What Are Today's Best Hybrid SUVs?
SUVs used to be all about compromise. If you wanted their outdoorsy looks and high seating position, you had to make sacrifices, because SUVs drove like trucks, consumed more fuel, and offered less technology than cars. That’s no longer the case: most modern SUVs are built on car platforms, and therefore offer a comparable driving experience, the same levels of technology, and much better fuel economy. All while giving you the extra space, ride height, and visibility that has made SUVs so popular with American families.
Just like hybrid technology is now mainstream in all passenger vehicles, many SUVs available to U.S. buyers also feature hybrid drivetrains to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Adding hybrid tech can also add an element of all-wheel drive security in some models.
Below, you’ll find five of our favorite new hybrid-powered SUVs, from both mainstream and luxury brands.
Best Compact Hybrid SUV: Kia Sportage Hybrid
Recently redesigned for the 2023 model year, the Kia Sportage is one of the best-looking, and most versatile, compact SUVs on the market. Its sharp lines, LED lighting, and strong stance give it the look of a European luxury SUV – even though it starts at less than $28,000. The Sportage’s interior feels very premium as well, with dual 12.3-inch wide-screen displays for the instrument cluster and infotainment, high-end finishes, and the latest technology. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are a wide array of safety features. Even the entry-level Sportage Hybrid LX comes with forward collision assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection; lane keeping assist; driver attention warning; and more.
There’s new technology under the hood as well. Sportage Hybrid features a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, six-speed automatic, and electric motor. Together they produce a powerful 227 horsepower and deliver 38 MPG in the city and on the highway. While the individual economy numbers aren’t class-leading, the balance between highway and city economy is impressive and the Sportage is a more entertaining SUV to drive than its competitors, with sharp steering and handling.
- Starting MSRP: $27,490
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 38/38
Best Midsize Hybrid SUV: Toyota Venza
Originally introduced in the mid-2000s as a boxy, wagon-shaped crossover, the Venza has evolved into a sleek and stylish SUV that comes exclusively with hybrid power, with impressive fuel economy numbers for its performance and size. Biased primarily towards on-road use, the Venza has a long wheelbase and wide track, which liberates plenty of space inside underneath the sweeping roofline. The Venza is very well-equipped for the price, with power seats, a power liftgate, and a luxurious interior packed with tech. The digital rear-view mirror gives a much better view out back than a conventional mirror; a giant central screen controls an intuitive infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. And there’s a panoramic glass sunroof as well as a thumping JBL audio system. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is also standard, with active cruise control, lane assist, automatic braking, and pedestrian detection.
The Toyota Venza is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine augmented with twin electric motors. Total power output is 219 horsepower, while still delivering 40 MPG in the city. The two motors let it power itself on electricity alone for short distances, and provide additional traction at the rear when needed – without the weight and fuel economy penalty of a lot of extra hardware.
- Starting MSRP: $34,120
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 40/37
Best Large Hybrid SUV: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
If your mainstream SUV needs exceed the size and teardrop shape of the excellent Venza, Toyota’s larger Highlander Hybrid is your best choice. With an extra-long wheelbase, it has three rows of comfortable seating, along with a very large, very versatile cargo area. Luxury features include three-zone automatic climate control, LED lighting, available wireless phone charging, available quilted synthetic suede-and-leather trim, an awesome audio system, and a 12.3-inch infotainment system with CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa built-in. Five USB ports help make sure all your passengers stay connected and comfortable.
Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the Highlander Hybrid is a great road trip vehicle. Its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, backed with electric motors, produces 243 system horsepower, more than enough for smooth, swift acceleration and comfortable cruising. Interior refinement is excellent, and family-friendly safety features abound thanks to the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system.
- Starting MSRP: $40,220
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 36/35
Best Hybrid Luxury SUV: Lexus RX450h
The Lexus RX450h is the latest version of one of the pioneering luxury hybrid vehicles – so it’s no surprise it’s such an all-round accomplished package. Starting at just under $50,000 with all-wheel drive, the RX450h has a powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine as well as an electrically-powered rear axle to produce 308 hp – providing standard all-wheel drive and great all-weather stability and traction. Able to drive short distances on electric power alone, the RX450h’s driving experience is smooth and silent, while still delivering impressive city and highway fuel economy.
The best part of the RX450h is its interior, which has beautiful finishes, easy-to-use electronics, with a large central screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa built-in, as well as a fantastic Mark Levinson sound system. Comprehensive safety features include the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, with pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane assist, road sign recognition, radar cruise control, and more. If you need even more space, there’s a long-wheelbase RX450hL with a third row of seats available.
- Starting MSRP: $50,150
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 31/28
Best Large Hybrid Luxury SUV: Volvo XC90 Mild Hybrid
In case you haven’t noticed, Volvo is pushing its environmental credentials as hard as its safety credentials these days. And no wonder: every vehicle in its diverse lineup has hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or full-electric power, and the company is well on its way to becoming a zero-emissions brand. We also really love Volvo’s distinctive styling and its gorgeous, high-end interiors – and the XC90 has one of the best cabins available at any price. The materials are beautiful, with a selectin of trim materials that includes matte-finish wood, textured leather, brushed aluminum, and jewel-like details such as an available crystal gearshift. All this, along with a very easy-to-use vertical touchscreen and digital instrument cluster powered by Google – which seamlessly integrate maps, a virtual assistant, Google Play, and more.
The XC90 is a spacious three-row SUV that is actually great to drive as well. Its powertrain includes a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as well as a 48-volt battery that recovers energy produced while braking, giving 295 hp. All-wheel drive is standard, providing safety and security in all driving conditions. The XC90 is also packed with safety gear, including blind spot monitoring, steering assist, pre-collision warning and braking, and even rear cross-traffic alert and braking.
- Starting MSRP: $56,000
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 22/28