2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
MSRP range: $38,735 - $50,640
2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review
- High fuel economy for a three-row SUV
- Sensibly priced compared to the non-hybrid Highlander
- Comfortable ride
- Plenty of standard and available safety features
- Third-row seats are cramped
- Not a whole lot of cargo space behind the third-row seat
- Engine sounds unrefined at full throttle
- No significant changes for 2021
- Part of the fourth Highlander generation introduced for 2020
Plenty of automakers offer midsize three-row SUVs, but only a handful bother to offer a hybrid version. One of them is Toyota with its 2021 Highlander Hybrid. It's fair to say the Highlander Hybrid is the originator of the class since Toyota has come out with four generations since 2006. The latest debuted just last year with a more efficient engine, a little more interior space and new technology features.
Powering the Highlander Hybrid is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that's paired to a hybrid system. Combined, they make 243 horsepower. While that's underwhelming compared to the typical V6-powered SUV, the Highlander Hybrid does get an excellent EPA-estimated 35-36 mpg in combined driving. Is the trade-off in power for greater fuel efficiency worth it? Get our in-depth take on the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid by reading our Expert Rating below.
There are few options when it comes to midsize three-row hybrid SUVs. Luckily, Toyota just happens to make one that's really good. The Highlander Hybrid effectively starts with the solid foundation of the regular Highlander and simply adds excellent fuel economy. It's adequately quick and nimble, and it loses no passenger or cargo space compared to the regular Highlander. Its third-row seat is small by midsize SUV standards, but that's one of few drawbacks.
How does the Highlander Hybrid drive?
The three-row Highlander has the same hybrid powertrain as the RAV4 Hybrid, though Toyota juiced it up a bit to handle the added weight. Our test Highlander accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. That's certainly respectable considering some SUVs with V6s take as much time and are far less fuel-efficient. Emergency braking power is also on par.
Around turns, this hybrid is surprisingly composed. The Highlander Hybrid isn't as athletic as the hybrid version of the Ford Explorer, but handling isn't usually a strong selling point for three-row SUVs. What's more important is ease of driving, and the Highlander Hybrid nails it. Power is readily available and smoothly delivered, and the brakes are smooth and don't exhibit the grabbiness found in some other hybrids.
How comfortable is the Highlander Hybrid?
The Highlander Hybrid's ride quality is plush. It smooths over most road imperfections yet remains controlled without much float at higher speeds. The wide front seats are pretty comfortable even on long drives, and the available second-row captain's chairs deliver nearly the same level of comfort. Alas, the third-row seats remain one of the Highlander's greatest liabilities. Thin padding, a very low seat cushion and limited legroom make them a no-go for most adults.
We like the Highlander's excellent climate control system. It's easy to use and can quickly heat or cool the cabin. At highway speeds, the Highlander is nicely insulated from wind and road noise. The gas engine sounds unrefined when you go full throttle, but otherwise it's noninvasive.
How’s the interior?
The first and second seating rows provide ample space. Unfortunately, the Highlander's third row is one of the most confining by midsize three-row SUV standards. If you're planning on regularly using the full passenger capacity, be sure it meets your needs first.
Adjusting the driver's seat is quick and easy, and there's ample range of adjustment. Tall drivers will likely want the steering wheel to telescope out a little more. Outward visibility, especially for a vehicle this size, is great. The windshield roof pillars are thin, helping you see around turns or in tight parking situations.
The Platinum trim, which is what we tested, also comes with some very useful features such as a camera-based rearview mirror that allows you to see out of the back even if you've fully loaded up the rear cargo area. There's also an available surround-view camera system. It has sharp resolution and can be rotated to look around the vehicle.
How’s the tech?
In recent years, Toyota has trailed other manufacturers when it comes to tech. This latest Highlander Hybrid makes big strides in the right direction, but it still has some minor drawbacks. The optional 12.3-in touchscreen is huge (an 8-inch screen is standard) and it responds quickly to inputs. But its high-gloss surface makes it prone to reflections and smudges. Our Highlander Hybrid Platinum tester had five USB charge ports for the first and second rows but none for the third row.
All Highlanders come standard with a comprehensive suite of advanced driver aids. We like the natural operation of the adaptive cruise control, but we found the lane departure warning slightly too sensitive and the lane centering ineffective at highway speeds.
How’s the storage?
Cargo space is a bit of a mixed bag with the Highlander Hybrid. Behind the third row, there's only 16 cubic feet of space, which is a bit less than what the Ford Explorer provides. Behind the second row, it expands to a better-than-average 48.4 cubic feet. The liftover height is about average for a midsize SUV.
There's decent space for your things, with a few useful shelves across the dash. If you have a phone charging on the wireless pad in the center bin, you have to remove it to access the space beneath. We didn't find it that cumbersome, but you might.
Got small children? You can easily install a large rear-facing car seat in the second row thanks to the generous amount of fore-and-aft movement of the available captain's chairs. The car seat anchors are also easy to locate and access for all types of seats, though there are no anchors in the third row.
How economical is the Highlander Hybrid?
The top trims for the all-wheel-drive Highlander Hybrid get an EPA-estimated 35 mpg combined. Front-wheel-drive versions are a little more efficient at 36 mpg combined.
On our relatively traffic-free evaluation route, we traveled 115 miles at an efficiency of 33 mpg. That's really good for a big three-row SUV, though it's obviously slightly below the EPA estimates. It's still significantly more efficient that the Ford Explorer Hybrid we tested (EPA estimate: 25 mpg combined), which returned 23.3 mpg on average.
Is the Highlander Hybrid a good value?
The Highlander's interior is solidly put together with soft, padded surfaces where they matter most. Toyota's hybrids have a track record for running long and strong, so odds are high this Highlander will serve you loyally. There's good value here, too, whether you're cross-shopping against a Ford Explorer Hybrid or even a regular gas-only Highlander.
Toyota's warranty coverage is pretty common for the class with three years/36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and five years/60,000 miles for the powertrain. Hybrid components are covered for eight years/100,000 miles, and Toyota has extended its hybrid battery coverage for 2020 model year vehicles to a generous 10 years/150,000 miles. The first two years of scheduled maintenance are also free.
The Highlander Hybrid isn't something we'd choose for a winding road but it's no less composed than the lighter, non-hybrid version of itself. It's something you'd look forward to taking a long trip in, though, and some might consider that fun.
The Highlander's new styling gives it a more aggressive vibe overall, but we're not sold on the bold details traveling down the side of the car. To us it looks overdone, but to each their own.
Which Highlander Hybrid does Edmunds recommend?
With the Highlander Hybrid, we recommend the Limited trim. It's one of the more expensive trim levels — only the Platinum costs more — but you get a bunch of appealing features that would otherwise be optional or not available on the LE and XLE.
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Toyota Highlander Hybrid models
The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a three-row midsize SUV offered in four trim levels: LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum. Seating for eight is standard on the base LE trim. Optional for the XLE and Limited and standard for the Platinum are second-row captain's chairs, which reduce total seating to seven. Feature highlights include:
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Trending topics in reviews
- fuel efficiency
- infotainment system
- driving experience
- ride quality
- reliability & manufacturing quality
- road noise
- sound system
- maintenance & parts
- wheels & tires
Most helpful consumer reviews
5/5 stars, 2021 Highlander Hybrid surprises in good ways!
XLE 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
First, all the people complaining about gas mileage, cars get worst gas mileage in the winter. Also, your terrain make a huge difference in avg gas mileage with a hybrid. I live in AL and have been averaging 33+ mpg across the board. Second, it’s a hybrid…it’s going to act different from a normal ICE vehicle. Finally, yes there are some minor flaws. But I’ll take them with the Toyota reliability and retention of value. For the money, you aren’t going to find a better combination for comfort, drivability, value, and style. I looked at every car from a Pilot to Volvo XC90. And we ended up with the highlander hybrid. Couldn’t be happier.
5/5 stars, Great SUV So Far
XLE 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
I ended up trading in my 2011 Toyota RAV4 (non-hybrid) for a 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid because I needed more cargo space but didn't want to take a bit hit on gas mileage considering most of my driving is local/city. During the first week I had the Highlander Hybrid I will admit I was a bit disappointed I was only getting 26 - 29 mpg given that I was trying to maximize the fuel economy. Up to that point I was only driving a few miles each way. Then I had to go into the office, which is a 12-mile trip each way, and I got 43 mpg going to office and 34 mpg coming back. So even though initially I was only getting 26 - 29 mpg, my final mpg is around 35 mpg, which agrees pretty well with the rated gas mileage. The lesson I learned from this was that it's hard to get good gas mileage for short trips because the gas engine will run during initial startup until the engine and hybrid battery warm up. However, for longer trips the warmup period represents a smaller fraction of time. Anyway, don't let short trips persuade you into thinking you're getting poor gas mileage because the chance are you wouldn't be getting more than 15 mpg with a non-hybrid mid-size SUV. Apart from the gas mileage, I find the ride to be quite comfortable and quiet. Yes, the engine gets noticeably louder the harder you press the gas pedal or go uphill, but it doesn't bother me too much considering how quiet it is the rest of the time. My wife has originally wanted bench seats for the 2nd row, so those were the seats in the model we test drove. However, we ended up getting a good deal on a 2021 Highlander Hybrid that came with captain's chairs, and now my wife really likes the captain's chairs. Right now the only negative I have is pretty minor and not worth taking a star from my review. The minor comment has to do with the design of the hood. Personally I really like the way the Highlander looks, but I don't know what the Toyota engineers were thinking when they designed the hood. When looking at the front hood from the side, it almost looks as if the hood is open because there is a noticeable gap between the headlights and the hood. You could literally stick your hand in between. If there was a reason for that design I would certainly like to know what it was.
5/5 stars, A Real Dream Boat
Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
You should not make your first impression of the mpgs of this vehicle in the dead of winter. Hybrids are known to struggle with mpgs below freezing. I got my Highlander Hybrid in December, and have been getting around 28mpg on the coldest days, but once the outside temperatures reach 45 and up, I'm getting well over the estimated 35mpg, often 38mpg with combined suburban and highway driving. Besides, no conventional engine 7 or 8 seater touches this vehicle's winter mpg, even. My only complaint is there is a bit of a whistling noise at high speeds, maybe from the driver's side mirror, or the roof rails. I like that the rear ac/heat vents are placed above the seats, this is an ideal position for passengers who are still in rear-facing carseats. You could pay just as much or more on the competition Japanese rival vehicles, and will be putting much more gas into them even in winter, and making more maintenance trips without the hybrid engine due to stress on components like brake parts, etc. I cannot stress enough what a great vehicle this is. I've owned Swedish, German, Korean, and American vehicles but I keep coming back to Toyota. The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD is the best car I've ever owned.
5/5 stars, Satisfied
XLE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
We have 6000 miles on our 2021 Highlander Hybrid XLE including a 2500 mile highway trip. Our previous vehicle was a 2005 4Runner 6-cyl which we traded in after 180,000 miles. Mileage is steadily in the 36 range for both highway and city driving. The interior is roomy and holds two sets of golf clubs and matching push carts behind the second row seat. The ride is fine... not in the luxury car class but more than smooth enough. The entertainment system (we got the standard one) is fine. We mostly listen to Sirius oldies stations. Overall, it's a really nice comfortable and economical vehicle. Very satisfied.
Features & Specs
- Base MSRP
- MPG & Fuel
- 35 City / 35 Hwy / 35 Combined
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.1 gal. capacity
- 8 seats
- Type: all wheel drive
- Transmission: Continuously variable-speed automatic
- Inline 4 cylinder
- Horsepower: 243 hp @ 6000 rpm
- Torque: N/A
- Basic Warranty
- 3 yr./ 36000 mi.
- Length: 194.9 in. / Height: 68.1 in.
- Overall Width with Mirrors: N/A
- Overall Width without Mirrors: 76.0 in.
- Curb Weight: 4465 lbs.
- Cargo Capacity, All Seats In Place: 16.0 cu.ft.
Our experts’ favorite Highlander Hybrid safety features:
- Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection
- Warns of an approaching vehicle or pedestrian, providing additional braking force or applying the brakes automatically if necessary.
- Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
- Follows the vehicle ahead at a preset distance, with the ability to operate at low speeds or all the way up to 110 mph.
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
- Alerts the driver of possible unintended lane departures and can apply small corrective steering inputs to keep the vehicle in its lane.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid vs. the competition
2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2021 Ford Explorer
Toyota Highlander Hybrid vs. Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer is one of the Highlander Hybrid's few hybrid competitors in the three-row SUV class. The Explorer offers higher towing capability, more power and more room in the third row. The Highlander, however, offers a significantly higher fuel economy rating. It's also a lot less expensive than the Explorer Hybrid.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid vs. Kia Telluride
While it isn't offered with a hybrid powertrain, we think it's worth mentioning the Kia Telluride in any conversation that involves three-row SUVs. With bold exterior styling, a refined interior, and some serious passenger and cargo space, the Telluride took our Top Rated award for an SUV. If you can skip the hybrid, we recommend the Telluride over all rivals. Read Edmunds' long-term road test of the Kia Telluride.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid vs. Lexus RX 450hL
It's definitely more expensive than the Highlander Hybrid, but the RX 450hL has a lot to offer, and for the right buyer, it might just be worth the cost of entry. For starters, the RX's V6 hybrid powertrain offers more power than the Highlander's 2.5-liter offering. The Lexus also delivers much more luxury and an excellent cabin overall.
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Is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid a good car?
The Edmunds experts tested the 2021 Highlander Hybrid both on the road and at the track, giving it a 7.8 out of 10. You probably care about Toyota Highlander Hybrid fuel economy, so it's important to know that the Highlander Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 35 mpg to 36 mpg, depending on the configuration. What about cargo capacity? When you're thinking about carrying stuff in your new car, keep in mind that the Highlander Hybrid has 16.0 cubic feet of trunk space. And then there's safety and reliability. Edmunds has all the latest NHTSA and IIHS crash-test scores, plus industry-leading expert and consumer reviews to help you understand what it's like to own and maintain a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Learn more
What's new in the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid?
According to Edmunds’ car experts, here’s what’s new for the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid:
- No significant changes for 2021
- Part of the fourth Highlander generation introduced for 2020
Is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid reliable?
To determine whether the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is reliable, read Edmunds' authentic consumer reviews, which come from real owners and reveal what it's like to live with the Highlander Hybrid. Look for specific complaints that keep popping up in the reviews, and be sure to compare the Highlander Hybrid's average consumer rating to that of competing vehicles. Learn more
Is the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid a good car?
There's a lot to consider if you're wondering whether the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a good car. Edmunds' expert testing team reviewed the 2021 Highlander Hybrid and gave it a 7.8 out of 10. Safety scores, fuel economy, cargo capacity and feature availability should all be factors in determining whether the 2021 Highlander Hybrid is a good car for you. Learn more
How much should I pay for a 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid?
The least-expensive 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT). Including destination charge, it arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $38,735.
Other versions include:
- Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $50,640
- XLE 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $43,135
- Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $47,440
- Platinum 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $48,690
- Limited 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $45,490
- XLE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $41,535
- LE 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $40,335
- LE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) which starts at $38,735
What are the different models of Toyota Highlander Hybrid?
If you're interested in the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the next question is, which Highlander Hybrid model is right for you? Highlander Hybrid variants include Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), XLE 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), and Platinum 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT). For a full list of Highlander Hybrid models, check out Edmunds’ Features & Specs page. Learn more