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Hyundai Palisade vs. Honda Pilot: A Comprehensive Breakdown

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Honda Pilot in a parking lot

Honda Pilot by Kevauto — CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’re considering purchasing a new three-row SUV, you’ve got your work cut out for you. The midsize SUV segment is one of the hottest automotive markets, so choosing your next SUV isn’t going to be easy. Two of the most popular mid-size three-row SUVs in the market today are the Hyundai Palisade and Honda Pilot.

Hyundai Palisade vs. Honda Pilot, which midsize SUV is the better pick?

Today, we have another head-to-head comparison for you, between the Hyundai Palisade vs. Honda Pilot. For this comparison, we’ll mostly refer to the 2021 versions of both vehicles. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Exterior Features

The Honda Pilot’s exterior design has always been an exercise in restraint. Honda has been playing it safe with the Pilot’s design, and if you like its current rugged design, this shouldn’t bother you too much. However, many folks believe that it’s due for a redesign. There are some rumors about a potential 2023 Pilot redesign, so we’re looking forward to that.

Don’t get us wrong; the Pilot boasts a classic design that’s rugged and practical. The wagon-like sides can be taken as either sensible or outdated. It badly needs some contemporary design cues to compete with the likes of the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride. Thankfully, the Honda Pilot Black Edition includes a set of black alloys for a much-needed attitude.

On the flip side, the 2021 Hyundai Palisade has kicked subtlety to the water. From the split composite headlights to the large front honeycomb grille, the Palisade wants its presence to be known. The Palisade’s design is both contemporary and aggressive, thanks to the masculine-looking sides, heavily sculpted wheel arches, and broad rear.

The Palisade bathes in luxury-grade details and edgy design cues. All versions include LED daytime running lights and LED headlights. At the very least, the Palisade’s signature look makes it stand out from its rivals.


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Performance and Fuel Economy

Regardless of the 2021 Palisade model you choose, it will come equipped with a 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine capable of doling out 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All Palisade versions are available in either front- or all-wheel drive. The Palisade can tow 1,650 lbs, but with trailer bikes, you can increase the load up to 5,000 lbs.

As an eight-seater, the 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine is a good pair to the Palisade as it accelerates without as much of a fuss. With the lack of a turbocharger, the Palisade does need a couple more revs to get it going. The midrange is where the Palisade really shines as the gearbox transitions into its middle gears.

Let’s get this out of the way; the Pilot isn’t the fastest SUV in the segment. It’s no Civic Type R. However, it does offer impressive real-world results. The 2021 Honda Pilot dons a 280 hp 3.5-liter V-6 powertrain paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Many will be caught off-guard by the Pilot’s relatively sporty engine that picks up the pace with impressive eagerness. Towing capacity is at a decent 3,500 lbs while the AWD models match the Palisade with 5,000 lbs.

The Honda Pilot feels at home when city driving, thanks to its linear power delivery. Between taking the kids to school to stopping by your local grocery, you’ll find the Pilot to be a reliable workhorse. As long as you’re not going off-road (where it can perform relatively well), the Pilot offers a comfortable driving experience.

In terms of fuel economy, the Pilot edges out the Palisade by a hair. The former has a combined EPA rating of 23 mpg (20 city/27 hwy), while the latter delivers a combined EPA rating of 22 mpg (19 city/26 hwy).


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Interior and Cargo Space

Interior-wise, the 2021 Palisade is a great place to be. The Palisade’s interior earns top marks for its thoughtful layout, quality, and usability - most especially if you get the Limited trim. Even the base trims feel upscale, thanks to soft-touch materials and genuine leather for the upper trims. Drivers are treated to a clean layout and sensible controls, plus a plethora of standard features like transmission paddle shifters, power seats, and smart cruise control.

The Palisade can seat up to eight passengers and quite comfortably as well. Notably, only the base model can seat up to eight passengers since it’s the only model with second-row seats for three. Higher trims can only seat seven people but have more adjustability and better materials. Behind the third row, the Palisade offers a generous 18 cu-ft of space. With the third-row folded flat, the space balloons to 45.8 cubes, and a cavernous 86.4 cubes open up with the second-row seats folded in 6040 split.

On the other hand, the 2021 Pilot is a delight to get in and out due to the moderate ride height and wide-opening doors. Inside, the Pilot wears a conservative interior of black, grey, and beige. It’s not the flashiest of interiors, but it feels like one that can withstand rowdy kids and pets—a clear demonstration of Honda’s sheer mastery of family-friendly ergonomics. Interior materials are relatively high-quality, and the standard sunroof livens things up inside.


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Honda’s ability to maximize space is on full display with the Pilot. Most Pilots have an 8-seater configuration, but this setup is abandoned in favor of two captain chairs for the upper trims. Behind the third row, the Pilot offers 16.5 cu-ft of cargo space. By folding the third-row, the space is increased to 46 cubes and the space balloons to 80 cu-ft with the second-row seats folded.

Infotainment and Safety Features

Unfortunately, the base Honda Pilot lags in its infotainment system that’s barebones at best. The dinky 5-inch display is just outdated, and the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support is simply unacceptable. If you’re going with the Pilot, you should get the available 8-inch touch screen that includes features like Hondalink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, HD Radio, satellite radio, and more.

The 2021 Pilot fared well with the IIHS, but it didn’t receive the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award. Conversely, it did receive a 5-star rating for NHTSA and did well on the crash tests. Standard safety features include a rearview camera, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and more. More advanced features like blind-spot monitoring, LED fog lights, and rear cross-traffic alert are available.

Hyundai killed it when it comes to the Palisade’s tech features. The SE and SEL trims have an 8-inch touchscreen display with wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. Audio-wise, the base trims come with a six-speaker audio system, while top trims like Limited and Calligraphy get an upgraded 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. The Driver Talk in-car intercom system is a neat feature that allows you to talk to back seat passengers without shouting.

For safety, the 2021 Palisade received the IIHS ‘Top Safety Pick’ award and NHTSA’s full 5-star rating. The Palisade offers an impressive array of standard and available safety features like rearview camera, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, surround-view parking camera system, and the list goes on.

Hyundai Palisade vs. Honda Pilot: Which SUV Wins?

As usual, we’ll conclude this Hyundai Palisade vs. Honda Pilot comparison with their pricing. The 2021 Honda Pilot starts at $32,550, while the 2021 Hyundai Palisade is at $32,675.

With both SUVs almost having the same price, choosing one over the other can be tricky. The Honda Pilot has been the reliable top choice for this class. However, the Hyundai Palisade offers the same if not better experience but in a more upscale package.



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