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2021 Honda Pilot vs. 2021 Hyundai Palisade: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Honda Pilot and the 2021 Hyundai Palisade are two mid-size, three-row SUVs with a ton of appeal. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Hyundai Palisade mid-size three-row SUV replaced the Santa Fe XL in 2020.
  • The Honda Pilot shares its underpinnings with the Honda Passport and the Honda Ridgeline.

2021 Honda Pilot

2021 Honda Pilot Passenger Side Front

Base Price: $33,360 / Read our 2021 Honda Pilot Review

What we like: Spacious interior with a usable third row; standard V6 engine; strong resale value

What we would change: Add an off-road-themed variant; add a sport-themed version, too

Overview: The Honda Pilot is a well-rounded, family-friendly three-row SUVs, one with several strengths and few weaknesses. The sole powertrain is a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque paired with a 9-speed automatic. The top two trims come standard with AWD, which is a $2,000 option elsewhere. With all-wheel drive, this powertrain gets 22 mpg combined; the estimate is 23 mpg with front-wheel-drive. This V6 is adequately powerful and tows up to 5,000 pounds (with AWD). The Pilot is comfortable and polished on the road but not particularly sporty, although the AWD system includes torque vectoring across the rear axle to enhance agility. A third-row seat with seatbelts for three is standard, while in the middle row, there’s a three-passenger bench or captain’s chairs, depending on trim level. Maximum cargo space is 82.1–83.9 cubic feet, and there’s 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row.

What’s new for 2021: All Pilots now use a 9-speed automatic transmission, replacing the six-speed unit previously found in sub-Touring trim levels, resulting in a slight fuel-economy increase for those models. Elsewhere, the EX-L w/Navi and Rear Seat Entertainment is dropped, while a new SE trim (with less equipment) is added. The base LX adds dual-zone climate control.

Features and technology: The 2021 Honda Pilot is sold in LX, EX, EX-L, SE, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition trim levels. Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control are standard on all trims. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are included on all but the base LX. Besides those two safety features, the EX also brings a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Leather seating is the big add-on with the EX-L, which also includes a power liftgate, second-row sunshades, and an acoustic windshield. The SE adds wireless smartphone charging, 20-inch wheels, and the CabinTalk in-car PA system. The Touring is the first trim where captain’s chairs can be had, along with navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Wi-Fi hotspot, upgraded audio, and heating for the second-row seats. The top two trims include all-wheel drive, ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

What does the future hold: The Pilot is mechanically related to the two-row Passport SUV and the Ridgeline pickup, the latter of which got new, more rugged front-end styling for 2021 that could migrate to the Pilot and Passport as well. See 2021 Honda Pilot models for sale near you

2021 Hyundai Palisade

2021 Hyundai Palisade

Base Price: $33,675/ Read our 2021 Hyundai Palisade Review

What we like: Tons of safety and technology features; adult-usable third-row seat; usable luggage area

What we would change: Add engine options for more power

Overview: The 2021 Hyundai Palisade is a mid-size three-row SUV, and even at its least expensive, it comes packed with great content and plenty of space for people and their luggage. It’s very well thought out and offers plenty of luxury style amenities in a good-looking package.

What’s new for 2021: A new trim level comes in at the top of the 2021 Palisade range, Calligraphy. All versions gain LED headlights as standard, along with HD radio and wireless smartphone integration. SEL trim now comes with a sunroof and LED cabin lighting. The previously 4-pin pre-wiring setup for trailers is upgraded to a 7-pin arrangement.

Features and technology: The 2021 Hyundai Palisade comes in four versions. They include the standard SE, SEL, Limited and new for 2021, Calligraphy lines.

At the base, the SE comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high beams, LED daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors, 8-occupant seating, cloth upholstery, power-folding second-row seats, selectable driving modes (all-wheel drive also includes a Snow mode and hill descent control), adaptive cruise control with stop/go, rear occupant alert, rear parking sensors, 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth phone/audio streaming, HD radio, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, five USB ports, and an audio system with a quiet mode for the rear seats.

The SEL seats seven, swapping a pair of captain’s chairs into the second row, though you can opt for the bench seat in this trim to seat eight. It comes with remote engine start, keyless entry/ignition, roof rails, powered sunroof, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, safe exit assistance, LED cabin lighting, and a self-dimming rearview mirror with a remote garage door opener.

The Limited adds onto these features and includes rain-sensing wipers, a dual-pane sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated/ventilated second-row captain’s chairs (no bench option), Nappa leather seating surfaces, head-up display, 360-degree camera system, 12.3-inch digital driver information display, 64-color ambient cabin lighting, 630-watt/12-speaker Harmon Kardon surround-sound system.

The new Calligraphy line adds things like trim-specific 20-inch alloy wheels, dedicated front and rear-end treatments, standard all-wheel drive, puddle lamps, quilted leather door panels, and a perforated leather-covered steering wheel. It retails for $48,890.

What does the future hold: The Palisade will continue to get trim updates in the future. See 2021 Hyundai Palisade models for sale near you

Pilot vs. Palisade: Strengths comparison

Honda Pilot Benefits: Seats up to eight; adult-sized third row; lower-priced top trims; enviable reliability record.

Hyundai Palisade Benefits: Stellar warranty and luxury interior with lots of tech and safety; three years of free maintenance.

2021 Honda Pilot vs. 2021 Hyundai Palisade: Which is better?

The Honda Pilot has long been a top choice in this class, but the Hyundai Palisade can carry just as many people and their cargo in a good-looking and slightly more upscale package. We’d opt for the Hyundai Palisade for its three-year free maintenance, too.  Find 2021 Honda Pilot models for sale or Find 2021 Hyundai Palisade models for sale

Popular Powertrains 2021 Honda Pilot 2021 Hyundai Palisade
Engine 3.5-liter V6 3.8-liter V6
Horsepower 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm 291 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm 262 lb-ft. @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission 9-spd automatic 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 23 mpg (20 city/27 hwy) 22 mpg (19 city/26 hwy)
Also Available AWD AWD
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 10 years/ 100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 8 8
Wheelbase 111.0 inches 114.2 inches
Overall Length 196.5 inches 196.1 inches
Width 78.6 inches 77.8 inches
Height 70.6 inches 68.9 inches
Turning Diameter 39.4 feet 38.7 feet
Headroom, Front 40.1 inches 40.7 inches
Headroom, 2nd row 40.2 inches 40.1 inches
Headroom, 3rd row 38.9 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 40.9 inches 44.1 inches
Legroom, 2nd row 38.4 inches 42.4 inches
Legroom, 3rd row 31.9 inches 31.3 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 62.0 inches 61.2 inches
Shoulder Room, 2nd row 62.0 inches 60.8 inches
Shoulder Room, 3rd row 57.6 inches 55.2 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 152.9 cubic feet 155.3 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 83.9 cubic feet 45.8 cubic feet

Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist based in L.A. and she's covered automotive topics for a variety of well-known outlets including Fortune, Forbes, CNN and Motor Trend. She's also a television and video host and regularly covers breaking news, social justice, technology, health and wellness, and science in addition to her car coverage. When she's not working on her next project she's... Read More about Abigail Bassett

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