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While the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is an excellent SUV, it has made some owners turn up their noses. Literally, because some Hyundai Palisade trims began to emit a mysterious odor. It was a bizarre event that almost seemed like science fiction. Let’s see if this issue was solved. 

Does the 2020 Hyundai Palisade stink? 

A 2022 Hyundai Palisade midsize crossover SUV driving down a highway with homes on grassy hills in the background
2022 Hyundai Palisade | Hyundai Motor America

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade did have the potential to stink due to a manufacturing problem. The team at described the stench as body odor and rotting produce. Imagine going to work while fighting a smelly environment in your brand new SUV. 

This issue seemed to be limited to the Limited and Calligraphy trim levels. They were manufactured with imitation-leather head restraints that got all of the blame. After a few months of driving, especially during warmer weather, they would stink. 

How was the 2020 Palisade problem solved? 

There were a few different steps taken to correct the smelly 2020 Hyundai Palisade problem. One step involved removing the headrests and spraying them with a product to eliminate the odor. 

Some owners reported that once the headrests were removed, the smell was gone. This localized the issue to the synthetic Nappa leather that was used. Although, placing the headrests back in the SUV didn’t help because the odor quickly returned. 

Then the team sent their Hyundai Palisade model back to the dealership for six weeks. While it was there, the headrests were removed and placed in plastic bins to be treated with different deodorizing chemicals. 

But the smell still persisted, especially on hotter days. So Hyundai finally replaced all seven headrests for $2,335. Luckily, it was covered by the warranty. Technicians also sprayed more deodorizer into the seat cavities. 

Now the smell is still noticeable at times, but it’s not as strong as it used to be. Using the climate control system and opening the windows to air out the cabin can help. 

The odor could still be lingering due to other parts of the interior that are crafted with the same synthetic leather. But Hyundai suggests different types of materials were used. A technical service bulletin explains how to really get into tight spaces with cleaning products and odor eliminators. 

How big is this Hyundai Palisade problem? 

2020 Hyundai Palisade interior
2020 Hyundai Palisade interior | Hyundai

Reportedly there were a small amount of 2020 Hyundai Palisade complaints made to the manufacturer compared to the number of SUVs sold. This makes it difficult to gauge how many customers struggle with the same issue. 

However, hundreds of people have been posting on forums and messaging about the odor problem. Over half of the Palisade models sold in 2020 included leather related to the terrible smell. 

Owners were paying about $50,000 for a luxury vehicle that made them gag. Owners seem to be out of luck unless they sell their vehicles. This is pretty frustrating as Hyundai’s solutions don’t seem effective. 

The odors still linger after having the headrests replaced with updated options that have different materials. The smelly problem doesn’t seem to be a problem with the 2021 or 2022 models, at least. We will keep an eye out for potential lawsuits and recalls related to this ongoing problem.


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