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Hyundai Palisade Highlander petrol vs Kia Carnival Platinum petrol vs Nissan Pathfinder Ti 2023 comparison review

Hyundai's Palisade, the Kia Carnival and Nissan Pathfinder fight it out

As parents we know what makes a good family car, because we’ve found out the hard way.

When the boot was too small to fit a pram, when there wasn’t enough room for a rearward facing baby seat, when we had to pull over and attach a towel over our child’s window to block out the brutal Aussie summer sun.

Finding the right car becomes even trickier when you have more than two children - you’re now looking at seven- or eight-seater SUVs and people movers and the choice isn’t huge.

Read more about the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Carnival and Nissan Pathfinder

That’s what this comparison is about - helping you find the right eight-seater car for your family

Emily Agar and I are not only car reviewers but parents, so we know all too well if a car is family fit or not.

In our video above we compare the new Nissan Pathfinder SUV with the Hyundai Palisade SUV and the Kia Carnival people mover. All of these are eight seaters and would very likely be on your list of cars to check out

This is the full written review which goes into a little more detail, full of specs and numbers to help you make the right choice.

So, which is the best family eight-seater of these three? You’ll have to read on or watch the video, or both.

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Price and features – Do they represent good value for the price? What features do they come with?

In this comparison we have the Nissan Pathfinder Ti which is the entry-point to its line-up, with a petrol engine and all-wheel drive being the only choice. The Ti is also the only grade in the range with eight-seats. This new-generation Pathfinder Ti arrived just last year and lists for $71,490.

The Hyundai Palisade we’ve chosen is the top-of-the-range petrol Highlander with front-wheel drive and has a list price of $75,900.

And then there’s the Kia Carnival which is front-wheel drive only and ours is the highest grade Platinum with the petrol engine and has a list price of $65,580.

  • The top-spec Hyundai Palisade Highlander has a list price of $75,900. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The top-spec Hyundai Palisade Highlander has a list price of $75,900. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • Upfront of the Palisade is a 12.3-inch multimedia screen. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Upfront of the Palisade is a 12.3-inch multimedia screen. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

The standard features comparison table below shows the equipment lists for the three vehicles.

As you can see all come standard with LED headlights and LED DRLs, plus they all have alloy wheels. The Palisade has the biggest alloys - they’re 20-inch wheels, the Carnival has 19-inch rims and the Pathfinder has 18s.

They all come with roof rails, dark tinted privacy glass for the rear windows and all have power tailgates.

  • The Kia Carnival Platinum with the petrol engine and has a list price of $65,580. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Kia Carnival Platinum with the petrol engine and has a list price of $65,580. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • Upfront of the Carnival is a 12.3-inch multimedia screen. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Upfront of the Carnival is a 12.3-inch multimedia screen. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Inside, the Palisade and Carnival both come with 12.3-inch media screens, while the Pathfinder has a 9.0-inch display. The Palisade also has a 12.3-inch driver display but the Carnival and Pathfinder have analogue dials with smaller digital screens. The Palisade and Pathfinder also have a head-up display.

All have three-zone climate control and all have heated seats up front and in the second row, but only the Palisade and Carnival have ventilated seats up front, too. If our Pathfinder was the top of its range Ti-L grade it would have these cooling seats, as well.

The Carnival and Palisade also have sunroofs and again if our Pathfinder was the fancy one it’d have one, too.

  • The new-generation Pathfinder Ti arrived just last year and lists for $71,490. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The new-generation Pathfinder Ti arrived just last year and lists for $71,490. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Pathfinder has a 9.0-inch multimedia display. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Pathfinder has a 9.0-inch multimedia display. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

All have sat nav, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - which is wireless in the Pathfinder.

The Pathfinder and Carnival both have Bose sound systems - it’s a 12-speaker system in the Carnival and a 13-speaker stereo in the Pathfinder. The Palisade has a 12-speaker Infinity stereo and to my ears sounds the best of the three.

All come with a stack of standard features, but the Carnival offers outstanding value at this price from the big media screen to climate control in the second row.

That said, it doesn't have a head-up display while the other two do; it’s a feature which makes keeping an eye on your speed and sat nav directions easy.  

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

Price

$75,900

$65,580

$71,490

Seat upholstery

Nappa leather

Synthetic Leather

Real and synthetic leather

Climate control

Three-zone

Three-zone

Three-zone

Heated seats

Front and second row

Front and second row

Front and second row

Ventilated seats

Front and second row

Front

No

Heated steering wheel

Yes

Yes

No

Multimedia screen

12.3-inch screen

12.3-inch screen

Nine-inch

Digital instruments

12.3-inch

4.2-inch

7.0-inch

Head up display

Yes

No

Yes

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

Yes (wired)

Yes (wired)

Wireless Apple Carplay and wired Android Auto

Stereo

Infinity 12-speaker

Bose 12-speaker

Bose 13-speaker

Built-in sat nav

Yes

Yes

Yes

    

Keyless entry and push-start

Yes

Yes

yes

Headlights 

LED

LED

LED

Wheel size

20-inch

19-inch alloy

18-inch

Privacy glass

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sunroof

Yes

Yes

No

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

8

9

8

Design – Is there anything interesting about their designs?

Sure, we’re parents surviving on years of broken sleep and, yes, we sometimes leave the house wearing clothes smeared in banana but that doesn’t mean we can’t drive something that looks half decent. 

Fortunately for us, people movers look a lot more stylish than they used to and the Carnival is a sleek and modern looking van with a little truck-like nose that adds a don’t-mess-with-me toughness that will help you muscle your way through traffic.

Speaking of truck-like there’s the Palisade which looks the beefiest and poshest here with that dining room table sized bonnet, that grandstanding grille and big, blocky but premium styling. 

The Palisade looks posh and big on the outside and that goes for the insides, too. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Palisade looks posh and big on the outside and that goes for the insides, too. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

The Pathfinder’s design is more rugged than Harrison Ford's face, but not quite as good looking.

Yup, you get the feeling it could go anywhere, even if it’s not really equipped to go too far off road. We like the tailgate styling of this SUV which looks refined and upmarket, but the front looks a lot like the old Pathfinder and therefore seems outdated.

The interior design of the Pathfinder also has a rugged, hard-wearing look but it’s not overly stylish with the dark materials used inside that don’t seem to have the same level of interesting touches as the Palisade.

The Carnival is a sleek and modern looking van. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Carnival is a sleek and modern looking van. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Yes, the Palisade looks posh and big on the outside and that goes for the insides, too. The sumptuous and modern cabin has a minimalist dashboard, double screens, an enormous centre console with shifting buttons and pin-striped door trims. While posh, the Palisade’s interior feels more hire car than family car.

The Carnival’s cabin looks more Tupperware than top-of-the-town, but its interior is still modern and stylish despite it having been on the market since early 2021.

We like the large landscape media screen but the analogue dials for the driving instruments feel dated compared to the digital screens that are common these days. 

The Pathfinder looks refined and upmarket from the rear. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Pathfinder looks refined and upmarket from the rear. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

8

8

7

Practicality – How practical is their space and tech inside?

How practical is this trio? That’s probably the most important question here.

Well, we’ve lived with all three eight-seaters with our families and we can tell you they offer excellent levels of practicality and utility. There is a clear winner, though.

If it's enormous boot space you’re after the Carnival can’t be beaten. Whether it’s with the third row in place or folded the Carnival offers the largest cargo capacity.

  • The Palisade’s cabin storage up front is excellent. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Palisade’s cabin storage up front is excellent. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Palisade has the most comfortable second row seats. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Palisade has the most comfortable second row seats. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Palisade's third row passengers have access to two USB-C ports. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Palisade's third row passengers have access to two USB-C ports. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Palisade has a boot capacity of 311L. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Palisade has a boot capacity of 311L. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • With the third row seats lowered, the Palisade has a boot capacity of 704L. (Image: Sam Rawlings) With the third row seats lowered, the Palisade has a boot capacity of 704L. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

For third-row comfort the Carnival offers the best legroom but the Pathfinder offers the best headroom.

For the best access to the third row nothing beats the sliding door of the Carnival. The automatic power sliding door makes it easy for kids to open, and tight carparks aren’t a worry for access, plus getting to the third row is more like stepping through rather than climbing through as it is for the Palisade and Pathfinder.

Special mention has to go to the quick release folding mechanism on the Pathfinder second-row seats to give access to the third row. Also, a special mention to my eight-year old who discovered the button while I almost broke the seat trying to fold it forward.

  • The Carnival has the most spacious cabin. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Carnival has the most spacious cabin. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • For second-row passengers the Carnival offers the best leg- and headroom. (Image: Sam Rawlings) For second-row passengers the Carnival offers the best leg- and headroom. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Carnival stands out offering the best access to second and third rows through those electric sliding doors. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Carnival stands out offering the best access to second and third rows through those electric sliding doors. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • With all seats in place, the Carnival has 627L of boot capacity available. (Image: Sam Rawlings) With all seats in place, the Carnival has 627L of boot capacity available. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • If it's enormous boot space you’re after the Carnival can’t be beaten. If it's enormous boot space you’re after the Carnival can’t be beaten.

For second-row passengers the Carnival offers the best leg- and headroom, while the Palisade has the most comfortable second row and the Pathfinder offers excellent visibility for small children with its high seating position.

All our eight seaters are well equipped with power outlets, USB ports and all have wireless phone charging.

Cabin storage is good, too, with all having more cupholders than you’ll ever have drinks for, but parents know they also double as snacks bowls and buckets in which to put toys, rocks, shells and dummies.

  • All our eight seaters are well equipped with power outlets, USB ports and all have wireless phone charging. (Image: Sam Rawlings) All our eight seaters are well equipped with power outlets, USB ports and all have wireless phone charging. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Pathfinder offers excellent visibility for small children with its high seating position. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Pathfinder offers excellent visibility for small children with its high seating position. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • Special mention has to go to the quick release folding mechanism on the Pathfinder second-row seats to give access to the third row. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Special mention has to go to the quick release folding mechanism on the Pathfinder second-row seats to give access to the third row. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • There is ample amount of storage space in the Pathfinder with all seats lowered. (Image: Sam Rawlings) There is ample amount of storage space in the Pathfinder with all seats lowered. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Pathfinder has a boot capacity of 205L. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Pathfinder has a boot capacity of 205L. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

The Palisade’s cabin storage up front is excellent with its floating centre console which has a large area underneath and a generous covered area under the armrest.

All have tinted windows and retractable sunblinds, but only the Carnival has sun shades in the third row too. Have a look at the video, they’re cute.

While all three of our eight seaters are practical, the Carnival stands out offering the best access to second and third rows through those electric sliding doors.

The Carnival also has the most spacious cabin - one small children can even stand up and get changed in, plus it offers the biggest boot, by a long way.

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

Boot space (behind third row))

311L

627L

205L

Boot space ( behind second row)

704L

2785L

554L

Cupholders

17

9

10

USB ports 1st row

1 x USB-A port 

2 x USB-C ports


 

1 x USB-A port 

2 x USB-C ports

1 x USB-A port

1 x USB-C port

USB ports 2nd row

2 x USB-C ports

2 x USB-C port

1 x USB-A port

1 x USB-C port

USB ports 3rd row

2 x USB-C ports

2 x USB-C ports

1 x USB-A port

12V outlets

4

2

2

Wireless phone charging

No

Yes

Yes

Privacy glass

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sunblinds

Second row

Second row and third row

Second row

Power tailgate

Yes

Yes (also power sliding door)

Yes

Remote parking

Yes

Yes

No

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

8

10

8

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for their engines and transmissions?

All of our eight seaters have V6 petrol engines. In the case of the Palisade the size is 3.8 litres, while the Carnival and Palisade have 3.5-litre engines.

The table shows how much power and torque the engines produce but the takeaway here is the outputs of the V6s in the Carnival and Palisade are almost identical. Plenty of power, too.

The Pathfinder’s engine is less powerful, but the good news is this SUV can tow more than the Palisade and Carnival.

  • Under the Palisade's bonnet is a 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Under the Palisade's bonnet is a 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • Under the Carnival's bonnet is a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Under the Carnival's bonnet is a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • Under the Pathfinder's bonnet is a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. (Image: Glen Sullivan) Under the Pathfinder's bonnet is a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

The Pathfinder is the only all-wheel drive in this comparison, the other two are front-wheel drive. You can get the Palisade with all-wheel drive but it’s paired with a diesel engine and you can’t get the Carnival with all-wheel drive.

The Palisade and Carnival have eight-speed automatic transmissions, while the Pathfinder has a nine-speed auto.

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

Size and Layout

3.8-litre V6 petrol engine

3.5-litre V6 petrol engine

3.5-litre V6 petrol

Power/Torque

217kW/355Nm

216kW/355Nm

202kW/340Nm

Transmission

8spd automatic

8spd automatic

9spd automatic

Drivetrain

Front-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Braked towing capacity

2200kg

2000kg

2700kg

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

8

8

8

Efficiency – What is their fuel consumption? What are their driving ranges?

An important part of our testing is investigating how much fuel a car uses and we conducted a direct comparison by taking the vehicles in convoy through a 130km loop of every type of road condition you’ll find.

We filled the tanks then headed off though Sydney’s CBD, onto motorways and into the suburbs, then onto some fast and hilly bushland roads, before looping back towards the city just in time to join the 5:00pm peak hour traffic.

Refilling the tanks revealed the real-world fuel consumption of each over the same conditions and distance.

You’ll see in the table below that the Palisade and Carnival came back using almost identical amounts of fuel.

An important part of our testing is investigating how much fuel a car uses. (Image: Sam Rawlings) An important part of our testing is investigating how much fuel a car uses. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

The Pathfinder was thirstier by one litre more per 100km, but remember it's the only all-wheel drive here and generally these drivetrains will increase fuel consumption.  

That’s an interesting finding. If you think an all-wheel drive SUV will use a lot more than a two-wheel drive SUV, then the truth is yes, but not a lot more -  about $2.00 more per 100km.

You’ll also see in the table how much each eight-seater costs to fill.

It’s very close to call here, but the Carnival wins again.

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

Official/combined consumption

10.7/100km

9.6L/100km

10.5L/100km

Real-world test

9.5L/100km

9.9L/100km

10.1L/100km

Minimum RON rating

91RON

91RON

91RON

Fuel tank size

71L

72L

71L

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

7

7

7

Driving – What are they like to drive?

A family car needs to be easy to drive and that includes parking, steering, visibility, how secure it feels on the road as well as comfort over long distances.

The Pathfinder wasn't the easiest for us to drive. We found it more cumbersome to steer with reduced visibility due to a high dashboard. The Pathfinder is also the least civilised in its ride and handling with bumps and rolliness over potholes and through roundabouts. 

We agreed that the Pathfinder’s engine response is a little unpredictable with gear changes from the auto transmission that cause the SUV to surge forward slightly at times. 

The Palisade is the most comfortable to drive with great cushiony suspension that absorbs bumps well. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Palisade is the most comfortable to drive with great cushiony suspension that absorbs bumps well. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

This lack of refinement makes travelling longer distances more tiring.

The Palisade is the most comfortable to drive with big supportive seats and great cushiony suspension that absorbs bumps well. We like the spacious cabin, too, but this SUV feels large and truck-like, with the big, high bonnet. 

The engine in that big nose feels like it has plenty of grunt and while the delivery of that oomph is smooth, it also seems a little lazy and lethargic at times.

The Carnival's steering is light but quick, the engine response is peppy and controllable, while the brakes feel good. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Carnival's steering is light but quick, the engine response is peppy and controllable, while the brakes feel good. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

So, while comfy, the Palisade isn’t the easiest to drive.

In fact, Emily and I found the Carnival the easiest to drive. There's great visibility thanks to the large windows, a low dashboard and short bonnet. The steering is light but quick, the engine response is peppy and controllable, while the brakes feel good.

While not as cushiony to drive as the Palisade the Carnival is definitely more car-like, being lower to the ground, which is better for handling and doesn’t bring the rolliness and lean in the corners of its SUV competitors.

The Pathfinder is the least civilised in its ride and handling with bumps and rolliness over potholes and through roundabouts. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Pathfinder is the least civilised in its ride and handling with bumps and rolliness over potholes and through roundabouts. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Emily and I took turns to be passengers in the second row while the other drove. It's a rare delight as a parent to have somebody do the chauffeuring, and it provided an excellent insight into what our kids experience in the back seat.

Not surprisingly, the Pathfinder proved least comfortable and the Palisade the most comfortable for rear seat passengers.

We’re taking into account not just how much support the seats offer but the degree of head-sway (which causes motion sickness) and amount of jostling back there, too.

The Carnival’s second row seats aren’t as comfy and limo-like as the Palisade, but the ride is refined and settled. An expansive, open space makes the experience less taxing than an SUV’s cabin.

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

8

9

7

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What are their safety ratings?

All of our eight-seaters have been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but as you can see in the table the Pathfinder’s score is fresher. 

The table also shows what safety equipment is featured from AEB and lane keeping assistance to airbags and how many child seat attachment points are on board.

The takeaway here is that all three of our comparison vehicles have airbags which extend to cover the third row occupants.  

All of our eight-seaters have been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. (Image: Sam Rawlings) All of our eight-seaters have been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

Auto emergency braking

Vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian

Vehicle, cyclist, pedestrian

Vehicle, cyclist, pedestrian, junction

Lane keep assist

Yes

Yes

Yes

Blind spot monitoring

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rear cross traffic alert

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rear AEB

Yes

Yes

Yes

Front and rear parking sensors

Yes

Yes 

Yes

Airbags

7

7

9

Airbags 3rd row coverage

Yes

Yes

Yes

Child seat ISOFIX

2 x 2nd row

1 x 3rd row

3 x 2nd row

2 x 3rd row

2 x 2nd row

1 x 3rd row

Child seat top tether

3 x 2nd row

3 x 3rd row

3 x 2nd row

2 x 3rd row

3 x 2nd row

1 x 3rd row

Camera

360 Camera

360 Camera

360 Camera

ANCAP rating (year tested)

Five (2022)

Five (2021)

Five (2022)

ANCAP child protection score

88%

88%

93%

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

8

8

9

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are their service intervals? What are their running costs?

The Pathfinder is covered by Nissan’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and the Palisade matches it with Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, but the Carnival outdoes them with Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

All have capped price servicing, but over five years the Palisade is the most affordable with an average cost of about $400 per year, while the Carnival and Pathfinder will cost on average about $500 per visit.

Service intervals for the Carnival and Palisade are 12 months/15,000km, while the Palisade needs servicing every 12 months/20,000km. 

  • The Palisade is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Palisade is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Carnival is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Carnival is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The Pathfinder is covered by Nissan’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Pathfinder is covered by Nissan’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

The Carnival and Palisade come with 12 months of free roadside assistance. The Hyundai's is renewed for another year every time you service your vehicle at an authorised Hyundai dealer - up to a maximum 10 years. And the Kia deal is similar, up to a maximum of eight years. The Pathfinder has five years of free roadside assistance. 

So, while the Carnival has the longer warranty and that’s certainly peace of mind, the Pathfinder with its affordable servicing and roadside assistance package wins here.  

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

Warranty length

Five-year/unlimited km

Seven-year/unlimited km

Five-year/unlimited km

Yearly average service price (over five years)

$399

$498 

$516

Service interval

12mnths/15,000km

12mnths/15,000km

12mnths/15,000km

Free roadside assistance 

1 year

1 year

5 years

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

8

8

8


The Wrap

The Kia Carnival in the Platinum grade is our winner as the best eight-seater fit for a family in this close comparison. The Carnival stands out with its unbeatable practicality, great value and easy driving nature.

The Palisade in the Highlander grade impresses with its plushness and comfort, while the Pathfinder scores well for its safety and ownership costs.

 

Palisade Highlander

Carnival Platinum

Pathfinder Ti

Price and features

8

9

8

Design

8

8

7

Practicality

8

10

8

Under the bonnet

8

8

8

Efficiency

7

7

7

Safety

8

8

9

Ownership

8

8

8

Driving

8

9

7

OVERALL

7.9

8.4

7.8

Scores

Richard:

The Kids:

$66,800 - $96,888

Based on 249 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.