SUVs are like chocolate. There are a few different varieties, and some are fancier while others are old favorites. But there’s bound to be one that you like; that’s how they’ve become so popular in recent years. Hybrid SUVs are like peanut butter. They’re mostly good for you, yet they’re a reliable pick. Who doesn’t love peanut butter?
Our team has driven dozens of hybrids and SUVs over the years, and we’ve picked the best of what’s out there so far. The sweet spot, if you will.
Aside from fuel efficiency, we’ve taken into account each vehicle’s emissions. Fuel efficiency is something we can feel as car owners every time we stop for gas. We know how long it takes to fill up, how much it costs, and how far we can make it between trips to the station. But let’s not forget that a hybrid system also means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these SUVs is not only a fuel sipper but also an environment saver – as much as any SUV can be, anyway,
Best Hybrid SUV: 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Who it’s for: People who need good gas mileage, three rows, and reliability.
Why you should buy it: To lessen your guilt when you need a 3-row SUV to fit your family.
How much will it cost: $38,200+
This midsize SUV gets 35 mpg combined, which is decent for a sedan, let alone an SUV that can carry seven. (As in most SUVs, the third row is probably a better fit for kids than adults, but still.) It also emits a low 254 grams/mile of carbon dioxide, as estimated by the EPA. Toyota was an early operator in the hybrid space, and it maintained its commitment to this powertrain. After two decades on the market, Toyota’s hybrid technology is widely considered to be boringly competent, and the Highlander has a history of great predicted reliability scores.
You also receive a lot for the money in the Highlander Hybrid. Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of driver assistance tech is standard, as is all-wheel drive. It was completely redesigned for 2020, so some things that were notably missing in past years, like Android Auto, are now included. Amazon Alexa compatibility is also standard, along with Apple CarPlay.
The redesign updated the interior, and the whole vehicle uses lightweight materials. That contributed to the boost in miles per gallon between 2019 and 2020. The floor-mounted batteries are tucked out of the way, so there’s as much passenger and cargo space in the hybrid as in the non-hybrid Highlander.
Best Luxury Hybrid SUV: 2020 Lexus RX 450h
Who it’s for: Drivers who don’t want to sacrifice style and comfort for fuel economy.
Why you should buy it: It’s a reliable Toyota hybrid in a fancy Lexus outfit.
How much will it cost: $44,150+
The RX 450h gets a combined 30 mpg, and it 297 grams of CO2/mile. It has dual electric motors that work with the gasoline engine to put out 308 total horsepower, which is plenty for comfortable highway cruising, though not for g-force-inducing acceleration. Those are pretty great numbers for an SUV, but not the kind of numbers that convince people to pay $45,000 or more.
No, the reason people pay for a Lexus is that they are so very luxurious, with high-end materials and a nearly silent cabin. The RX got a refresh this year, but not a full redesign. That means they updated a few cosmetic things and added some features. The infotainment system now comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Lexus also ditched its “remote touch” input system for a touch screen, which is maybe more common but is definitely more usable. The standard Lexus Safety System+, which includes bicycle detection and automatic cruise control, is standard.
Best Affordable Hybrid SUV: 2020 Toyota RAV4
Who it’s for: Drivers who want a hybrid SUV but don’t want to have to take a second job to afford it.
Why you should buy it: Inexpensive in this case doesn’t mean cheap or unreliable.
How much will it cost: $25,950+
For about the same price as any compact SUV on the market, it’s possible to buy a RAV4 Hybrid that gets 40 mpg combined. That’s better than most non-hybrid cars. It also emits only 223 grams of CO2/mile. The RAV4’s electric motor does it a favor by adding torque to the drivetrain, so it feels peppier to drive than its non-hybrid counterpart. It also makes 219 total horsepower, which is again more than the gasoline version. It’s really a no-brainer if you’re trying to decide between the regular and the hybrid RAV4.
Many features that are standard in more expensive Toyotas – and even some Lexus models – are standard in the RAV4. This includes all-wheel drive, smartphone connectivity, Safety Sense 2.0, and Wi-Fi. Despite its small size, there’s plenty of room for people and their stuff. The rear seats in particular have actual legroom. Yet it’s still maneuverable in tight spaces like parking garages.
Best Plug-in Hybrid SUV: 2020 Volvo XC60
Who it’s for: Anyone who’s not quite sure they want to go all the way electric.
Why you should buy it: There’s a lot of advanced technology in the XC60 for not outrageous price
How much will it cost: $40,150+
This was a tough call because the XC60 only gets 27 mpg combined when it’s running on gasoline. But it gets 57 MPGe in hybrid mode, and it can travel about 20 miles using only electric power when it’s fully charged. It does have the lowest estimated CO2 emissions on this list, at 192 grams/mile. The hybrid system together produces 400 horsepower, and it’s quick on acceleration.
But why choose the Volvo XC60 instead of, say, the 2020 Kia Niro plug-in hybrid, which gets 46 mpg combined and 105 MPGe? Because when you load up the Niro with all the extras, you’re still short of what the Volvo comes with, yet you’ll pay about $35,000.
The base trim of the Volvo has a luxury leather interior and large cargo area, and there’s a 9-inch vertical touch screen with smartphone compatibility. Volvo’s City Safety system is standard, with all the usual advanced driver assistance features plus large animal detection and scanning for other vehicles at intersections.