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Best Hybrid SUVs

The Top-Rated Hybrid SUVs for 2021
February 2nd, 2021

Best Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers for 2021

On paper, a hybrid SUV sounds ideal. A car with a roomy interior, SUV versatility and fuel-thrifty ways? Sign us up.

The reality is a bit more complicated. Since SUVs sit higher off the ground, they create more aerodynamic drag than sleek hybrid hatchbacks like the Toyota Prius that can achieve 50 mpg. Finding space for a hybrid battery pack, especially in an SUV that also needs to offer all-wheel drive, presents an additional challenge for automakers. Rear-seat and cargo space often suffer as a result. And while interest in hybrids tends to rise along with fuel prices, regular crossovers generally tend to offer a more affordable alternative without sacrificing much fuel efficiency.

Accordingly, there are only a few good picks among mainstream models that start at less than $40,000, and only a handful more at the luxury level. But whether you're looking for maximum fuel efficiency with simple utility or something with more style and cachet, we've brought together today's best hybrid SUVs in one place, along with our insightful reviews to help you decide the right fit.

Our editors have compiled robust ratings and reviews for today's crop of hybrid SUVs. We've put these hybrid SUVs through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors. Our analysis dives deep into trim levels, pricing, features, mpg, safety, interior design, and driving and performance. And we pay attention to all the ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors can help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.

About Mainstream Hybrid SUVs

Among SUVs, hybrid technology is no longer limited to premium models. Still, SUVs present unique challenges for fitting and packaging hybrid components such as battery packs and cooling systems, especially in an all-wheel-drive configuration. It's a key reason why so few good affordable choices exist, although this is changing rapidly as big names like Honda and Toyota get serious about building reasonably priced hybrid SUVs.

About Luxury Hybrid SUVs

Moving up to the luxury class of hybrid SUVs brings a wider selection. These models adapt hybrid systems to popular platforms, offering all the luxury goodness of the gas-only SUVs — typically including leather upholstery, heated seats, and advanced infotainment and driver safety aids — with the benefit of increased fuel efficiency. Some even offer three-row seating.

On the downside, hybrid models often cost thousands of dollars more than their gas-only counterparts, which might not prove cost-effective in the long run for some buyers. And don't expect a luxury hybrid SUV to tow as much as non-hybrids; the systems typically can't handle the stress of pulling large loads. Nonetheless, if you're comfortable paying luxury prices, know that you'll have access to the best hybrid SUVs on the market.

About Hybrid SUVs With 3rd Rows

Hybrid components such as batteries and cooling arrays consume a lot of space under the car, so it's remarkable when designers and engineers develop systems that don't compromise interior packaging. The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid and the Lexus RX 450hL are case studies in how to do it right. Both seat seven passengers, making them ideal for larger families that require a fuel-efficient solution.

Best Hybrid SUVs - Mainstream

  1. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    40-41 mpg combined

    2021 Ford Escape Hybrid

    If the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 hybrids just don't do it for you, the Ford Escape Hybrid is an excellent alternative. This crossover delivers on its promise of additional efficiency while avoiding many of the pitfalls of the modern hybrid. It accelerates well on city streets, has a smooth brake pedal for confident stopping, and even feels more composed around corners than the non-hybrid Escape. While the Escape Hybrid is comfortable, it is far from a luxury vehicle. We found the interior quality to be a step down from the CR-V and RAV4. However, the Escape Hybrid has a control layout that makes the right button easy to find, and the technology on hand is stellar, from accurate navigation to helpful safe driving aids. This is a hybrid that emphasizes ease of use, and it pays off in a big way. On our 230-mile evaluation route, the Escape Hybrid outperformed both the CR-V and RAV4 with a 38.4-mpg average. By the way, don't sleep on the Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid, which debuts for 2021 with a starting price of $33,895 and offers a projected electric-only driving range of 37 miles.
  2. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    38 mpg combined

    2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid

    The standard Honda CR-V has been one of Edmunds' top-rated SUVs for years now. It's spacious, comfortable and well-equipped for the price. The CR-V Hybrid promises the same fundamental goodness along with a significant increase in fuel economy. The standard CR-V (with all-wheel drive) gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined, while the CR-V Hybrid jumps up to a whopping 38 mpg combined. As is typically the case with hybrids, the CR-V Hybrid loses some cargo space compared to its conventionally powered sibling, but it still offers 33 cubic feet of storage in the back and lots of clever storage compartments for the driver and passengers. When it comes to price, the CR-V Hybrid only tacks on $1,200 compared to a similarly equipped standard model. That's not much extra coin given the Hybrid's significantly higher potential for savings at the pump, although its impressive 212-horsepower output didn't translate into sizzling performance at our test track — the less powerful regular CR-V reached 60 mph a full second quicker.
  3. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    40 mpg combined

    2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

    Boasting generous ground clearance, a roomy cargo bay and standard all-wheel drive, the RAV4 Hybrid looks and drives like a proper SUV. Compared to its non-hybrid RAV4 counterpart, the RAV4 Hybrid also offers more oomph, delivering a combined gas-electric output of 219 horsepower — good for a 0-60 mph dash of 7.8 seconds, which is more than a second quicker than the standard RAV4. Not surprisingly, the Hybrid's EPA rating of 40 mpg combined is dramatically better than that of the conventional model, making for a win-win proposition given the minimal price premium. To boot, we've found that 40 mpg figure to be very realistic in our testing. But the RAV4's green cred doesn't stop with the fuel-sipping hybrid. The RAV4 Prime plug-in is new for this year, offering 42 miles of purely EV driving on a full charge. It also boasts a blistering 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds — quicker than any Toyota besides the GR Supra.
  4. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    39 mpg combined

    2021 Toyota Venza

    You could be forgiven for mistaking the Toyota Venza for a Lexus. The new crossover has a striking design, quiet cabin and excellent ride comfort on the road. We also found the interior materials to be very high-quality. It's true that the Venza comes with a steep base price for a Toyota. But considering its luxury credentials, plus standard all-wheel drive and driver assistance aids, this is one hybrid that brings a lot to the table besides just fuel efficiency. Of course, that fuel efficiency is nothing to scoff at. The Venza's EPA-estimated 39 mpg combined is very good for the class, and we found it backs up that rating — and more. On our 115-mile evaluation route the Venza returned an eye-popping 44.3 mpg. That is a serious mark in the Plus column, almost enough for us to overlook its tight passenger space and lack of storage options. If you like crossovers for the ease of entry, and don't plan on towing anytime soon, the Venza may be just the efficient SUV you've been waiting for.

Best Luxury Hybrid SUVs

  1. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy (gas only):
    27 mpg

    2020 Audi Q5 Plug-In Hybrid

    Audi has sold electrified versions of its ultra-popular Q5 compact SUV in the past, but this year's model is the first to be a plug-in hybrid. Its 20 miles of EV range is roughly the same as what you'll get in a Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e or BMW X3 xDrive30e, but once the juice runs out, the Q5's four-cylinder engine is more efficient than either of these primary competitors. Most luxury hybrids use their powertrains to provide superior fuel economy and acceleration, and the Q5 is no exception. The 0-60 mph sprint takes just 5.4 seconds — nearly a second quicker than the standard Q5 and only a tenth slower than the sporty SQ5. It's not quite as fun to drive around twisty corners as its performance-minded brethren, but the Q5 PHEV has no problem conquering highway on-ramps. It shares a lengthy list of strengths with its non-hybrid counterpart, including intuitive driving aids, top-notch interior materials and strong value for the money.
  2. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    31 mpg combined

    2021 Lexus NX 300h

    Like the larger Lexus RX 450h hybrid, the smallish Lexus NX 300h is an all-around achiever in its segment. Distantly related to the RAV4 from Toyota, the NX hybrid delivers class-leading fuel economy at an EPA-estimated 31 mpg, courtesy of a four-cylinder gas-electric powertrain and standard all-wheel-drive system. The NX won't dazzle you with speed, but it doesn't disappoint when cruising on the highway or threading through city traffic. A roomy interior, quiet ride and full suite of advanced safety aids enhance the NX's appeal, while only its below-average cargo capacity and quirky mouse-like infotainment controller give us pause. Following the RX hybrid's lead, the NX 300h smartly balances refinement, comfort and fuel savings.
  3. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy (gas only):
    23 mpg combined

    2021 Lincoln Aviator Hybrid

    Any three-row SUV with all-electric range is a noteworthy vehicle. And the recently redesigned Aviator, with a plug-in hybrid powertrain standard on its Grand Touring trim, has a lot to offer at first glance. There is a striking exterior, quick acceleration, and up to 21 miles of EV-only driving on tap. The ride is comfortable, but it can also feel unnaturally soft and floaty and impacts the Aviator's handling. We expected a bit more athleticism with the Aviator's new rear-wheel-drive platform.Still, the Aviator is a hybrid that keeps passenger comfort front of mind. If you prefer a quiet cabin or need seats with ample adjustability, there is a lot to like once you step inside. We're fans of the big and bright touchscreen, as well as effective driver assistance aids that provide an extra layer of protection without being overly intrusive. The Aviator offers a welcome breath of fresh air to the large crossover class, and 21 miles of emission-free range is truly rare at this size.
  4. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy (gas only):
    24 mpg combined

    2021 BMW X3 xDrive30e

    If you mostly make short trips around town in your vehicle, the BMW X3 xDrive30e plug-in hybrid may make a lot of sense for you. Based on the X3, a standout luxury crossover with excellent driving dynamics, the X3 xDrive30e builds upon that foundation with a 12-kWh battery pack under the floor. It provides up to 18 miles of fully electric driving. For drivers who are only making short trips throughout the day, this plug-in X3 could greatly reduce your gasoline consumption — or virtually eliminate it.Of course, 18 miles is not an exceptional number. And once the battery runs out, switching power over to the conventional engine, the X3 xDrive30e actually consumes more fuel than the standard X3 with a four-cylinder engine. And with a Level 2 system, a full charge takes 3.5 hours. While there are some caveats to ownership, if it meets your needs, an X3 with plug-in capability makes an intriguing case in our eyes.

Hybrid SUVs With 3rd Rows

  1. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    27 mpg combined

    2020 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

    There will be no 2021 model year for the MDX as it transitions to a new generation for 2022, but we're still big fans of the outgoing MDX Sport Hybrid. Among luxury hybrid SUVs, the MDX Sport Hybrid comes closest to the optimal combination of performance, utility and fuel economy. On curvy roads, the MDX hybrid feels eager and nimble, and it's impressively quick in a straight line. Inside the cabin, the MDX Sport Hybrid offers plush leather seats, a quiet ride (enhanced by electric-only operation at low speeds) and a cargo area that isn't compromised by all the advanced hardware packaged underneath.Alas, like its hybrid rivals, the MDX hybrid suffers from stiff brake feel that makes it hard to judge stopping distances. The big Acura also transitions awkwardly between electric and gas power, especially at low speeds, which dampens the overall experience. Despite its flaws, the MDX Sport Hybrid delivers strong fuel efficiency for its size. Rated at 27 mpg combined, it recorded an excellent 29.6 mpg on our extended real-world driving loop. You also get an EPA-rated 524 miles of driving range to minimize stops on long trips.
  2. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    29 mpg combined

    2020 Lexus RX 450hL

    Among today's crop of luxury hybrid SUVs, the RX 450hL is one of the best overall performers. Although its cargo capacity is modest by midsize SUV standards, there's plenty of room for most situations. And the third-row seat is a nice offering for families with kids who are small enough to fit back there. Under the hood, meanwhile, there's a hearty V6 engine that's paired with dual electric motors for overall ratings of 308 horsepower and 29 mpg combined. For perspective, consider that the non-hybrid RX 350L model returns just 22 mpg combined.Adding to the RX hybrid's appeal, there's a full suite of standard advanced safety aids, along with the quality and craftsmanship that Lexus is known for — especially inside the cabin. The RX 450hL isn't perfect, though. Despite the muscular 308-hp rating, it accelerates relatively slowly, and its infotainment interface is outdated and frustrating to use. Still, this hybrid gets enough right that it makes sense for SUV shoppers seeking luxury, fuel economy or both.
  3. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy:
    35-36 mpg combined

    2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

    The recently redesigned Toyota Highlander Hybrid improves on the previous model in a number of ways. The current platform provides a bit more cargo space, along with a revised infotainment system that finally includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the option of a much bigger screen. The third row remains tight for the class, and while the interior looks nicer, it's still a bit bland. Gone is the old hybrid V6 powertrain, replaced with a more economical four-cylinder. The loss of about 60 horsepower is definitely noticeable while accelerating, especially with passengers in all three rows. What you do get is significantly improved fuel economy, with an impressive 35-36 mpg combined — an incredible return for such a large vehicle. Overall, the 2021 Highlander isn't significantly more expensive than the gas-only version, making it an even stronger value proposition for efficiency-minded buyers.
  4. Starting price (including destination fee):
    Fuel economy (gas only):
    27 mpg combined

    2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge

    As one of the only three-row luxury plug-ins on the market, the Volvo XC90 Recharge is almost peerless. But you won't pay a premium to enjoy its first-rate interior comfort or generous set of advanced driver aids. Indeed, with a base price of under $65K, the XC90 Recharge costs thousands less than the Lincoln Aviator Hybrid. Though its max EV range of 18 miles is shorter than the Lincoln's 21 miles, the Volvo's four-cylinder engine is much more efficient than the Aviator's V6. Factor in its nearly 86 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, and the XC90 T8 looks like a luxury-utility juggernaut.Except that's not quite the full picture. The T8's stiff ride feels out of place among rival luxury SUVs, while its four-cylinder engine can feel taxed when lugging around the vehicle's ample mass. Even though the engine is "twin-charged" (boosted by both a turbocharger and a supercharger) and assisted by electric propulsion, it tends to run out of steam on hills and grades. It's worth a test drive to determine whether you think these drawbacks outweigh the XC90's style, safety and overall versatility.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid SUVs

Given consumers' preference for crossovers and SUVs today, it makes sense that there would be similar interest in hybrid versions of these versatile vehicles. Conventional hybrid SUVs return excellent fuel economy, especially in city driving, while offering plenty of room for other passengers and cargo.

Plug-in hybrid SUVs go a step further by allowing drivers to top up the battery whenever they're near a charger, making it possible for those with short commutes to travel almost entirely without gas. Depending on where you live, there may also be tax incentives for buying a hybrid or plug-in hybrid SUV, reducing the cost to you. With fewer tailpipe emissions, you also help keep your community's air cleaner.

On the other hand, hybrid battery packs eventually need replacing, which can be a big expense. Hybrid SUVs are also generally at their least efficient when cruising at high speeds, so if you spend a lot of time driving on open roads where the speed limit is 65 mph or higher, you won't see maximal mileage benefits. Furthermore, hybrid SUVs tend to come with a price premium over their non-hybrid competitors, which could very well offset your savings on gas.

Hybrid vs. Plug-In Hybrid

Conventional hybrids are primarily powered by a gasoline engine and aided by an electric motor in certain driving conditions, such as low-speed city driving (which, depending on speed, can be done solely on electric power) or to help boost a surge of acceleration. Nearly all hybrids can self-charge the electric battery through engine power (similar to a generator) or during braking when the kinetic energy generated can be converted to energy stored in the battery pack.

Plug-in hybrids take this a step further by offering a connection that allows the battery pack to be charged from an electrical outlet, either from a standard household-style outlet or from the faster Level 2 and DC fast-charging connections. Recharging the battery this way typically allows the car to travel a short distance on electricity alone, often between 10 and 20 miles, before the gasoline engine kicks in.

Choosing the Right Hybrid SUV for You

Shopping for the hybrid SUV that best suits your needs is a bit like hunting for unicorns. Even the best choices come with certain compromises. There's also the cost-value equation. Put simply, many hybrid SUVs don't deliver significant fuel savings compared to their gas-only counterparts.

But a hybrid SUV can make sense if your driving is limited to short commutes punctuated by stop-and-go traffic, especially if you opt for a plug-in hybrid that offers a cache of electric-only miles. Manage it correctly and you can do much of your driving without ever dipping into the gasoline engine. While hybrid SUVs come with some challenges, they can also be a great fit for many drivers.