Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review & Prices

If you want a practical seven-seater but don’t want a diesel, the hybrid-only Highlander is a solid choice. It’s big, comfy and smooth, but some hybrid SUVs are better to drive

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Reviewed by Carwow after extensive testing of the vehicle.

What's good

  • Room for seven and their luggage
  • Smooth and efficient hybrid
  • Lots of standard kit

What's not so good

  • It's not exactly cheap
  • Slower than other big SUVs
  • Cabin tech is disappointing

Find out more about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Is the Toyota Highlander a good car?

The Toyota Highlander is a large, seven-seat SUV that sits above the company’s RAV4 in size and is only offered as a hybrid. You’d be forgiven for having never heard of a Toyota Highlander, as this is the first time the model has been sold in the UK. It’s hugely popular in the US, however, where millions of the things have been sold over the past two decades.

Like Halloween, fast food and large fridge freezers, many things made popular in America have also become popular in Europe. But cars aimed at the States quite often flop over here. Thankfully, though, the Highlander is a worthy new addition to Toyota’s UK range.

The Highlander is aimed at big, seven-seat SUV alternatives such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. But it’s also priced to compete with basic versions of the Audi Q7 and Land Rover Discovery. The latter offer posher badges, but they can’t match the Highlander’s long list of standard equipment.

If you expected the Toyota Highlander to have the same angular, creased look as the smaller RAV4, you’ll either be disappointed or relieved (depending on your view). It’s much more conventional-looking. In fact, it looks a little bit bland next to the more distinctive Kia Sorento.

The same applies to the cabin, which is clearly more about function than beauty. That’s no bad thing, however, especially in a family SUV: everything feels built to last, although some plastics don’t feel or look as nice as they should for the price. At least there’s some plush soft-touch trim dotted about the place to improve things.

Ease-of-use is a big thing here: Toyota has resisted the urge to cover the dash in fiddly touch-sensitive buttons or bury every function in the touchscreen. That means it’s not the most attractive cabin, granted, but many will see it as a worthy sacrifice. It’s a pity the infotainment already looks and feels a bit old-school, though.

Still, the seats are comfortable, visibility is great and you’ll have no complaints from passengers in terms of space – the Highlander is one of the roomiest SUVs on the market. Front passengers have loads of space and there’s an enormous cubby between the seats.

Exciting and fun to drive the Highlander isn't, but if you want comfy and relaxing family transport it's a good buy

But it’s in the back where the Toyota Highlander really excels; the middle row offers generous legroom, especially with the sliding and reclining seats pushed all the way back, while headroom is still good even with the standard panoramic sunroof. There’s a flat floor so three people isn’t a squeeze, either. The third row is best for kids but fine for adults on short journeys, and those chairs are certainly more useable than they are in something like a Skoda Kodiaq.

The Toyota Highlander also has reclining seatbacks for the third row: not all SUVs have this, and it allows you to make your sixth and seventh passenger more comfortable, or maximise boot space. The boot itself is just big enough for a weekly shop with all seats in place, and bigger than an Audi Q7 with the third row folded. The only downside is the lack of any handy electric folding mechanism for the seats.

At least deciding which engine to have is easy, as there is only one. It’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol combined with two electric motors – one for the front wheels and one for the rear – making the Toyota Highlander four-wheel drive.

With 246hp pulling a two-tonne car, performance is okay, but not brilliant. It’s quick off the mark and builds speed reasonably well, but because it uses a CVT automatic gearbox the engine sounds like it’s screaming for relief when you put your foot down. At least with no gears to change it’s super smooth around town, and the hybrid system juggles between electric and petrol power well.

The soft suspension of the Toyota Highlander makes for a comfortable and refined ride – great for potholed British roads. It does mean it’s not as sharp in the bends as some rivals and the car feels a bit disconnected from the road, but who is buying a large SUV for handling anyway?

The Toyota Highlander isn’t the cheapest large SUV around, so why not see how much you can save on our deals page? If your budget can't quite stretch to a brand new model, make sure you check out our used Toyota deals, too.

How much is the Toyota Highlander?

The price of a used Toyota Highlander Hybrid on Carwow starts at £32,490.

The Toyota Highlander has its work cut out amongst some very capable seven-seater SUVs. Its hybrid drivetrain makes it an alternative to the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento which both offer electrically assisted drivetrains, although at lower price points. The Highlander is more spacious inside, though.

The posher Audi Q7 and Land Rover Discovery also offer seven seats and are priced similar in their entry-level trims, although come less well equipped.

There’s just one engine and trim level to pick from, so if the Highlander appeals to you, the buying decision is a simple one.

Performance and drive comfort

The Highlander is at its best on the open road, offering a comfortable and refined driving experience. It’s not especially quick though

In town

A large seven-seater SUV isn’t the ideal vehicle for tight city streets, but a great driving position and a decent ride quality go some way to making the Highlander feel capable around town.

Standard front and rear parking sensors as well as a pre-collision system help avoid bumps and scrapes, and the smooth switch between electric and petrol power makes for a relaxing drive.

On the motorway

A large SUV is generally at its best out on the open road, and the Highlander is no different. It lopes along comfortably, with minimal road and wind noise permeating the cabin. Comfort and space are good in all three rows – not a given in all seven-seater alternatives. Adaptive cruise control and lane departure alert are standard fitment, great for taking the strain out of long motorway journeys.

The self-charging hybrid powerplant is capable enough but ask too much of it and the CVT automatic transmission will have the petrol engine mooing away in a rather unrefined manner. A fully loaded Highlander is not a quick vehicle, and most alternatives offer more performance at this price point.

On a twisty road

Racing down a twisty road isn’t what the Highlander (or any seven-seater SUV) is really about, but despite its mass and soft suspension, it manages to remain composed and comfortable at saner speeds. An Audi Q7 may feel sharper to drive, but that’s hardly the point of this sort of car.

Space and practicality

You won’t want for more passenger or storage space in the Highlander, although most alternatives have posher interiors

The Toyota Highlander is superbly spacious, and both front seats are electrically adjustable and both heated and ventilated. The driver also gets electric lumbar support, and the steering wheel can be adjusted for both rake and reach.

There’s a massive centre armrest which opens up to reveal a large storage area and a handy wireless phone charging shelf.  A pair of cupholders are situated next to the gear lever, and there’s a small nook in the centre console that will take some loose items.

The glovebox is a decent size, as are the door bins. There are also a couple of fabric-lined storage spots in the dashboard for wallets and other knick knacks. Owning a Highlander means never having to leave anything behind.

Space in the back seats

Any large seven-seater SUV will have plenty of space in the front row, but it is in the back two rows where you separate the merely roomy from the truly spacious. The Highlander falls into the latter category, with the heated and adjustable second row seats offering plenty of head and leg room for the tallest adults. Even the third-row seats can be reclined – not a common feature – allowing you to maximise passenger comfort or boot space. Adults will fit in the rearmost seats, too, and won’t feel too claustrophobic thanks to a standard panoramic sunroof. They are better suited for kids on longer trips, but alternatives like the Skoda Kodiaq are less accommodating.

Storage space is limited to front seatback pockets and a pair of door bins for the second row. There are also some cup holders for the passengers in the third-row. ISOFIX mounting points are fitted to the two outer seats in the second row.

Boot space

With all seven seats in place, you get 241 litres of boot space packed to the tonneau cover. Fold the third row flat and you can pack in 838 litres of cargo if you load it up to the roof. If you are planning to move house, then folding both rear rows down will allow you to pack 1,882 litres of goods into the rear – loaded to the roof. These figures are similar to what you get in an Audi Q7, but trail the cavernous Land Rover Discovery which offers 258, 1,137 and 2,406 litres respectively in the abovementioned configurations.

Still, the Highlander has a wide load bay with no load lip and plenty of nifty hooks and storage spots to secure smaller items. There’s also a spot under the boot floor to store the parcel shelf, although most alternatives offer electric folding mechanisms for the third row seats, something not fitted to the Highlander.

Interior style, infotainment and accessories

The Toyota Highlander is well-equipped and has a fuss-free interior design. It does lack some of the style and luxury feel that has become the norm in this class, though

You won’t find fault with the build quality and most of the materials feel hard-wearing with some nice soft-touch plastics dotted about the cabin. It’s just that the look and feel of the Highlander’s interior seems distinctly outdated relative to more modern alternatives.

That wouldn’t be such an issue at a lower price point, but here you’re making mental comparisons with the slick Audi Q7 or modern Kia Sorento. You do get a lot of kit for your money, though, as the Highlander is now only available in top-spec Excel Premium trim.

The infotainment system is Toyota’s 12.3-inch Smart Connect unit, offering wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as the expected DAB radio and sat nav functionality. It too looks like a throwback to the early 2000s, with graphics and an operating system that pales in comparison to those found in just about any alternative.

It does respond reasonably well to inputs, however, and the 11-speaker JBL Premium Sound System sounds great. You also get USB connectors in the first and second rows and if Toyota’s interface bugs you then you can always use your phone’s built-in apps instead.

The driver display consists of two circular dials with a small digital display in the middle. The readouts are clear, but it feels like a generation or two behind the fully configurable digital displays found as standard on other SUVs.

MPG, emissions and tax

Whereas most alternatives in this segment offer a range of engine options, the Highlander has just one. It is a 2.5-litre petrol engine paired with two electric motors. This makes it all-wheel-drive and, as a self-charging hybrid, it can drive for short distances on battery power alone.

Total combined power is 244hp, giving the heavy Highlander leisurely rather than electrifying performance. The electric assistance helps it get off the line without trouble, and it feels at its best at lower speeds where the unobtrusive CVT automatic gearbox keeps the engine humming away in the background. The 0-62mph sprint is over in 8.3 seconds accompanied by a loud mooing noise from the engine bay thanks to that CVT gearbox.

Overall performance is behind what you can expect from an entry-level Land Rover Discovery or Audi Q7, but matches up well to the all-wheel-drive 265hp self-charging hybrid powertrain offered in the Hyundai Santa-Fe. The Highlander can manage up to 37.7mpg in mixed driving, slightly better than the Audi and Land Rover, and once again on par with the Hyundai.

In practice, the Highlander feels adequately responsive in most driving conditions, but if you want more performance then you’ll be better off with the likes of the Audi Q7.

Safety and security

The Highlander has not yet been tested by Euro NCAP, although it should perform well considering how its Toyota stablemates have fared in recent years.

With just one very comprehensively equipped trim level on offer, you get a lot of active and safety equipment as standard. This includes surround parking sensors, lane departure alert, adaptive high beams, a pre-collision system, brake assist and blind spot monitoring to name a few.

Reliability and problems

The Highlander is a relatively new model in Toyota UK’s line up and as such it’s too early to tell how reliable it will be in the years to come. It has been available in other markets for decades though and has proven to be a solid vehicle with few issues.

Toyota offers its standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty for the Highlander, with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the hybrid components. However, if you have your car serviced each year at a Toyota authorised repairer you get an additional 12-month/10,000-mile warranty up to a maximum of 10 years and 100,000 miles. That makes it more of a match for the impressive five-year/unlimited mileage warranty offered by Hyundai and Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.

The Highlander has had two recalls so far. One was for the emergency calling system while the other was for incorrectly manufactured front seatback frames.

Buy or lease the Toyota Highlander Hybrid at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
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