Three-row crossovers are now the norm for families, but if you’re also worried about the rising gas prices, there are a few hybrid options to choose from. The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the perfect compromise for buyers that want the extra seating capacity and versatility of a three-row crossover, but also don’t want to pay extra at the pump. It’s surprising that there aren’t more hybrid three-row crossovers other than the Highlander, Ford Explorer and Kia Sorento, but the Highlander easily beats the Ford with its lower starting price and higher fuel economy rating.

The Highlander Hybrid is rated at 36 mpg city and 35 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined with front wheel drive, while the all-wheel drive version is rated at 35 mpg across the board. That’s a big improvement over the V6-powered Highlander that’s rated at 21/29/24 mpg with front-wheel drive. To compare the Ford Explorer Hybrid is rated at 27 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined, which is why the Highlander Hybrid shines, but it comes up a tad short compared to the Sorrento. The Kia Sorento is rated at 39 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined.

Under the hood there’s a two-motor hybrid that pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with two electric motor-generators and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The powertrain generates a combined 243 horsepower. The powertrain is silky smooth although it would be nice if there were a few more horses under the hood. Around town the hybrid powertrain has enough power to zip around, but when accelerating on a highway, the powertrain runs out of steam fast. The powertrain also gets really loud when you mash the pedal to the floor.

2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

The Highlander Hybrid is also not very exciting to drive. The suspension is tuned for comfort, which is why the ride is so comfortable, but don’t expect it to love carving up a back country road.

Inside the Highlander Hybrid has room for up to eight passengers if you select a bench seat for the second-row, if you go for captain’s chairs in second-row then there’s room for seven. The interior is spacious with ample room in the first two rows, although the third row is a bit cramped. Most of the three-row crossovers come up short when it comes to space, but the Highlander’s third row feels more snug than more of its rivals.

2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

Besides the issues with the third row, the Highlander Hybrid’s interior is posh and comfortable. It feels like a Lexus with its comfortable seats and quiet interior. There are plenty of tech stand outs as well, like its 12.3-inch touchscreen, a 11-speaker JBL sound system and 10-inch color head-up display. The infotainment system is bright and crisp, but its graphics are outdated. We can’t wait until Toyota’s newest system that debuted on the 2022 Tundra is offered throughout its lineup. Thankfully Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard.

On the safety front the Highlander comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver assistance features, like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and traffic sign recognition.

The good news is that the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid starts at a reasonable $39,585, which is a lot cheaper than the Explorer Hybrid, which has starts at over $11k than the Highlander.

Infotainment System and Tech Features
Fuel Economy
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2021-toyota-highlander-hybrid-review-a-fuel-efficient-family-haulerThe 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid stands out with its car-like fuel economy ratings, which means that buyers don't have to compromise if they want a spacious SUV that's also fuel efficient.