With a 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe XL in the extended family, we knew better than to underestimate Hyundai's newest model, the Palisade. The Santa Fe has been reliable, comfortable and relatively fuel-efficient - yet not quite as family-friendly as the Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna minivans. The Palisade, bigger than the discontinued Santa Fe XL, comes close to covering both bases - enough room for young folks and their paraphernalia, along with all-weather ruggedness.

The Palisade is a medium-priced SUV that can transport seven or eight passengers, depending on the configuration of the second-row seating. It boasts an impressive 18 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third-row seat, and is powered by a 291-horsepower V-6 engine.

With all-wheel drive, the Palisade is rated at 19 mpg city, 24 highway. Front-wheel-drive versions get 19 mpg city, 26 highway.

The base Palisade SE, with front-wheel drive, lists for $31,775. Our test car was one trim level higher, an SEL, with all-wheel drive. Its list price was $35,200, but options brought the sticker price to $43,155.

The ride, handling and power delivery all were top-notch. In these respects, the Palisade compared favorably with the smaller but more expensive Lexus NX300, which we test-drove immediately after our week with the Palisade. Equipped with the SEL package, as well as the optional Convenience ($2,200), Premium ($2,400) and Drive Guidance ($1,250) options, it also was luxurious and high-tech.

More Information

2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD

Price: $43,155

Engine: 3.8-liter V-6, 291 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 7.9 in.

Weight: 4,387 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 20x7.5-in. split 5-spoke alloy

Tires: P245/50R20 all-season

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 18 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 86.4 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 5,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 18.8 gal.

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

The Palisade is a fine ride, and it needs to be, given the intense competition in the medium-sized, medium-priced SUV segment. Among the major players are the Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas. That's a wide-ranging and diverse group, and not a slouch in the pack.

In that highly competitive environment, the Palisade is off to a good start, averaging sales of about 5,000 per month since it hit the showrooms last summer. It also scored a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and won a “Best of 2020” award from cars.com.

As with most Hyundais, the Palisade SEL has a long list of standard features. Among them are an 8-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; power driver's seat; heated front seats; remote start; dual-zone automatic climate control; and adaptive cruise control.

One of the Palisade's most interesting features was a Drive Guidance option, which included a feature called Highway Drive Assist. Drive Guidance is standard on the Palisade in Limited trim - starting price, $44,925.

By activating the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, and taking hold of the steering wheel when prompted, this system essentially enables the car to drive itself. That is, it keeps the car within the lines on the highway and slows the car when it approaches a slower-moving vehicle or obstacle. It looks like we're not far from the era of the self-driving car.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.