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2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid ranks in the middle of the hybrid and electric SUV class. It has a peppy yet efficient powertrain, a smooth ride, user-friendly features, and a great predicted reliability rating, but it’s let down by its cramped third-row seats and lackluster handling.

Pros & Cons

  • Punchy yet efficient hybrid powertrain
  • Comfortable ride
  • Upscale interior
  • Many standard tech and safety features
  • Cramped third row
  • Relatively high starting price

New for 2020

  • Fully redesigned
  • Support for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa

Rankings & Awards

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid's #2 ranking is based on its score within the Hybrid and Electric SUVs category. It was the winner of our 2020 Best Hybrid or Electric SUV for Families award. Currently the Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a score of 8.1 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 8 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

8.1

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.4
Performance: 7.2
Interior: 6.8
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.2 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid a Good SUV?  

Yes, the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a great SUV. It has an upscale interior with three rows of seats, a user-friendly infotainment system, and many standard tech and safety features. It’s comfortable to drive on rough roads, and its hybrid system scoots the SUV around confidently.

The Highlander Hybrid also offers a generous 84 cubic feet of cargo space, making it quite a capable workhorse for weekend projects. Better still, it rates highly for predicted reliability. We named the Highlander Hybrid our 2020 Best Hybrid or Electric SUV for Families because of its superior combination of cargo and passenger space, safety and reliability ratings, positive reviews from automotive journalists, and available family-friendly features.

All in all, the Highlander Hybrid does everything you’d expect of a family SUV but with the fuel economy of a compact car. It gets an estimated 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

Should I Buy the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

You should absolutely consider the Highlander Hybrid if you need a three-row SUV but don’t want to pay for it at the gas pump. The Highlander Hybrid delivers this level of practicality and efficiency with almost no compromises. This SUV’s major drawback is its cramped third row, which is only suitable for small children.

If you want a midsize SUV with an adult-friendly third row, look to rivals like the Honda Pilot or Volkswagen Atlas. If you don’t need three rows, there are more efficient hybrid and electric SUVs to consider, like the Kia Niro and Toyota’s own RAV4 Hybrid.

We review the nonhybrid Toyota Highlander separately.

Compare the Highlander Hybrid, Niro, and RAV4 Hybrid »

Should I Buy a New or Used Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

Toyota redesigned the Highlander Hybrid for the 2020 model year. As a result, you won’t find many used models from this generation, at least for a while.

You can likely save money by shopping for a previous-generation Highlander Hybrid, which spans the 2014 to 2019 model years, but you’ll have to make a few concessions. These older models have a V6 hybrid system (versus the four-cylinder in the new Highlander Hybrid), and they don't match the fuel economy of the new Highlander Hybrid (30/28 mpg versus 36/35 mpg). These models also don’t have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or Amazon Alexa capability, which became standard for 2020.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 Highlander Hybrid, 2018 Highlander Hybrid, and 2019 Highlander Hybrid reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Highlander Hybrid »

We Did the Research for You: 8 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed eight Toyota Highlander Hybrid reviews, as well as hard data points like fuel economy estimates and reliability scores, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our team has decades of experience in the auto industry. Though we’re passionate about cars, we’re even more committed to providing helpful consumer advice. To maintain objectivity, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Cost?

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid has a starting price of $38,200. That’s higher than average for the hybrid and electric SUV segment, as well as the midsize SUV class. Prices rise to $50,200 for the fully loaded Platinum model.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander or Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

The redesigned Toyota Highlander and its hybrid variant are both good SUVs. They offer quality interiors, seating for up to eight, user-friendly features, and a comfortable ride quality. Both also rate highly for predicted reliability. The core differences are price and fuel economy. The standard Highlander starts at $34,600, and its V6 engine gets up to 21/29 mpg city/highway, whereas the Highlander Hybrid starts at $38,200 and returns 36/35 mpg city/highway. It’s up to you to decide where to save your money – upfront or at the pump.

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander Hybrid or Lexus RX Hybrid?

The Highlander Hybrid’s redesign has helped narrow the interior refinement gap between it and its Lexus RX Hybrid cousin, although the Lexus is still the one to pick if you want a full luxury experience. It feels ritzier inside, and its V6 hybrid system delivers stronger passing power than the Toyota. Otherwise, the Highlander is the better buy. It’s roomier, it gets better fuel economy, and it costs less than the Lexus by a few thousand dollars.

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander Hybrid or Ford Explorer Hybrid?

The Ford Explorer Hybrid aims for a slightly different target than the Highlander Hybrid, as it’s more of a performance vehicle. The Explorer offers a brawnier V6 hybrid system with 318 horsepower, giving it stronger acceleration and better towing ability than the Highlander, but it gets lower fuel economy ratings of just 27/29 mpg city/highway. The Ford costs about $14,000 more than the Toyota as well. Despite that, the Explorer doesn’t feel as upscale inside, and it can't seat as many passengers as the Highlander. We think most shoppers will be happier with the Toyota.

Compare the Highlander Hybrid, RX Hybrid, and Explorer Hybrid »

Highlander Hybrid Interior

How Many People Does the Highlander Hybrid Seat?

The Highlander Hybrid has eight seats, and a seven-seat layout is available. You can trade the second-row bench seat for a pair of captain’s chairs, which also make it easier to access the third row.

The first- and second-row seats are well-cushioned and reasonably spacious, even for taller adults. The third row is cramped, however, and its knees-up seating position is uncomfortable. These seats are best reserved for small children and ideally only on short trips.

Cloth upholstery is standard. Synthetic leather upholstery, genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats are available.

Highlander Hybrid and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the Highlander Hybrid’s second-row outboard seats. The second- and third-row middle seats also have a single tether anchor. The anchors are easy to find and can’t be confused with other hardware.

Highlander Hybrid Interior Quality

Apart from its new sheet metal, the 2020 Highlander Hybrid’s most significant update is its redesigned cabin. The dashboard sports a clean and modern appearance, and most interior surfaces are wrapped in quality materials. The cabin remains hushed at higher speeds as well. From the inside at least, the Highlander Hybrid could nearly pass as a Lexus.

Highlander Hybrid Cargo Space

The Highlander Hybrid has 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats, 48.4 cubic feet with these seats folded, and a total of 84.3 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded. That’s terrific by hybrid and electric SUV standards, though it still trails midsize SUV competitors like the Volkswagen Atlas and Chevrolet Traverse.

A power liftgate is standard, and a hands-free power liftgate is available.

Highlander Hybrid Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Highlander Hybrid comes well-equipped with standard features. These include an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth, four USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a six-speaker stereo, HD Radio, satellite radio, tri-zone automatic climate control, and Driver Easy Speak (an in-car intercom system).

The infotainment screen has crisp graphics and a simple menu structure, and it responds quickly to inputs. It’s also complemented by physical buttons and knobs for the main audio and climate controls, so you don’t have to rely on the touch screen for every function. All in all, it’s a fairly easy setup to use on the go.

Optional upgrades include a 12.3-inch touch screen, navigation, wireless device charging, and an 11-speaker JBL sound system.

Read more about interior »

Highlander Hybrid Performance

Highlander Hybrid Engine: Gets the Job Done

The Highlander Hybrid has a four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, which produce a combined 243 horsepower. A continuously variable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is available.

This hybrid system performs well in everyday driving. Acceleration is brisk around town, thanks in part to the extra punch provided by the electric motors. The transmission operates seamlessly. There isn’t a whole lot of passing power at highway speeds, but we think it’s enough for most driving situations.

Highlander Hybrid Gas Mileage: All About Perspective

The Highlander Hybrid gets up to 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway when equipped with front-wheel drive, according to Toyota. Adding all-wheel drive lowers these ratings by about a point. These are excellent fuel economy ratings for a three-row SUV. However, they are on the lower end of the spectrum when compared to hybrid and electric SUVs.

Highlander Hybrid Ride and Handling: Pillow Soft

The Highlander offers pleasant driving dynamics. The suspension does an excellent job of soaking up bumps and dips in the road, yielding a comfortable and composed ride, even when fitted with the available 20-inch wheels (18-inch wheels are standard). The steering is light and responsive, and the brakes slow down the SUV quickly and smoothly, which isn’t always the case with many hybrids.

If there is a criticism, it’s that the Highlander feels a bit wobbly in sharp turns, though the same can be said of most midsize SUVs.

Highlander Hybrid Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the Highlander Hybrid can tow up to 3,500 pounds. By comparison, the nonhybrid Toyota Highlander is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Highlander Hybrid Reliability

Is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Reliable?

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid has an excellent predicted reliability rating of 4.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Warranty

Toyota covers the Highlander Hybrid with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Additionally, hybrid components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles, and the battery pack is covered for 10 years or 150,000 miles.

Read more about reliability »

Highlander Hybrid Safety

Highlander Hybrid Crash Test Results

At the time of writing, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Highlander Hybrid Safety Features

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid comes standard with a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, cyclist and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, road sign detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic high-beam headlights. Some of these features are part of the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) package.

Available safety features include a head-up display, front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view parking camera system, parallel park assist, and adaptive pivoting headlights.

Read more about safety »

Highlander Hybrid Dimensions and Weight

The Highlander Hybrid is 16.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,330 to 4,595 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Built?

Toyota builds the 2020 Highlander Hybrid in Indiana.

Which Toyota Highlander Hybrid Model Is Right for Me?

The redesigned 2020 Highlander Hybrid is available in four trim levels: LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. All trim levels are outfitted with the same hybrid system, which consists of a four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, a battery pack, and a continuously variable automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is a $1,600 option in the LE and XLE trims, and it’s $1,950 in the Limited and Platinum trims.

The base LE model is the best bet for most shoppers. It’s well-equipped with standard tech and safety features, and pricing starts at less than $40,000.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE

The entry-level Highlander Hybrid LE has a starting MSRP of $38,200. Standard tech features include an infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth, four USB ports, a six-speaker stereo, HD Radio, satellite radio, a Wi-Fit hot spot, and an in-car intercom system. Other standard features include cloth upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, a power liftgate, heated side mirrors, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Standard safety features include a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. Pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, road sign detection, and LED headlights with automatic high beams are also standard.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE

The Highlander Hybrid XLE starts at $41,000, and it adds Qi wireless device charging, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, a moonroof, and rear sunshades. Navigation is optional for $1,040. A second-row bench seat is a no-cost option.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

The Highlander Hybrid Limited is priced at $45,050. It adds navigation, an 11-speaker stereo, genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a hands-free power liftgate, parking sensors, parallel park assist, and 20-inch wheels. As before, a second-row bench seat is a no-cost option.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum

The luxe Highlander Hybrid Platinum trim has a starting MSRP of $48,250. It comes with a 12.3-inch touch screen, heated second-row seats, a panoramic moonroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a head-up display, a surround-view parking camera system, and adaptive headlights.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

See 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid specs and trims »

The Final Call

The redesigned Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a fine SUV. Sure, it’s not the best people or cargo hauler in the midsize SUV class. And yes, there are other hybrid and electric SUVs that get better fuel economy. But no other vehicle can offer this blend of efficiency and three-row practicality at this price point. Factor in the Highlander’s posh interior, user-friendly features, plush ride, and solid predicted reliability, and you’ve got a winner.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander steps back into the mix with key changes that continue to make it a solid pick in the class." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2020 Highlander is a fine three-row crossover. I don't know whether I like it more than, say, a Pilot or Palisade, but when you consider long-term reliability and resale value, things Toyota does better than just about any other automaker, it's easy to recommend." -- CNET
  • "The Highlander is a great vehicle. It is among the most recommendable 3-row midsize SUVs available, with easy manners, great practicality, and a sterling reputation for reliability and resale value." -- Kelley Blue Book   
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