765mm

Infotainment and Connectivity

The Palisade Elite has a 10.25-inch touchscreen that houses all the infotainment systems, including digital radio, full media connectivity, Bluetooth phone functionality (including wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and satellite navigation. 

The Infinity audio system has 12 speakers throughout the cabin, and includes a clever Quiet Mode function that reduces audio outputs in the back two rows, presumably to let the kids fight and bicker without disturbing Mum and Dad’s ’90s Spotify playlist.

The Palisade Elite has a wireless charging pad in the oddments bin between the front seats.

On the infotainment front, a 10.25-inch touch display grants access to inbuilt climate control, Bluetooth, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an in-car intercom to boost the driver’s voice to the rear seats using the car stereo.

That audio system, by the way, is a 10-speaker Harman Kardon-branded one. As for USB charge points, there are five in the cabin – two up front, two for the middle row, and one in the third row.

There’s a wireless charger up front, but you have to slide your phone in, cassette style. Great for minimising distraction, but hard to do if you’re precious about scratching your phone’s finish.

Hyundai has gone maybe a little over the top with some of its built-in features too.

There’s a Sounds of Nature function for ambient white-noise scenarios, like the sounds of a crackling fire, an outdoor cafe, or a snowy walk. We all know real family life will see the demand for Wiggles from a certain age, or endless Ariana Grande at a later point, so while it seems a little odd, this could be the perfect respite.

The Hyundai Palisade has not been independently crash-tested by ANCAP, so it doesn’t have a star rating. In fact, we’re not sure if it will get five stars or four because it lacks a centre airbag, which can be a requirement to achieve top safety marks. 

Standard safety equipment includes radar cruise control with stop-start, lane-keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-zone warning with intervention if you’re about to cut across someone in an adjacent lane. It also has driver-attention warning and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian and cyclist detection for the autonomous emergency braking. Hyundai calls its active safety package ‘SmartSense’.

The Palisade also has a front and rear camera, plus front and rear parking sensors to make manoeuvring as easy as possible. Tyre pressure monitors and a digital speed display are also standard. Hyundai does not have speed sign recognition technology yet. Instead, speed warnings are based on navigation data, which can be out of date, and doesn’t detect roadwork zones. 

Other technology talking points include a sensor key with pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, high-beam assist, one-touch indicators (which can be programmed to flash three, five or seven times), tyre pressure monitors, a full-size spare tyre, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio, embedded navigation, and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen.

As the one with the lot, the Santa Fe Highlander packs in an extensive list of standard safety and assist equipment, like a blind-spot camera feed to assist when changing lanes, 360-degree camera, reverse collision assist, and even the ability to park in or out of a space using the key fob as a remote.

That’s on top of features found in other Santa Fe models, like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, driver-attention monitoring, safe-exit assist, rear occupant reminder, lane keeping and lane-following assist, rear cross-traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring and six airbags, with curtain bags for the first and second rows.

Up to three top-tether or two ISOFIX child seats can be mounted in the second row (but not the third row).

The Santa Fe carries a five-star ANCAP score from 2018. The Santa Fe scored 94 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 67 per cent for vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists), and 78 per cent for safety-assist systems. This score was not upgraded to reflect the changes introduced in 2021 with the addition of intersection-assist autonomous emergency braking on top of the pedestrian and cyclist-detection AEB already fitted.

At a glance 2022 Hyundai Palisade Elite diesel AWD 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2D
ANCAP rating & year tested Not tested at this time Five stars (tested 2018)
Safety report N/A Link to ANCAP

All Hyundai passenger vehicles come with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre new car warranty for personal use. 

Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Upfront plans for the Palisade diesel are $1407 for three years or $2345 for five years, which averages out at $469 per year.  

By way of comparison, the petrol Palisade is $1197 for the first three years and $1995 for five ($399 per year). Kia Carnival’s servicing comes in at $2462 for the first five years.

As for fuel costs, the Palisade diesel carries a claim of 7.3L/100km city/highway combined. During our test week, it hovered around 8.2L/100km, although it’s worth pointing out most of that was with one person on board.

In terms of ownership costs, the diesel Santa Fe calls for a scheduled service every 12 months or 15,000km, with capped-price servicing available at $459 per visit for the first five services, or as pre-paid packages for $1377 for three years, up to $2295 for five years.

Hyundai’s warranty is a five-year, unlimited-kilometre term.

Official fuel consumption claims put the Santa Fe at 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres, and on test, admittedly in some very light traffic, we recorded a fractionally higher 6.3L/100km in a mix of highway and urban driving.

At a glance 2022 Hyundai Palisade Elite diesel AWD 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2D
Warranty Five years / unlimited km Five years / unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months / 15,000km 12 months / 15,000km
Servicing costs $1407 (3 years) | $2345 (5 years) $1377 (3 years) | $2295 (5 years)
Fuel cons. (claimed) 7.3L/100km 6.1L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 8.2L/100km 6.3L/100km
Fuel type Diesel Diesel
Fuel tank size 71L 67L

It’s called the TARDIS phenomenon, after Doctor Who’s telephone box spaceship, and if you don’t get the reference then you’re not old enough to need a family SUV.

The Palisade looks big in my driveway, and the measuring tape says it is big – 4980mm bumper to bumper, 1975mm wide and 1750mm tall. But it drives smaller, and that’s a very good thing. 

For starters, the steering is light and has a quickish ratio (2.9 turns lock to lock), which means manoeuvring the SUV takes less effort than expected. It’s also easier than expected thanks to a pretty good 11.8m turning circle (kerb to kerb) and parking sensors/cameras front and back. 

The turbo-diesel engine has plenty of torque to move this big bus with relative ease too. Sure, nobody will ever call the 2.2-litre turbo diesel a performance engine, but combined with the eight-speed auto, this drivetrain is ideally suited to the Palisade’s acceleration and momentum needs. 

The Palisade’s suspension and ride quality is a mixed bag of very good and just okay. It delivers a nicely cossetted, wafting ride on most surfaces, but the size and weight become apparent when sharper ruts crash through, like they do on one road on my test loop that the local council uses to train new road gangs.

I didn’t get any meaningful involvement with the Palisade’s all-wheel-drive system during my urban week with the car, because unusually for Melbourne it didn’t rain all week and lockdown prevented any rural family outings. 

One quick note about carrying capacity before I conclude. The Palisade weighs 2069kg, which is acceptable for a vehicle of this size. But its gross vehicle mass – maximum permissible weight including occupants and luggage – is 2680kg. That means you’ve got only 611kg to divide between seven occupants and luggage. Exceeding the GVM is illegal, so bear that in mind if five rugby club mates ask for a lift. 

The Hyundai Santa Fe’s drivetrain is a consummate all-rounder. It’s relaxed and smooth enough around town, but it has some muscle to flex if you fill every seat in the cabin, without feeling stressed.

Hyundai’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine produces 148kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm, and comes paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive.

It’s a smooth and composed powertrain able to shrug off low-speed work without feeling jittery, and smooth and swift as you pile on speed. On test we noticed that if you tried for a quick off-the-line start, the Santa Fe could hesitate and counterintuitively slow progress. But roll onto the throttle more gently and it can be quite spry.

There were a few instances where the dual-clutch automatic could pause or shudder, only slightly, but still there all the same. If you have a steep driveway you’re likely to notice it the most, otherwise it may not come into play.

The suspension is tuned more for comfort than dynamics, so you get excellent bump absorption and a brilliant ability to take the edge off the myriad lumps and bumps that litter suburban streets.

The steering isn’t as precise or dialled in as a result, but for a car that’s likely to have the whole family on board at times, that more relaxed and settled feel is reassuring. At parking speeds there’s plenty of assistance too, making parking a breeze.

Engine refinement is good but perhaps not great. While Hyundai’s diesel has recently been treated to a raft of updates to keep it modern, there’s still some trademark diesel clatter at certain points in the rev range.

It’s not so disruptive as to intrude, but you’ll tend to find it at its noisiest and most vibey at those all-important around-town, light-throttle points that the Santa Fe is likely to do the most.

Key details 2022 Hyundai Palisade Elite diesel AWD 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2D
Engine 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 147kW @ 3800rpm 148kW @ 3800rpm
Torque 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive All-wheel drive
Transmission Eight-speed torque convertor automatic Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power to weight ratio 71kW/t 76.2kW/t
Weight 2069kg 1943kg
Tow rating 2500kg braked, 750kg unbraked 2500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Turning circle 11.8m 11.4m

It’d be easy to just give the win to the Hyundai Palisade, which is a considerably bigger and more spacious vehicle. With 210mm more length, 75mm more width and 40mm more height, it’s a cavernous car that not only has more room for adults, but it also has more luggage space – 311L versus the Santa Fe’s 130L when all three rows are in use.

The Palisade is also newer, arriving in Australia in late 2020 compared to the Santa Fe that arrived here in 2018 – although the Santa Fe did get a fairly significant midlife update in 2021. As did the Palisade.

As for powertrains, well, the two are identical. Both use Hyundai’s 2.2-litre turbo diesel to drive all four wheels through a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. So the ‘win’ in this regard probably goes to the smaller and therefore 126kg lighter Santa Fe, which has better acceleration and uses less fuel in daily driving. The Santa Fe’s shorter wheelbase also makes it easier to manoeuvre in tighter spaces.

The Santa Fe is also marginally cheaper to service over three and five years – although the difference won’t buy you a tank of fuel.

In terms of features and equipment, there’s really not much to separate the two – a fact demonstrated by the presence of the same 10.25-inch touchscreen system with the lot, including wireless charging and smartphone integration.

So, choosing between the two comes down to the owner’s intended use. How many people do you need to carry and how frequently? Also, are you prepared to have a less agile vehicle that consumes more fuel for the privilege?

If so, then the Palisade is a true seven (or eight) seater. The Santa Fe, on the other hand, is more of a five-seater with ‘occasional’ seven-seater capabilities.

Although… If you have kids, it might be wise to get the bigger Palisade just to prevent any sibling rivalries from going biblical.

Overall Ratings

Drive’s Pick

2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon

8.3/ 10

8.3/ 10

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon

8.3/ 10

8.3/ 10

Ratings Breakdown

2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
Ride Quality
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
Handling & Dynamics
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
Driver Technology
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
Interior Comfort + Packaging
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
Infotainment & Connectivity
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
Fuel Efficiency
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon
Fit for Purpose
2021 Hyundai Palisade Elite Wagon
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Wagon

Glenn Butler is one of Australia’s best-known motoring journalists having spent the last 25 years reporting on cars on radio, TV, web and print. He’s a former editor of Wheels, Australia’s most respected car magazine, and was deputy editor of Drive.com.au before that. Glenn’s also worked at an executive level for two of Australia’s most prominent car companies, so he understands how much care and consideration goes into designing and developing new cars. As a journalist, he’s driven everything from Ferraris to Fiats on all continents except Antarctica (which he one day hopes to achieve) and loves discovering each car’s unique personality and strengths. Glenn knows a car’s price isn’t indicative of its competence, and even the cheapest car can enhance your life and expand your horizons. 

Read more about Glenn Butler