If you’re searching for the best hybrid SUV, the truth is there actually aren’t that many choices. While there’s an endless sea of those powered solely by gasoline, those that add batteries and superior fuel economy to the mix are few and far between. The very good news, however, is that the choices you have are actually excellent. The top-selling and top-rated Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are not only available as hybrids, for instance, but are actually at their most appealing as hybrids.
Luxury hybrid SUVs are a different story. While Lexus offers each of its crossover SUVs as a conventional hybrid, those of other brands are by and large plug-in hybrids that provide a relatively brief amount of all-electric propulsion, superior fuel economy and higher prices that are somewhat countered by EV tax rebates. We include both conventional hybrids and plug-in hybrids in the below list of best hybrid SUVs.
All are listed alphabetically within each category.
Ford Escape Hybrid and PHEV
Why it stands out: Conventional and plug-in hybrid choices; sharper handling; good looks
Could be better: Disappointing interior quality; less cargo space than others; no AWD PHEV
Hybrid combined fuel economy: 41 mpg (FWD) and 40 mpg (AWD)
Plug-in hybrid electric range: 37 miles
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy: 105 MPGe (FWD only)
Read our 2021 Ford Escape Review
While the Ford Escape in general is not among our top-rated compact SUVs, it’s not too far below the class leaders, and importantly, it’s one of the few models that offers a hybrid. More than that, it’s one of only two available as a plug-in hybrid. Besides its powertrain, we appreciate that the Escape is more enjoyable to drive than most compact SUVs and its technology interface is more advanced than what you’ll find in the CR-V and RAV4. We also like its useful interior storage and spacious, sliding back seat (although its interior plastics quality is disappointing).
Honda CR-V Hybrid
Why it stands out: Best-in-class space; hybrid’s distinctive EV-like power delivery; middle lower LATCH anchor
Could be better: Antiquated and glitchy tech interface; a bit dull
Hybrid fuel economy: 38 mpg combined (AWD only)
Read our 2021 Honda CR-V Review
Consider the CR-V the baseline for any compact SUV search. Objectively speaking, it’s tough to beat due to its massive cargo capacity, voluminous back seat, well-balanced driving dynamics, competitive pricing and features, strong safety ratings and well-regarded reliability. In terms of its hybridness, we like that Honda’s distinctive hybrid system sees most of its propulsion handled by the electric motor (the engine rarely powers the wheels directly), resulting in a more EV-like, torque-rich power delivery and a less obtrusive gas engine. For the vast majority of compact SUV buyers, and especially families, the CR-V Hybrid checks every box.
Kia Niro and Niro PHEV
Why it stands out: Lower price and better fuel economy than other hybrid SUVs; user-friendly tech
Could be better: AWD is not available; it’s a smaller SUV and therefore it has less space
Hybrid combined fuel economy: 49 mpg (most trim levels), 50 mpg (FE trim) and 43 mpg (Touring trim)
Plug-in hybrid electric range: 26 miles
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy: 105 MPGe (FWD only)
Read our most recent Niro PHEV review
The Niro is different than the other small hybrid SUVs here in that it’s smaller and cheaper. Technically, it’s a subcompact SUV, but as the rest of those aren’t offered as hybrids, the Niro gets to hang out with the big kids for a while. There are pros and cons to its unique positioning. A price tag that starts between $3,000 and $6,000 less than the others is the most significant pro, and you’ll no doubt notice that it basically gets 10 mpg better than the other hybrid SUVs. Its fuel economy is more akin to a Prius. The downside is that although it’s still reasonably spacious, there’s no denying how much passenger and cargo room the Niro gives up to the far more family-friendly CR-V, RAV4 and Escape. So it’s different, but it’s definitely worth a look.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime
Why it stands out: Two hybrid choices; regular and sport-tuned flavors; spacious back seat and cargo area; reliability
Could be better: Antiquated tech interface
Hybrid combined fuel economy: 40 mpg (AWD only)
Plug-in hybrid electric range: 42 miles
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy: 94 MPGe
Our full 2021 Toyota RAV4 Review
The RAV4 has more passenger and cargo space than most. It’s comfortable and surprisingly responsive to drive (especially the XSE Hybrid and Prime). Its interior is well built with quality materials, and offers user-friendly controls and abundant storage. Its resale value and reliability should be better than almost anything on the road. Those are all the basics that the RAV4 nails, but the latest version really stands out by offering an unparalleled variety of models. Although you can’t get the hybrid as the very cool Adventure or TRD Off-Road, the surprisingly sporty XSE trim level (pictured above) is exclusive to the hybrid and its sport-tuned suspension (and overall character) is shared with the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid. We like that there’s a little something for everyone with the RAV4. (Note that the Toyota Venza is basically a RAV4 Hybrid with different styling, a more luxurious cabin and less space. It’s a worthy alternative to consider).
Kia Sorento Hybrid
Why it stands out: Two hybrid choices; best fuel economy of any three-row SUV; high-end cabin; well-executed tech
Could be better: No AWD version; not all Sorento trim levels are available
Hybrid combined fuel economy: 37 mpg (FWD only)
Plug-in hybrid electric range: TBD
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy: TBD
Read our full 2021 Kia Sorento Review
The Sorento is small for a three-row SUV — it basically has the exterior dimensions of a two-row midsize SUV but manages to sandwich in a third row for those who could foresee needing one on occasion. Completely redesigned for 2021, the Sorento features revised styling in keeping with but not copying the successful Telluride. Inside, material quality is elevated, the design is handsome and technology is not only abundant, but user friendly. The same well-executed driver assistance and safety features that so impress in the Palisade and Telluride are also available in the Sorento. And finally, the Sorento benefits from a choice of two hybrid powertrains: the 37-mpg traditional hybrid available now and the late-availability plug-in hybrid.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Why it stands out: Best fuel economy for a large three-row crossover by a lot; high-end interior
Could be better: Cramped third-row seat compared to other large three-row crossovers; sluggish and simplistic infotainment
Hybrid combined fuel economy: 35 mpg (AWD only)
Read our full 2021 Toyota Highlander Review
The Highlander Hybrid may not have as much space inside as class-leading three-row crossovers like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, but it gets 14 mpg better. That difference is as massive as it seems. On the other hand, its interior space is gigantic compared to most vehicles that manage 35 mpg combined. Either way you look at it, the Highlander Hybrid is compelling. Besides its fuel economy, though, the recently redesigned Highlander is appealing in its own right with Palisade-rivaling interior quality, composed ride and handling, and ample feature content. It’s also only $1,400 more than the gas-only V6-powered Highlander, which means you’ll quickly pay back the premium.
Lexus RX 450h
Why it stands out: It’s the only midsize luxury hybrid; the interior is beautifully made; F Sport is enjoyable to drive
Could be better: Antiquated and unusual tech interface; L model’s third row is pretty pointless
Hybrid combined fuel economy: 30 mpg (450h, AWD only) and 29 mpg (450h L, AWD only)
The Lexus RX has long enjoyed a reputation for bulletproof reliability and plenty of high-end features, but this latest version really kicked things up in terms of meticulous interior quality, improved driving dynamics (especially the F Sport model) and bold styling that admittedly won’t be for everyone. It also introduced the extended-length RX 450h L that’s more significant for its greater cargo capacity than its near-useless third-row seat. Since we’re talking about hybrid SUVs, the RX 450h gets 30 mpg combined, which is pretty excellent for a midsize luxury SUV. Plus, unlike most other Lexus/Toyota hybrids, its 308 horsepower is perfectly competitive in terms of acceleration. Ultimately, if you want a hybrid SUV and don’t want to pay considerably more for a plug-in model, this is your only choice. It’s certainly not a bad one.
Lexus UX 250h
Why it stands out: Exceptional fuel economy; lovely interior quality up front
Could be better: Cramped interior; it’s slow
Hybrid combined fuel economy: 42 mpg (FWD) and 39 mpg (AWD)
Read our Lexus UX Review
The baby Lexus gets 42 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 39 mpg with all-wheel drive, which is truly exceptional for a subcompact luxury SUV. The BMW X1 sDrive28i, for example, is considered very fuel efficient for the segment and gets only 27 mpg combined. If you want a premium small SUV and want to keep your fuel consumption low, this is your best bet. We also like the UX’s handsome and high-quality interior (up front at least, there’s some cheap plastic in the back) that has plenty of distinctive elements not found in other Lexus vehicles. There are downsides, however. The UX is pretty cramped inside, the Remote Touch tech interface is a constant source of frustration, and acceleration is glacial for a luxury SUV. So it’s not a perfect choice, but then when it comes to a small hybrid luxury SUV, Lexus is your only choice. (Note that Lexus also sells the NX 300h that slots in between the UX and NX in size and price, but it’s about to be replaced and its 31 mpg pales in comparison to the cheaper and surprisingly luxurious 39-mpg Toyota Venza).
BMW X3 xDrive30e
Why it stands out: Compelling price tag with tax rebates and gas savings; enjoyable to drive
Could be better: Minimal all-electric range; minimal color choices
Plug-in hybrid electric range: 18 miles
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy: 60 MPGe
Our full 2021 BMW X3 Review
Unlike BMW’s 3 Series and 5 Series plug-in hybrids, the X3 doesn’t suffer from a significant reduction in cargo capacity. Its reasonable $4,900 over the similarly equipped gas-only xDrive30i should also be erased by the $5,836 federal tax rebate plus the money you save by utilizing its 18 miles of all-electric range. In other words, this is not only a good plug-in hybrid SUV to consider, it’s arguably the BMW X3 to get. You’ll still get the same well-made and spacious interior, sharp driving dynamics, strong performance and ample in-car technology as every X3.
The Volvo XC60 Recharge is also worthy of consideration. We think it looks better than the BMW and has a greater overall gas+electricity range, but it’s also $4,000 more expensive and isn’t as good to drive.
Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring
Why it stands out: Massive performance; massive space; fashionable interior design
Could be better: High cost of entry
Plug-in hybrid electric range: 21 miles
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy: 56 MPGe
Our full 2021 Lincoln Aviator Review
The Aviator Grand Touring (aka plug-in hybrid) goes a bit further on a charge (21 miles) than the typical luxury plug-in hybrid and its overall miles-per-gallon-equivalent rating of 56 mpg-e is fully competitive. Despite these better-than-normal green credentials, it absolutely blows the competition out of the water with eye-bulging performance figures of 494 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque. That’s borderline absurd. Like the gas-only Aviator, you get a spacious, well-equipped, easy-to-use and high-style interior, plus a refined driving experience that attempts to make your time behind the wheel “effortless” as opposed to “sporty.” The main downside with the Grand Touring is you pay for that massive performance advantage — it starts at around $70,000. A Volvo XC90 Recharge is about $7,000 cheaper to start.
Volvo XC90 Recharge
Why it stands out: Spacious third-row and cargo area; Scandinavian design; lower price for this subsegment of SUVs
Could be better: Unrefined gas engine; tech interface doesn’t agree with everyone
Plug-in hybrid electric range: 18 miles
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy: 54 MPGe
Read our full 2021 Volvo XC90 Review
Rarely is a new car as equally capable of meeting practical needs and emotional wants, but the XC90 Recharge does just that. It’s a three-row SUV with genuine room in all its rows for even adults and tons of cargo space. It’s also a plug-in hybrid, so you should be saving plenty of gasoline and emitting less CO2. At the same time, the XC90 is one of the best-looking SUVs ever made, with clean Scandinavian design inside and out that still looks fantastic despite being introduced several years ago. Its luxury credentials are also well served with high-end materials and abundant feature content, and with 400 horsepower on tap, the XC90 Recharge also serves as the XC90’s high-end, top-performance choice. Cake and eating too, etc.