2020 Hyundai Palisade first drive review: Enter Sandman

December 18, 2018

Sleep is underrated. Underrated like Vermont as a state, pepper as a spice, or veggie as a pizza. Many of us sleep on, well, sleep.

Any parent, new or old, will tell you that bed time is a sacrosanct ritual, Holy Communion with Oreos and milk.

If I’m saying the 2020 Hyundai Palisade makes me sleepy, it’s not because I’m looking for stimulation or entertainment in the three-row SUV. I don’t want a family crossover that surprises me, or hidden features that I’m likely to find three years after ownership. Tell me what I’m getting and how to use it like a Pack ‘n Play.

DON'T MISS: Read our 2020 Hyundai Palisade preview

Instead, the Palisade, which is new next year, is predictable like taxes and sleep—all of which should happen with regularity or there’s hell to pay later. The Palisade’s Ambien-like qualities are good praise for a good crossover that’s good in the things it’s supposed to be good at—good night.

2020 Hyundai Palisade first drive

2020 Hyundai Palisade first drive

2020 Hyundai Palisade first drive

2020 Hyundai Palisade first drive

2020 Hyundai Palisade first drive

2020 Hyundai Palisade first drive

That’s not to say the Palisade is dozing on its potential new buyers—not even close. The outgoing Santa Fe XL had 7 liters of interior storage capacity, which is less than some cowboy hats but more than the recommended daily intake of diet soda.

The Palisade has 29 liters of interior storage, which is good for pens, pencils, crayons, snacks, juices, confiscated smartphones, comic books, headphones, and the occasional book for punishment (kids) or boring soccer practices (adults). Its three rows comfortably seat up to eight, including the driver, or up to seven terrified passengers if the driver David Copperfields his or her way out of another trip to Target.

Second-row captain’s chairs, which can be optionally heated or cooled, can sub in for the folding bench on some trim levels. (Big brother pro tip: The ritzy climate-controlled second-row seats add a dangerous third dimension to freeze-out double dares in January: windows down, A/C up, seats cooled. Loser writes the winner’s next book report.)

Big kids, long-legged kids, or adult kids won’t fuss in the second row; the Palisade’s 42.4 inches of back seat leg room is near the top among competitors, including the Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent. The seats slide fore and aft several inches to horse-trade with third-row riders, likely to be bigger kids who’ve outgrown mandatory car seats but won’t see their smartphones again until they’re 35 if they keep up the attitude. (There are two available USB ports in the third row to reward good behavior.)

READ NEXT: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe first drive: Name a better deal

The wayback seats aren’t penalty boxes, anyway. Despite a scant 31.4 inches of leg room—helped by sympathetic second-row passengers, of course—the Palisade’s roof doesn’t eat into available head room for third-row passengers. In a pinch, the third-row seats can recline several degrees for long torsos on long drives, although they eat into available cargo space.

That cargo space is a dandy: 18 cubic feet with all the seats in place, 46 cubes with the third row tumbled forward. Hyundai admits most three-row crossover buyers won’t use the third row regularly but preparing for hitchhiking basketball teams, emergency jazz ensemble gigs, or hockey team second shifts across state lines is all useful stuff for some shoppers.

File more under helpful in the Palisade: an available voice-projection system that repeats the driver’s commands through the speakers when a bullhorn isn’t available, and grab handles and a one-touch second-row seat that fires forward like a family-friendly Scud when it’s time to clamber into the third row.

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