SUV Comparison: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2022 Hyundai Palisade

SUV Comparison: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2022 Hyundai Palisade
© Provided by Driving.ca 2022 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2022 Hyundai Palisade

Stephanie Wallcraft:  If you’ve been following Driving.ca’s comparison tests for a while, you might already know that the Hyundai Palisade is a popular three-row SUV around these parts. With its enjoyable drive dynamics, upscale interior, and exceptional feature content for the price, the Palisade has been a perennial winner for us since its debut for the 2020 model year.

But as the ’90s kids used to say, a new challenger is approaching. The Nissan Pathfinder has been entirely redesigned for the 2022 model year, and the latest version couldn’t be more different from the previous generation. It features better powertrain components, improved tech, more stylish looks, and far better use of interior space. We spent a lot of time in the new Pathfinder this summer, and it impressed us enough that we decided it needs to go toe to toe against our recurring champion.

On pricing and trim levels, the units we’re looking at here are closely matched. The Palisade is in the top-of-the-line Ultimate Calligraphy grade, priced at $56,955 including a $1,925 destination charge. The Pathfinder is also in its top trim here, that being Platinum, which rings up at $57,208 including $1,860 in destination fees.

Let’s start with the superficial. Renita, where do you land on the exterior and interior styling of these two vehicles?

Renita Naraine: When it comes to SUVs, we’re usually on opposite ends of the spectrum and have different opinions on exterior looks. Personally, I think the Palisade seems thoughtfully designed inside and out (the looks remain unchanged from the 2021 Palisade ). This specific tester in Hyper White paint has a sleek and classy look that carries over and into the interior. I’m still not a huge fan of all the different materials used within the front cabin — especially the fake wood look — but its overall look is growing on me, and I’ve heard many others really love the inside of the Palisade; so maybe I just have horrible taste in car fashion. The lighter colour of the seats and dash really stand out, especially considering most SUVs opt for a much more dull and boring design. The Palisade also has a suede roof, though I still can’t figure out who thought it was a good idea. One swipe from the little hands of my kids and the whole roof looks very odd — although, if you want to look on the brighter side of things, it kept them entertained for an abnormally long time. The seat backs and doors have a cool quilted design that further completes the theme of mixing patterns and finishes.

The Pathfinder isn’t particularly ugly in any way, but it is very much a simpler design with very typical SUV looks. It doesn’t have all the curves that the Palisade has, but it’s got a lot to offer in other ways (which we’ll get to, eventually). The Platinum trim tested came in two-tone Obsidian Green Pearl and Super Black Metallic ($950), but due to both the dark colours, it’s not as obviously two-tone as other combinations like Scarlet Ember Tintcoat combined with Super Black Metallic. The inside of the tester was a caramel colour called Chestnut leather, but there’s also the option of Charcoal leather, if you’re really going for the dull, muted look.

If it comes down to picking which I would prefer on my driveway, it would be the Palisade, it’s got just a bit more sass and commands a bit more attention — the good kind, of course.

 

SW: I agree about the Palisade being the overall winner on appearance, although I have to say the new-generation Pathfinder comes closer than I might have expected it to. I’ve had more than one casual onlooker mistake the Pathfinder for a Range Rover from the side profile — yes, really — and Nissan hasn’t tried to fake its way through wood inserts and other accoutrements and instead opts to achieve classy with attainable materials, which I respect. For me, the Palisade only pulls ahead on its more interesting interior colour palette and dramatic front end and lighting signature.

These two vehicles are also relatively closely matched in powertrains. Nissan opted to keep the same engine specs into the fifth-generation Pathfinder, a 3.5-litre V6 producing 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque peaking at 4,800 rpm. Power to all four wheels is standard, though Nissan calls this four-wheel drive, which is open to interpretation: if four-wheel drive is considered to be a full locking and disengaging on-demand system like those typically found on body-on-frame trucks, then the Pathfinder’s automatic direct-coupling system that sends a maximum of 50 percent of available torque to the rear axle is probably more commonly considered all-wheel drive. The most important change in the Pathfinder’s powertrain is the shift from a continuously variable transmission to a nine-speed automatic, which helps a great deal in making it feel more energetic while accelerating at lower speeds.

The Palisade’s standard powertrain is similar with a 3.8-litre V6 making 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 5,200 rpm, matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard on-demand all-wheel drive. These numbers aren’t vastly different from those of the Pathfinder, though we did observe that the Palisade does a slightly better job of getting going and getting around than the Pathfinder does. The Palisade feels a little more nimble and easier to get around in tighter spaces like parking lots, although the steering is more on the forgiving side. The Pathfinder has a heavier and more truck-like feel in both its acceleration and its overall handling. Surprisingly, this isn’t due to compromises to give the Pathfinder a higher tow rating: it tops out at 3,500 lbs., while the Palisade can handle up to 5,000 lbs.

The Pathfinder returns better fuel use figures, though again, the differences are minor: NRCan rates the Pathfinder at 10.5 L/100 km combined, and we observed a rate of 10.1 L/100 km in our test vehicle, while the Pathfinder’s official rating is 11.1 L/100 km combined and we finished our time with it at 10.7 L/100 km. All of these figures are more than acceptable for SUVs of this size and capability.

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RN:  With gas prices being so high, any amount of savings could be a big deal, and though it’s not a huge difference, the Pathfinder’s slightly lower fuel economy could sway some buyers.

I also agree that the Palisade’s drive was a bit smoother and the pick up didn’t feel as heavy as the Pathfinder’s. On the daily drives (to the grocery store, malls, school, etc.), I preferred the Palisade. The extra heaviness in the Pathfinder made it a tiny bit harder for me to comfortably park in tight mall parking lots.

However, a large part of my vote would be determined by the interior dimensions and usability. The Palisade has a bit more room when it comes to cargo space as well as legroom in the second and third rows, but the Pathfinder has a tiny bit more legroom for the front row (although I do wish it had the option to move the seat a bit higher; I’m short). I guess it really depends on your lifestyle and family dynamic, and maybe preference, when it comes to these dimensions. It’s not a huge difference, but I think I’d generally opt for the one that’s got more cargo space and legroom for the back passengers. I’ll always need that third row up since I have three kids, meaning limited cargo space in any three-row SUV — with all seats up the Palisade has 509 L of cargo space and the Pathfinder has 470 L; again, it’s not a big difference, but if it means being able to fit one extra grocery bag, then I’ll take it.

My kids are still small so the legroom isn’t currently a big issue. Granted, they’ll eventually grow and need the legroom and our seating arrangement will change, and then I’m pretty sure I’ll want that extra legroom that comes in the Palisade, 1,077 mm in the second row, 798 mm in the third, while the Pathfinder sees 902 mm in the second and 712 mm in the third. I also thought the Palisade’s seats were a bit comfier; the Pathfinder’s seats felt a bit sunken in; I’m not sure if you felt the same about it, comfort-wise.

SW: We disagree on this point: I’m a huge fan of Nissan’s seats. The company brands them “zero gravity” and says 14 different pressure points have been incorporated to place the body into a neutral position and reduce fatigue on long drives. I put nearly 3,000 km on Pathfinders this summer, and I never once felt the need to stop because I felt uncomfortable, so I believe the hype. That’s not to say I have an issue with the Palisade’s seats or noticed any particular discomfort. It’s just that I haven’t put quite as much distance into them to be able to vouch for them quite so enthusiastically.

There are a few other points about the interior environment and usability worth mentioning. Both vehicles have pleasantly quiet cabins, even in highway driving. Both have cupholders built into the second-row door armrests, which people with kids in car seats will appreciate. Both also have second-row captain’s chairs in the configurations we’re looking at here, and both allow for a car seat to be kept in place while the seats are pulled forward for third-row access with a simple, single-button action. This doesn’t make the third row especially easy to access in either case, but it’s better than not having the option at all.

However, the key differences come in available interior storage space. The Palisade has a large storage tray built in underneath the centre stack, which creates a useful space for storing handbags or other larger items that often end up in footwells. The Pathfinder doesn’t match this in the first row, but it does have a centre console positioned between second-row captain’s chairs, which provides two more cupholders and some additional storage for rear occupants. As a parent, I’ll take keeping my kid’s junk organized over my own every day of the week, so in my books, the Pathfinder wins in this category.

Natural light in the interior also gets a slightly different treatment in each. The Pathfinder has a single, larger sunroof, which provides plenty of light for the first two rows but stops short of brightening up the third. The Palisade has two separate sunroofs, one for the front row and another that sits further toward the back of the cabin, which helps distribute sunlight a little further back in the interior. Which your family might prefer is entirely a matter of personal taste.

RN:  Both of these vehicles, being the top trims, come with a bunch of features that aren’t all standard across all the trims, but that’s to be expected. The top price tag (before optional add-ons) for the Pathfinder includes the comfy captain’s chairs, a panoramic moonroof, and a well-placed wireless charging pad (recently I’ve been seeing some odd locations and difficult spots to fit a large phone). Thankfully, in the freezing cold, wintry months, this trim is equipped with heated (and ventilated front seats), as well as heated second-row seats. Recently, Steph also did a deeper dive into the Pathfinder’s interior . Safety features for this top trim include Intelligent Around View monitor with moving object detection, as well as haptic steering and while it isn’t intrusive, it can be a tad annoying at times, especially, if like me, you don’t really care for the added buzz — then again, it’s better than having the car scream at me every time I slowly inch closer to a garage door. I didn’t get the chance to properly test Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist, but I know you weren’t a huge fan during your Mauricie road trip .

As for the Ultimate Calligraphy trim (which Steph also took a closer look at for the 2021 model year ), the Palisade is also decked out with a ton of features that also includes the comfy second-row captain’s chairs, but these ones are not just heated. Like the front seats, the second-row passengers are also treated to heated and ventilated seats in the Palisade, something my kids can’t take advantage of since they’re all in car seats. It’s also got all the basics like a heated steering wheel, rain sensing wipers, wireless charging pad, HUD, and surround view monitor, but my favourite feature remains the blind view monitors that pop up on the screen when signalling to turn. Safety features are similar to those in the Pathfinder and include forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, as well as rear occupant alert — which a lot of brands have been recently adding to the safety mix.

Finally, what are your thoughts on each of the infotainment systems?

SW:  This is an interesting discussion in these two vehicles. Let’s start with the Hyundai system. I’ve ranted about the imbalanced graphics and generally below-average usability of the latest version of this system a few times now, so I’ll spare everyone the waxing poetic about too-small digital buttons and single-direction favourites scrolling. What is  positive here is that a lot of the functions are either based in or duplicated in buttons and dials, which helps with making them easier to find while driving. However, the system that goes with this 12.3-inch screen isn’t yet equipped for wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, so you’ll need to use a cable. Both apps can be connected wirelessly to the 8-inch screen available in lower trims of the Palisade, but those obviously don’t include many of the other features that make the Ultimate Calligraphy so appealing for its price point.

As for the Nissan system, it’s a lot less pretty than the one in the Palisade with a lower-resolution 9-inch touchscreen. But in terms of overall functionality, I find this one to be easier to get used to and to live with while on the road. The button locations are clear, large, and make sense, which makes the learning curve relatively short. It also includes wireless Apple CarPlay, though Android Auto connectivity remains wired for now.

So, in summary, the Pathfinder has advanced in leaps and bounds with the updates in its latest generation, and this comparison is far closer than it would have been a couple of years ago now that its top trim incorporates functional second-row captain’s chairs, a second-row centre console, more features, and a more responsive powertrain. That said, the Palisade’s feature content at this price point remains just a little more competitive, and it is slightly more pleasant in drive dynamics and more interesting in its design and use of interior space. With the caveat that there are definitely some families who will be better served by the Pathfinder and there’s plenty of room for cross-shopping here, I’ll award the Palisade a very narrow victory. What do you think, Renita?

RN: I agree; it was a very tight race between these family vehicles, but the Palisade comes out on top — but just by a smidgen.

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