​This summer Hyundai dealerships started showcasing the new mid-size, three-row 2020 Palisade replacing the popular top trim Santa Fe XL to now become Hyundai’s flagship mid-size SUV.

​Palisade becomes a formidable entry in the SUV automotive wars, by combining enough price, interior ergonomics/style/space, safety options and peppy performance to entice buyer attention.

​However, like most similarly equipped mid-size SUV brands - Kia Telluride, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer - options are needed to maximize Palisade’s attributes.

Palisade and Honda Pilot have the lowest base price.​

​Our test drive added five options totaling $6,910 in a seven-passenger Palisade SEL AWD - middle between SE and Limited trims. An optional second row bench seats eight.

​Options added 20-inch wheels, Hyundai Smart Sense top safe driving aids, extra USB outlets, Nappa leather seating, reclining third-row seats, a sunroof, 10.25 inch dashboard touchscreen, remote start and intercom to talk to third row occupants or pipe in radio.

​Neat functions include one-touch movable second row seats for access, alert for opening rear doors if traffic is seen approaching, reclining third row and alert to check back seats for occupants.​

​Outside, the all-new exterior design sports a massive pinched cascading grille, side roof rails, muscular wheel arches, running boards, a steady beltline, large windows, and minimal chrome for a tasteful, stylish look.

​Bigger than the Santa Fe XL - 3 inches longer, more than 3.5 inches wider and a 4-inch longer wheelbase – creates 18 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row and 46 cubic feet of space with rear seats folded.

​A smooth ride came courtesy of a wider front and rear suspension and best-in-class torsional rigidity, helping stability and reducing lean in turns. Top crash safety scores are expected. ​Mimicking Kia Telluride’s 3.6-liter engine and 8-speed automatic transmission with manual paddles, acceleration is quick and responsive. Mileage is good for the weight.

​There are five drive modes and 9.7 inches of ground clearance allows mild off-roading.

​Palisade’s cabin is elegant with quality materials, rich infotainment access, wood grain trim, ample space everywhere, seven USB ports, 16 cupholders, ample storage space and a conversation mirror for rear seat monitoring.

​When equipped, Palisade can tow 5,000 pounds.

​Android Auto and Auto CarPlay replace the CD player and Bluetooth functions are enhanced. Visors extend and there is an underbody spare tire. Hyundai’s warranty is top tier.

​LIKE: Mileage, configuration versatility, visibility, spacious cabin/cargo area, good voice recognition.

​DISLIKE: Start/stop delay, tight third row seating, some wind noise.

​BOTTOM LINE: Destined to be big seller with safety, luxury features in fiercely competitive market niche.

FACT FILE

2020 HYUNDAI PALISADE SEL AWD

Base price w/destination fee​: $36,245 ($43,155 as ​tested)

Curb weight: ​​4,284 lbs.

Wheelbase​​: 114.2 inches

Length:​​ 196.1 inches

Width:​ 74.4 inches

Engine specs:​​ 3.8-liter, V-6

Horsepower​: 291-hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque​​: 262-lbs.-ft.@5,200 rpm

Transmission: ​​8-speed automatic ​w/Shiftronic

EPA rating:​ 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy

Range:​ 18.8-gallons, regular gas

Performance: ​​0-60 in roughly 7 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.