Toyota Highlander Review | heycar

Written by Andrew Brady

heycar ratingComfortable but expensive hybrid SUV
  • 2021
  • SUV
  • Hybrid

Quick overview


  • Very versatile seven-seat SUV
  • Hybrid power means it should be fairly cheap to run
  • Better value for money than premium competitors


  • Don't expect to travel any great distance on electric power alone
  • Interior is functional and hardwearing rather than plush
  • You can pick up a Skoda Kodiaq for a lot less

Overall verdict on the Toyota Highlander

"If you're in the market for a hybrid SUV but the RAV4 isn't big enough, the Toyota Highlander is aimed at you. It's a very comfortable choice that's loaded with equipment and ought to be cheap to run – but it's not exactly cheap to buy."

Toyota Highlander exterior static

Now in its fourth generation, this is the first time Toyota has offered the Highlander in the UK. It's expected to be a relatively niche model, and its limited line-up reflects this. There are just two models to choose from, and one petrol-electric hybrid engine setup.

While the Highlander’s £50,000 plus price tag is quite hard to stomach (especially when you could pitch it as an alternative to the affordable Skoda Kodiaq), you do get a lot for your money. 

Excel models get 20-inch alloy wheels, leather seats (heated in the front), a premium sound system and a panoramic sunroof. You also get a powered tailgate, a reversing camera and an eight-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Splash out the extra £2000 for the top-spec Excel Premium and you’ll get ventilated front seats, heated seats for those in the second row, a digital rear-view mirror and a head-up display.

The Highlander shares a platform with the popular Toyota RAV4, as well as the hybrid motor. All models are four-wheel drive, with a 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor on each axle.

Toyota Highlander Excel Hybrid First Drive 2021

Comfort and design: Toyota Highlander interior

"The Toyota Highlander is a spacious choice, with seven seats and a big boot. You sit high up, like a proper four-wheel-drive vehicle, and there are lots of neat touches to make it easy to live with."

Toyota Highlander interior dashboard

Of course, like a lot of seven-seat SUVs, don't expect to carry the entire family and their luggage. The third row of seats are best only used occasionally (for children, ideally) – they're not the most spacious and, with them in use, there's not a huge amount of boot space left.

While the Toyota Highlander doesn't feel as posh rivals like the Volvo XC90, everything feels well made and we have no doubt it'll still be looking good in 10 years' time. The brand likes to use buttons rather than relying on the touchscreen infotainment to perform simple tasks – that's no bad thing, in our books, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow you to access your smartphone apps on the move.

Handling and ride quality: What is the Toyota Highlander like to drive?

"The Toyota Highlander is an SUV that unashamedly puts comfort over sportiness. Its soft suspension soaks up bumpy road surfaces but, chuck it into a sharp bend and you'll find that it wallows like an old-school SUV."

Toyota Highlander exterior moving rear

Power comes from a 2.5-litre petrol engine which works with two electric motors to provide 247PS of power and 239Nm of torque. They're fairly healthy figures but it's quite a heavy car so feels fairly relaxed in its approach to acceleration. It's best to take it easy, anyway, otherwise the CVT automatic gearbox (which is otherwise pretty good) will make its presence known.

Toyota claims that the four-wheel-drive Highlander is more capable than alternatives when the going gets tough, and we have no doubt that it'll make light work of rocky terrain. If you really want to venture into the wilderness, though, look at the bigger Toyota Land Cruiser or Land Rover Discovery instead.

MPG and fuel costs: What does a Toyota Highlander cost to run?

"Officially you'll see late-30s MPG from the hybrid Toyota Highlander and, going by our experience, that ought to be fairly achievable in the real world."

Toyota Highlander exterior front moving

If you cover a lot of miles, you might be better looking at an alternative, as we doubt Toyota's going to introduce the Highlander with a diesel engine. There might be a plug-in hybrid offering, though, like there is on the smaller RAV4.

How much should you be paying for a Toyota Highlander?

"The Toyota Highlander starts from more than £50,000 – which makes it more expensive than the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace and Kia Sorento."

Toyota Highlander exterior side static

There are already deals available on pre-registered and ex-demonstrator models, though. You'll save a couple of grand by shopping around and, once the Highlander trickles down onto the used market, it'll start to look like even better value for money.

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

The Toyota Highlander has been sold around the world (namely in the USA and Japan) since 2000 and it's now in its fourth generation. The latest model, launched in 2021, is the first to be sold in the UK.
Yes, all Toyota Highlander models have seven seats. It's slightly bigger than the Toyota RAV4, pitched against rivals like the Kia Sorento and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
For the time being, the Toyota Highlander is sold exclusively as a hybrid. It shares an engine and platform with the RAV4, powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with two electric motors.

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