Seven-seat Toyota Highlander SUV confirmed for the UK

Fancy an SUV, need it to be big, have seven seats and hybrid petrol-electric power? And relatively affordable? Welcome to the Highlander

James Wilson
Jul 31, 2020

Toyota's latest and biggest SUV, the Highlander, is set to arrive on UK roads in 2021. It will be available purely as a self-charging hybrid - this means that you get a petrol engine and a medium size battery pack that is predominantly topped up when braking but offers little all-electric range - expect a mile or two at most.

'Self-charging' hybrids differ from plug-in hybrid models, which have a conventional engine plus a larger battery pack and typically offer an electric range of around 30 miles and are charged by plugging into the mains. Plug-in hybrids are typically more expensive than conventional hybrids but in return offer greater electric range and better fuel economy, provided they're regularly charged.

The Highlander is very much a bigger brother to the popular Toyota RAV4 - another hybrid-only SUV (though petrol and diesel used models are available). With new SUVs arriving left, right and centre in the 2020s, the Highlander is set to have plenty of competition. Being a self-charging hybrid, however, it does somewhat stand out from the predominantly diesel- and petrol-powered alternatives.

A number of convincing large seven-seat SUVs are already available from the likes of Skoda, Volvo, BMW, Land Rover, Peugeot and Mercedes, meaning that the Highlander faces tough competition to win over drivers after everything from a strong value and practical SUV to a more luxurious high-riding off-roader.

With the popularity of diesel falling and an increasing number of drivers considering hybrid models, however, the Highlander should be in a good position to steal sales from a number of rival models. That isn’t all the Highlander has going for it. Keep reading to find out more below…

The good

The bad

Remains to be seen

Enormous boot

Only one engine choice

Size: set to be similar to Land Rover Discovery

Hybrid power

Automatic only (standard for hybrids)

Real-world fuel economy figures


2021 Toyota Highlander SUV specifications

Toyota is yet to finalise UK specifications for its Highlander, but all models are expected to come with sat-nav, a head-up display (which beams driving information onto the windscreen), wireless phone charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, ventilated - i.e. cooled as well as heated - front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels and a digital rearview mirror. The latter means your view won’t be obscured by passengers’ heads. All in all, the equipment list looks pretty lengthy.

On top of the above, Toyota has stated that its latest suite of safety technology will be available. It’s called Toyota Safety Sense and comes with a pre-collision system (which helps prevent crashes), adaptive cruise control - which maintains a safe distance behind the car in front, even if it slows down or speeds up - with road sign assist, lane departure warning and automatic high beam lights. While safety equipment such as these are impressive it is worth knowing that in one form or another most mainstream car makers offer similar technology.

Finally, all models will come with seven-seats and with them all up the boot measures in at 658 litres. Fold the second and third rows flat though and that jumps up to 1,909 litres. For context, the seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq (which is one of the leading seven-seaters on sale but isn’t presently available as a hybrid and is slightly smaller) has a 630-litre boot with the third-row seats folded down and just 270 litres with them up.

2021 Toyota Highlander prices and delivery dates

UK prices for the Toyota Highlander are yet to be confirmed but you can expect them to start not too far below £40,000. That's a substantial amount of money, but the Highlander is a supersized SUV and should come with plenty of standard kit, meaning that is should still offer strong value for money.

With the UK launch having been penned for early 2021 and the fact Toyota is already manufacturing the Highlander for other countries, a reasonable estimate for first deliveries is early to mid-2021.

2021 Toyota Highlander economy and emissions

Underneath the body of all Highlanders will be a 2.5-litre petrol hybrid system paired with an automatic gearbox. Power, which comes in at a total of 244hp from the petrol engine and electric motor, is fed to all four wheels, though the rear wheels are powered solely by the electric motor.

There has been no confirmation on how much low engine speed muscle the car produces, but Toyota has stated that the Highlander comes with a substantial two-tonne towing capacity. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are expected to be around 146g/km with official fuel economy of 42.8mpg. These aren't particularly impressive figures in isolation, but aren't bad for a big and heavy SUV.

Like many new cars, there are a number of driving modes in the Highlander (Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail to be specific) which fine-tune aspects of the car - such as steering weight, gearbox responsiveness and potentially suspension firmness - to suit the type of driving you're doing, or the surface you're driving on.

2021 Toyota Highlander range and charge times

Toyota’s 2020 Highlander is not a plug-in hybrid, it is a self-charging one - this means it doesn’t have a charge time per se, as it's not possible to manually charge it. Instead, the batteries are topped up while driving, with charge being added to the batteries when braking.

Likewise, the small battery pack means that the Highlander's all-electric range is minimal and not officially quoted. In reality, it may be able to cover a mile or two on electric power alone, but you'll want to opt for an electric SUV or plug-in hybrid model (and remember to regularly charge it) if you want serious zero-emission range.

2021 Toyota Highlander SUV rivals and alternatives

The Toyota Highlander’s most direct rival (a large seven-seater self-charging hybrid SUV) comes from its sister brand, Lexus - specifically the Lexus RX L. Beyond that, the best options become either petrol- or diesel-powered, although there are a couple of all-electric or plug-in hybrid rivals, too.

Lexus’ RX L is best thought of as a plusher, more expensive, slightly less practical version of the Highlander. The reason we say this is that Lexus is Toyota's upmarket brand and the companies share engineering, so there will likely be many shared bits of kit under the skin of both models.

Away from that, there is the previously mentioned Skoda Kodiaq which is a strong contender in the seven-seat SUV market. While the Kodiaq is not available as a hybrid it is offered with two- and four-wheel-drive, manual and automatic gearboxes plus petrol and diesel engines - so there's plenty of choice. It's also strong value with new prices starting at just over £28,000 - and used prices from far less than that.

The Kodiaq doesn't trounce the Toyota on paper, though, as the Highlander is a much bigger car (and so should offer a bit more space inside) yet still promises relatively low emissions thanks to the hybrid system. Furthermore, Toyotas also come with a longer standard warranty than Skodas.

Cars which offer a similar proposition to the Kodiaq but are more on par with the Highlander’s size include the Hyundai Santa Fe, Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes GLS and even the new Land Rover Defender. Although it should be noted the last two are significantly more expensive.

As for plug-in and all-electric rivals, the first thing to bear in mind is price. All the high-tech electronics and bigger batteries come at a premium. Volvo’s XC90 T8 PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) is a strong alternative - it is practical, surprisingly fast and - provided you charge the batteries regularly - uses very little petrol. Then again, it better be, as new prices start at nearly £70,000. Thankfully, as the Volvo has been around for years, far more reasonably priced used versions are available.

Likewise, Tesla’s fully electric Model X comes with zero tailpipe emissions, an impressive range and seriously fast acceleration, but costs more than £80,000 new. Again, used versions are much more affordable, though still pricey in the case of the Model X, as it hasn't been on sale for too long.


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