Displaying items by tag: SUV
Audi's take on the electric family SUV is cool and classy
Audi has revealed full details and prcies of the new all-electric Q4 E-Tron. It's the company's first electric car based on the same technology as the Volkswagen ID.3 and Skoda Enyaq iV and as well as being available as a regular SUV, you can also specify a coupe-like Sportback version.
The Q4 E-Tron introduces some new technology and offers some choice in terms of price and range. Firstly, there will be three variants from launch, the 35, 40 and 50 Quattro. As you may have already guessed, the 50 Quattro features all-wheel drive as standard – the 35 and 40 versions are rear-wheel drive only.
Rivals? There are a few that include the Skoda Enyaq iV, Volkswagen ID.3, BMW iX3 and Mercedes-Benz EQA and EQC. The market for mid-sized electric SUVs is really starting to heat up.
What it's like inside?
Details new to the Q4 E-Tron include a steering wheel with a flat top and bottom (with haptic touch panel buttons) on S Line models and additional storage cubbies, including bottle holders in the door armrests. The central MMI touchscreen (10.1-inch as standard, 11.6-inch as an option) still has haptic feedback like most larger Audis, but there is only one touchscreen, with manually-controlled air-con switchgear below it.
Much like Volkswagen’s ID.3 and ID.4, along with the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Q4 will be available with an optional augmented-reality head-up display. The AR-HUD actively displays navigation directions in your field of view, gives you markers for the car in front when you have the adaptive cruise system active and even flags up the edges of your lane if you stray out of them.
Audi is particularly promoting the practicality aspect of the new Q4 E-Tron, saying that while it has the rough exterior dimensions of a Q3, it has space inside akin to the Q5 and quality like a Q7. The Q4 has a sliding rear bench, allowing for a boot volume of 520 litres in the non-Sportback variant.
What models and trims are available?
The Q4 E-Tron is available to order now and UK deliveries are expected in June 2021. Trims available at launch will be the Sport, S Line and Edition 1 forms. Every battery and powertrain combination is available with each equipment level.
Even though Sport is the entry level, it still comes equipped with LED headlamps, a 10.1-inch MMI infotainment screen and aerodynamic 19-inch alloy wheels. The S Line model will undoubtedly be the most popular – as is the case with all other Audi models – and gains 20-inch alloy wheels, sportier-looking front and rear bumpers and lowered suspension. The special Edition 1 trim will be a more elaborate offering, with Matrix LED headlights and unique interior and exterior trim.
Expected to join the range after the initial launch in June 2021 will be the Q4 E-Tron Vorsprung. Audi has confirmed It’s priced from £54,450 and gains 21-inch wheels, Nappa leather-trimmed seats and a more comprehensive driver-assistance package.
What else should I know?
The Q4 E-Tron can support 11kW AC charging and up to 125kW DC charging, with Audi claiming around 80 miles can be zapped into its new EV in just 10 minutes using those fastest of chargers.
Very little has changed between the production Q4 E-Tron and the concept car that debuted a couple of years ago. The Q4 SUV’s relatively boxy shape is emphasised by clean-cut wheelarches, a blocked-out grille in a very familiar Audi shape, and a single light panel that stretches across the rear. If you choose the optional matrix LED lights, you can customise the way the daytime running lights look with four distinct patterns.
Audi also offers something called ‘E-Tron Charging Service.’ It’s not an unheard of concept from manufacturers – you’re essentially given an RFID card and sign up to a tariff that gives you streamlined access to chargers from different networks, saving you the pain of signing up to individual ones.
Should I order one?
If you like the look of it. the Audi Q4 E-Tron is available to order now, with prices starting from £40,750. That figure soon balloons by choosing plusher models, larger batteries and optiona extras. The question is how much you think it's worth the premium over its Volkswagen Group sister cars, the ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq iV. We can't really answer that until we've driven it.
No model in the Q4 E-Tron range is eligible for the government's £2,500 plug-in car grant. We do like the sheer breadth of models available and the classy interior – and look forward to driving it. You'll be able to read about that here first.
“The Mercedes GLC is an SUV that benefits from a lot of C-Class pedigree, but with a raised ride height and improved practicality”
Mercedes has had a car battling against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 since 2009, but to UK buyers this may not have been obvious because the old GLK-Class was only sold in left-hand-drive markets. However, since 2015, the GLC, which replaced the GLK, has been sold here and is an SUV version of the popular Mercedes C-Class saloon on which it’s based.
Mercedes gave the GLC a mild facelift in 2019, which involved some tweaks to the exterior design, some new engines and a plethora of technology upgrades inside. The updates were needed given how competitive the SUV market had become, and 2021 ushers in a plug-in hybrid version for the first time too.
Best 4x4s and SUVs
The revised GLC borrows engines and equipment from the C-Class. The similarities between the two models are harder to spot in style terms, however, unlike the Mercedes A-Class and GLA, which have more in common. The GLC is an attractive car in its own right, with the latest design including slimmer headlights and tail lights, and the latest Mercedes grille.
Every GLC comes with Mercedes' 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Versions badged 220 d and 300 d are fitted with the same 2.0-litre diesel, but tuned differently to produce 191 and 242bhp respectively. The 220d returns up to 45.6mpg and has CO2 emissions starting at 175g/km, while you can expect 42.8mpg and 184g/km from the 300 d, which are competitive figures. These are trumped by the GLC 300 e plug-in hybrid model, which can manage 26-31 miles of electric range and 122mpg. What’s more, its low CO2 emissions mean company-car tax is a third of the petrol and diesel engines.
A clear highlight of the GLC is its attractive and well built interior, which also has enough room for front and rear occupants to be comfortable, along with heater controls for people sitting in the back, which is surprisingly rare. There are lots of thoughtful cubbies and the 550-litre boot puts the GLC in the same territory as the X3 and Q5, while the Discovery Sport is more practical and has the option of seven seats.
The introduced the latest Mercedes MBUX infotainment system, but unlike all-new models, there's still a tablet-style central screen perched on the dash, that looks slightly incongruous. The software is a major upgrade, though, and the main screen now responds to touch as well as the central control pad. A regular set of dials are standard, while a large 12.3-inch digital version is available as an option.
On the road, it soon becomes apparent that Mercedes concentrated on comfort when developing the GLC. It’s very smooth on the standard suspension and even more cosseting if the optional air-suspension is fitted. Drivers on the hunt for thrills may feel short-changed, though – while the Volvo XC60 is even softer, the newer BMW X3 is more responsive and poised on a country road.
There are effectively three trim levels, consisting of the core AMG Line trim, plus Premium and Premium Plus versions. The 220 d engine is only available in AMG Line Premium and below; the more powerful 300 d is the AMG Line Premium and up. Desirable items like a powered tailgate, reversing camera and Artico leather upholstery are all included, along with sat nav and LED headlights. AMG Line Premium GLCs gain distinctive body styling and an interior makeover, as well as even bigger 20-inch alloy wheels.
AMG Line is now the most appealing trim for company-car drivers and we'd recommend spending the extra monthly finance cost for private buyers too, to benefit from all the GLC has to offer. The Premium equipment line includes adaptive headlights, running boards, a larger instrument display, ambient lighting, augmented reality navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and wireless smartphone charging.
Before it was facelifted, the GLC came 61st out of 100 models in our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but reliability wasn't a strong point, so owners will be hoping issues have been remedied. Further peace of mind should be provided by the GLC’s five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating.
Mercedes GLC SUV - MPG, running costs & CO2
The Mercedes GLC is pretty economical for an SUV, with its claimed figures rivalling the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Mercedes also offers competitive warranty and servicing plans.
Mercedes GLC MPG & CO2
The 220 d version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine can return up to 45.6mpg, reducing slightly in top trims with optional wheels fitted. CO2 emissions of 175g/km mean it sits in the highest BiK band, which won’t appeal to company-car drivers. The more powerful GLC 300d is a shade less economical, at up to 42.8mpg, with emissions of 184g/km. By comparison, the BMW X3 xDrive 30d offers more pace and returns 46.3mpg with 159g/km.
Petrol engines are offered too. A GLC 300 model promises up to 33.6mpg, while the AMG 43 and 63 models above are even thirstier. They certainly prioritise speed over running costs; you can expect 26 and 22mpg respectively. All petrols are in the top BiK band.
A plug-in hybrid GLC 300 de version is now available, pairing the 2.0-litre diesel engine with a 13.5kWh battery. It offers 27 miles of electric range and up to 156.9mpg if you regularly recharge the battery, while business users will be drawn to its 12-13% BiK rate. It’s also exempt from the London Congestion Charge until October 2021. In 2021 it was joined by the GLC 300 e, with a petrol 2.0-litre engine and an electric range of 26-31 miles. It can officially manage up to 128.4mpg with emissions of 62g/km and it takes around 2.5 hours to charge the battery using a 7kW home wallbox.
After the first year's CO2-based road tax (generally included in the on-the-road price), Mercedes GLCs cost the standard annual rate in VED (tax), or £10 less if it's a hybrid. Every GLC now has a list price (including options) of more than £40,000, making it liable for an additional surcharge in years two to six, elevating the annual bill during that period.
Insurance groups for the facelifted Mercedes GLC are quite high, with diesel versions starting in groups 32 and the GLC 300 de in groups 44-45 out of 50. Oddly, this is just as high as the AMG versions in groups 41-44.
Mercedes provides a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty on all of its new models, which is the same as BMW offers on the X3. Pan-European Mercedes Roadside Assistance is also included, that can last up to 30 years if you keep the car maintained within the dealership network.
Mercedes offers fixed-price servicing plans that cover all scheduled maintenance. You can pay all in one go up front or spread the cost over monthly instalments, which should be about £35 for a diesel GLC.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Engines, drive & performance
Its diesel engines are smooth, but the Mercedes GLC is more of a comfortable cruiser than an exciting driver’s car
Engine choice is reasonably limited in the Mercedes GLC, but the two diesel options are very smooth on the move. All also come with four-wheel drive as standard – a system Mercedes calls 4MATIC. The GLC is almost car-like to drive and as comfortable and sophisticated as a luxury limousine – a happy consequence of sharing a platform with the C-Class saloon.
The GLC is at its best when driven in a relaxed, unfussed manner than on spirited back-road jaunts. Although all models have clever dampers as standard, they seem optimised for soaking up bumps and improving ride comfort rather than providing sharper responses. For a truly rewarding SUV driving experience, the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace remain the cars to beat, although in the comfort stakes, the Merc trumps the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The Volvo XC60 is even more comfortable still.
The GLC leans a little during hard cornering, but not so much as to feel unsettling and less than the Audi and Volvo. The steering is accurate enough, yet feels rather light and requires quite large inputs, so there’s little to encourage fast driving anyway. It’s far better to ease off the accelerator and cruise, which the Mercedes does very well.
All models use a smooth, responsive nine-speed automatic gearbox, which does a good job of keeping the engine revs low in the interest of fuel economy. The four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged and uses traction control to ensure a firm grip on the road – any wheel found to be slipping is lightly braked and the engine's power is sent to the wheel on the opposite side to get you moving again.
Mercedes GLC diesel engines
Many people buying an SUV of this size will choose a diesel, and there are two available, badged 220 d and 300 d. Both are different versions of Mercedes' four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine, which is smoother and quieter than the 2.1-litre diesel it replaces, but still slightly more clattery than the best diesel engines found in rivals.
It might not appear like it if you look at the official performance claims, but most drivers will be satisfied with the slower 220 d, and it suits the GLC well. Mercedes claims 0-62mph times of 7.9 for the 200 d and 6.5 seconds for the 300 d, both of which will be more than fast enough for most SUV owners. That means our top pick is the cheaper 220 d, and it's a shame this isn't available with every trim level. Unlike the coarse old engine, the GLC 300 d we sampled was as smooth and quiet as a petrol, but with even more urge in real-world driving.
Talking of petrol, the GLC 300 with 254bhp is available, featuring a new turbocharger, engine design and particulate filter all aimed at reducing emissions. It's also fitted with a mild-hybrid system that can recoup energy as the car slows down, then use it to aid acceleration. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds, while its top speed is 149mph. AMG models are even faster - the 43 model cracks 0-62mph in under five seconds, and the 63 and 63 S reduce this to four seconds or less. With the speed limiter removed, the GLC 63 S will carry on all the way to 174mph.
Most plug-in hybrids use a petrol engine, but the GLC 300 de has a diesel engine for long-range economy. The combination produces 302bhp, so the PHEV is quick too - 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds. For 2021 the petrol-based GLC 300 e plug-in has also arrived, and it's even faster, taking just 5.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
Its 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and electric motor produce a combined 316bhp, and it does a good job of prioritising electric power when the battery is charged. In this mode it's almost silent, and even when the petrol engine kicks in it's almost imperceptible. There's also a clever regenerative braking system that can be adjusted using the paddles behind the steering wheel or left to work automatically based on the road and traffic.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Interior & comfortThe
Mercedes GLC has a well built interior and even the entry-level model has loads of standard kit
The Mercedes GLC boasts an impressive, high-quality dashboard and interior design that’s more luxurious and up-to-date than what you’ll find in many rivals. All models are well equipped, but you’d expect them to be considering the GLC’s price. We'd recommend choosing an AMG Line Premium trim or above to really experience all the GLC has to offer.
Thanks to a honed suspension setup and using some parts from the Mercedes C-Class saloon, the GLC is very comfortable on the move whether on the standard steel springs of the Sport or the optional AIRMATIC system. Road and wind noise are minimal and a clever crosswind prevention system helps to keep the GLC stable at high speeds. Even the more sportily tuned AMG Line models maintain the comfortable ride of the Sport, although the wider tyres do kick up a little more noise from the road.
Mercedes GLC dashboard
The GLC shines when you sit behind the wheel. The entire design looks like it’s been lifted straight from the C-Class saloon, as there’s loads of solid metal switchgear and clear instruments. The middle of the dashboard is dominated by a single piece of wood or gloss-black veneer that starts from just underneath the infotainment screen and swoops down to connect to the centre console.
The classic air vents look like they’ve been taken straight from a vintage aircraft and the control for the sat nav and infotainment is the only control interruption on the centre console. The steering column-mounted gear selector is a little strange to get used to, though. It's also a shame that the standard analogue gauges and central trip computer look dated compared with the digital instruments fitted in AMG Line Premium trim.
The GLC now comes in AMG Line trim as standard but extra kit can be added by upgrading to Premium and Premium Plus versions. Even the entry-level model has a comprehensive amount of equipment: a reversing camera, Parktronic, a powered tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, leather seats, automatic climate control, sat-nav and DAB radio are all standard.
The AMG Line Premium version throws in a sports bodykit and interior makeover, sports suspension, 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, adaptive headlights, ambient lighting and a 12.3-inch digital instrument display. Premium Plus is even more lavish, thanks to a panoramic sunroof, Burmester stereo system, keyless entry, 360-degree camera view and memory front seats and steering wheel.
The Driving Assistance package is worth considering if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, adding blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and a system that applies the brakes if it thinks you're about to hit the car in front. Air-suspension can also be fitted, further improving the ride quality. If you plan on towing, an official tow bar costs around £750.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Practicality & boot space
The Mercedes GLC provides loads of storage areas and its boot is a decent size, if not class-leading
Considering it’s an SUV, the GLC is easy enough to get into, as its doors open nice and wide. The steering wheel and driver’s seat have plenty of adjustment and there’s plenty of room in the back. Boot space is good, if not class-leading, but the plug-in hybrid offers noticeably less due to its batteries taking up some of the luggage room.
Mercedes GLC interior space & storage
The GLC offers a decent amount of leg and headroom in the rear, but the transmission tunnel can eat into space for the middle-seat passenger.
Interior storage is good, thanks to a generous space in the front armrest and a deep cubby in front of the infotainment dial in the centre console. The door bins can all hold bottles and rear-seat occupants get their own air ventilation and an armrest that features a storage cubby and two cup-holders.
Total boot volume is about on par with a lot of the GLC’s rivals. The 550 litres on offer is the same as what you get in the BMW X3 and equal to the Audi Q5’s boot. However, it’s less than what’s available when you fold down the Land Rover Discovery Sport’s third row of seats. The GLC’s rear seats fold in a 40:20:40 configuration with the pull of a lever, offering extra versatility and more room in the boot if needed.
In the boot you’ll find the usual range of neat practical touches like anchor points for smaller items and a cubby either side to store bits and bobs. The boot itself is square and the opening is large, so getting awkwardly shaped items in should be a breeze, especially with the power-operated tailgate.
Compared to the 550 litres you get in petrol and diesel cars, the PHEV’s boot is a bit smaller at 395 litres. That’s only 25 litres more than in the A-Class hatchback but at least the boot floor is flat, unlike the annoying step in the boot of the E-Class plug-in. It also benefits from underfloor storage, so you can keep your charging cables separate from your shopping.
All diesel GLC models can tow 2,500kg – more than most versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, and matching the D240. Both the GLC 300 de and 300 e can also tow up to 2,000kg, which is an impressive amount for a plug-in hybrid.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Reliability & safety
There’s an impressive amount of safety technology as standard, but there could be questions about long-term reliability of the Mercedes GLC
The Mercedes GLC has an impressive suite of safety kit, which can be added to with optional equipment like adaptive cruise control. Although owners expressed reliability concerns in our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
Mercedes GLC reliability
Looking at the 2020 results of our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, Mercedes as a brand came a disappointing 28th out of 30 manufacturers, with 16.5% of respondents reporting a fault within the first year of ownership.
Things were even worse for the Mercedes GLC in particular, because despite coming a reasonable 61st out of our top 100 cars overall in our 2019 results, it came dead last for reliability. A worrying 44% of owners reported at least one fault in the first 12 months, including engine, electrical and interior trim problems. The GLC didn't appear in our 2020 results. Hopefully Mercedes will have identified these teething problems and recified them as part of the model's facelift.
Along with the standard spread of airbags and traction control, the GLC has an advanced stability program, Mercedes’ crosswind-assistance technology and a collision-prevention system. An optional semi-autonomous driving system is available. This takes adaptive cruise control a step further, maintaining a safe distance from the car in front, steering the car if you drift out of your lane and braking automatically if it detects an imminent collision.
All this led to the Mercedes GLC scoring the full five stars when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP at the end of 2015. It scored an impressive 95% in the adult occupant protection category, as well as 89% in the child occupant protection category.
The collision-prevention technology can get a little over-zealous, as it tends to flash a warning at you even when you’re a safe distance behind the car in front. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to deactivate if you find it to be more of a hindrance than a help when on the move.
New Honda HR-V SUV has a fresh look, updated technology and a 129bhp dual-motor hybrid powertrain
The all-new Honda HR-V was revealed earlier this year and now the firm has confirmed further details of the new car’s 129bhp e:HEV hybrid powertrain.
For the third-generation HR-V, Honda has given it a sleeker exterior design, an all-new interior and updated technology onboard. The new car will only be available as a hybrid and is expected to go on sale later this year with a starting price of around £25,000.
2021 Honda HR-V hybrid: engine and performance
Honda has announced the latest HR-V will be powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine mated to two electric motors and a CVT automatic gearbox. This powertrain is similar to the one used in the current Jazz but features a larger battery mounted under the boot floor. It also produces more power, with a total output of 129bhp.
The way the e:HEV hybrid powertrain operates is unique, with one electric motor powering the car along with the petrol engine. The second motor is connected to the engine but is used as a generator to charge the car’s onboard battery.
This powertrain will be capable of pure-electric running but Honda has not specified any range figures saying “In city driving, most of the time you can, as an accumulated time of driving, drive in pure-electric mode. However, we haven’t actually determined and measured, and also focused our development in terms of maximising the pure-electric range in one go.”
Honda discontinued its 1.6-litre diesel engine in 2020 amid freefalling diesel sales. The new HR-V is part of the brand’s ‘Electric Vision’ strategy, which aims to introduce hybrid or electric power to all of its mainstream models by 2022.
The new HR-V has a rakish design thanks to a coupe-inspired swooping roofline and a longer bonnet. Despite the sporty profile of the roof, which is 20mm lower than the old car, Honda claims the new HR-V can accommodate four adults in comfort thanks to improved packaging of the hybrid powertrain which results in an extra 35mm of rear legroom.
The front features a new integrated grille and slim LED headlights joined together by a narrow piece of chrome trim. The new HR-V also sits 10mm higher than before, with the sides of the car featuring black plastic body cladding around the arches and sills, together with a high indent line along the length of the car and a flush-fitting rear door handle. Large 18-inch five-spoke two-tone alloy wheels also feature.
The rearmost C-pillar is more sharply angled than before, leading to a new tailgate that houses a slim rear tail light cluster that wraps round from the rear quarter panel across the width of the car.
Interior and technology
Inside, the dashboard has been redesigned with a new minimalist look. A nine-inch central infotainment touchscreen is mounted to the top of the dashboard, which appears to be running similar software to the system used in the Honda e, which includes sat nav and smartphone connectivity.
Honda has retained physical rotary dials for the climate controls in a wrap-around centre console with a refreshed gear stick design. The clean dashboard design features an ‘Air Diffusion System’ that replaces the traditional air vents in the centre of the dashboard. This comprises two L-shaped vents mounted by the windscreen pillars, which direct air along the inside the windows to adjust the interior temperature - all without blasting hot or cold air directly at the driver or passenger.
The brand’s versatile Magic Seats storage system also features, offering the option to fold the rear seats flat or to flip up the rear seat bases depending on the storage space required.
Full details of the new car’s interior tech and trim levels are expected to be announced later this year.
The new third-generation HR-V is fitted with Honda’s ‘Sensing’ safety suite adding an array of driver assistance technology. A new front camera is fitted, which has more processing power than before and improves both the car’s emergency braking and steering systems.
The new camera is able to better detect pedestrians detection, and is capable of recognising oncoming vehicles including cyclists and motorcycles, automatically applying the brakes when a hazard is detected.
A new adaptive cruise control system is also included, with new advanced software meaning it can perform overtakes when prompted. The system can work out the acceleration and steering angles required to complete a passing maneuver, all with minimal input from the driver.
No Ferris wheels or fried dough, but the Carnival is good fun.
Drop the fantasy for a moment. As much as we'd all love to project the rough-and-tumble, outdoorsy ruggedness associated with the deep-voiced sales pitches in SUV ads, how often are you really tackling anything more challenging than a gravel parking lot or a dusty fire road?
Buyers in need of three-row seating but who won't capitalize on the off-road Sporting aspect of a sport utility vehicle can get loads more utility out of a less ostentatious, less understood class of vehicle. The clever buyer shops for a minivan—or as Kia is calling it, a multipurpose vehicle (MPV). As much as we love the SUV of the year-winning Kia Telluride, the new 2022 Kia Carnival MPV could be a smarter fit for most families.
If you haven't heard of the Carnival, you're not alone. Kia introduced it as a new nameplate for 2022 to replace its Sedona minivan, which Kia has sold in the U.S. since the 2002 model year.
The Carnival rides on a lighter, stronger platform than the outgoing Sedona and features boxy, SUV-inspired sheetmetal reminiscent of newer Kia designs, including the Telluride, Seltos, and Sorento. (A neighbor even asked if it was an SUV or a minivan, which surely would thrill Kia's designers.) This is also the first model to don the newly redesigned Kia badge.
Cavernous Cargo Carrying
The Carnival is more spacious than the van it replaces, too. With 40.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row bench, it has 6.3 cubic feet more cargo volume than the old Sedona and at least 6.7 cubes more than any other current minivan. Stowing the third-row seats is easily doable with one hand via a chunky handle on the back of the seat, and with the seats folded, the load floor is completely flat.
Space behind the second row is class-competitive but a few cubes behind a comparable Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Pacifica. The Carnival's second-row seats are removable (in all models save the range-topping SX Prestige), a feature the Sedona didn't offer. To do so, lift a lever under the back side of the seat and fold the seat forward; removal requires no more than average adult strength, but the awkward shape means it may be wise to enlist the help of a partner.
Those planning to frequently swap between using the maximum space behind the first row and using the second-row seats may be better off with Chrysler Pacifica's Stow 'n Go solution rather than wrangling the second-row seats into and out of the Carnival. Once they're removed, however, not only does the Kia have more space behind the first row than any other minivan, but its cargo volume also measures larger than that of the colossal Chevrolet Suburban (145.1 versus 144.7 cubic feet).
Three Roomy Rows Of Seating
But don't go thinking the Carnival is just a cargo van stand-in. The new MPV can be ordered in seven- and eight-passenger configurations, both with ample legroom in all three rows. Third-row access is near effortless with a one-hand pull of a handle beneath the second-row armrest that folds and slides the seat forward; older kids will have no problem operating it themselves. Third-row legroom matches the Pacifica and is a couple inches behind the Sienna and the Odyssey. A 6-foot-1 passenger has just enough legroom in the way back, but their head likely will be brushing the ceiling. Also, the rearmost windows border on claustrophobia-inducingly small.
The second row is really where it's at. Beyond the 40.5 inches of legroom, its neat aspect comes with the SX Prestige and its "VIP" second-row seat. The Prestige swaps out the standard second-row bench for two leather-lined, heated, and cooled lounges that are more comfortable than the furniture in most living rooms. You can slide them way back, to make room for the Prestige's party trick: full recline with power-extendable legrests. Friends compared them to the plush recliners in upscale movie theaters. At $47,275, the Carnival SX Prestige is pricey, but it's less than other top-spec minivans. And it easily represents the most luxurious rear seating experience in any car under $50,000.
Up front, there's an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, but that's only on the base model. All other trims showcase a huge 12.3-inch display that's set high on the dash to keep your eyes near the road. Through the infotainment screen, the driver or front passenger can access the cabin camera and the intercom (standard on EX and above), which allow parents up front to talk to and keep an eye on kids in the back without turning around.
Living With The Kia Carnival
For the most part, it all comes together as a well-executed people mover.
There are six USB charging ports in the car (eight with the rear seat entertainment displays) plus two three-prong household outlets and two 12-volt power outlets. Including the wireless charging pad that's standard on EX trims and higher, it's possible to charge as many as 13 devices at once. The Carnival has 11 cupholders, too—no matter how many people you pack into this thing, no phone need go uncharged and no cup or juicebox unheld.
The interior design is just as handsome as the bodywork. Kia integrates metal-look trim throughout the cabin, and leatherette upholstery is standard on the EX and SX. Especially with the Prestige trim's dual 12.3-inch front displays, the cabin gives off real Mercedes-Benz vibes. That said, the metallic trim can cause dangerous glare for the driver in the wrong light. What's more, Kia's overreliance on capacitive-touch buttons for HVAC and infotainment controls can be frustrating, as they lack tactile feedback and can be tough to find without taking your eyes off the road.
SX trims and above include dual 10.1-inch displays as part of a rear entertainment system. The displays feature preinstalled apps for streaming Netflix, Youtube, and Twitch, and there's a kids mode with graphics by Pinkfong, the South Korean children's educational empire behind last year's Baby Shark phenomenon. Factor in the HDMI, USB, and wireless device-mirroring capabilities, and the entertainment prospects are vast.
The rear entertainment displays are not perfect, however. Streaming content through any of the preinstalled apps requires connecting the system to a paired smartphone's Wi-Fi hot spot because unlike its competitors, the Carnival does not include one. In an effort to treat the Carnival as a mobile office for an afternoon, we were also frustrated to find the HDMI input produced a fuzzy, low-res image and too much lag to accurately use a cursor, though Kia insists the examples we drove were pre-production units and this could change.
Kia Carnival Driving Impressions
The biggest surprise from our time with the Carnival? How well it drives.
Kia has developed a new 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V-6 for the Carnival. With 290 hp and 262 lb-ft, it's the most powerful engine in the segment and is tied for the most torque. Paired with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic that is rarely caught in the wrong gear, the engine provides ample acceleration. The Carnival is also rated to tow 3,500 pounds, which is typical for this class.
Vans like this need to ride well, too, and this Kia achieves that. The combination of relatively soft springs and tires with plenty of sidewall delivers a plushness that won't wake the baby in the back seat if you hit a pothole. More impressive, though, the Carnival exhibits next to no body roll and minimal secondary ride motions. It's genuinely fun to drive. And when you're just on a highway slog, Kia's lane centering and adaptive cruise control systems are among the best in the business.
That Highway Driving Assist is part of a generous collection of driver assist active safety tech. Automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane centering, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention warning, and rear occupant alert are all standard, even on the base model. The EX trim adds front parking sensors and Highway Driving Assist adaptive cruise control; the SX gains auto rear braking and an (invaluable) high-res 360-degree camera system; and the SX Prestige boasts a blind-spot camera feed in its 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
Our only complaint about the mechanicals is the lack of choice. With the new Sienna debuting with a hybrid-only powertrain and Chrysler offering a plug-in hybrid Pacifica, some buyers will be dismayed by the Carnival's 22 mpg combined fuel economy rating. (Queried about the lack of a hybrid offering for the Carnival, a Kia representative said, "Be on the lookout for what's in store. ") Drivers in colder climates may also be lured away by Chrysler and Toyota's available AWD—the Carnival is FWD only.
We mentioned earlier that Kia is marketing the Carnival as an MPV, a multipurpose vehicle. Nothing wrong with that; it can manage stand-in duty as a comfortable road tripper, an executive luxury limo, or even a full-blown cargo hauler.
But consider the Carnival's strengths: smooth ride; thoughtful, family-friendly features; intuitive tech; and a vast, high-quality cabin. Lean in to the stereotype, Kia. The Carnival is an excellent modern minivan.
The verdict: Sky-high fuel efficiency with front- or all-wheel drive remains the main draw for Toyota’s iconic Prius hybrid, even as the aging current generation grows less competitive in other ways.
Versus the competition: When Toyota unveiled this generation of the Prius more than five years ago, we lauded the car’s advancements in handling and interior quality. The intervening years, however, have seen rivals catch up on fuel efficiency and pull ahead in refinement and other technologies — though none yet offer all-wheel drive.
Toyota added the option of AWD to the Prius two model years ago, and it remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars of its type, at least before you look at plug-in vehicles. The AWD Prius comes in LE and XLE trim levels; we evaluated an XLE. The Prius can be had with front-wheel drive in five trims, including a limited-run 2020 Edition that commemorates two decades since the Prius debuted. (Heritage notwithstanding, it’s a baffling move; slapping “2020 Edition” on a 2021 model invites needless confusion, not to mention a constant reminder of a year everyone wants to forget.)
Besides the 2020 Edition, changes for 2021 include some augmented safety features and new Android Auto smartphone connectivity on most trim levels (Apple CarPlay remains standard). Stack up the 2020 and 2021 Prius or compare 2021 trim levels. Note, we separately cover the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid with an EPA-rated 25 miles of all-electric driving range on a full battery charge before the gas engine kicks in. (Here’s more about the main differences between a hybrid and plug-in hybrid.)
Gas Mileage: The Reason Anyone Buys a Prius
The Prius’ mileage leader is the L Eco, a base trim level that’s good for an EPA-estimated 56 mpg combined. Among plug-free cars, that rating trails only one rival: the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, whose base trim level, Ioniq Blue, gets an EPA-rated 59 mpg combined. That said, the L Eco trim accounts for less than 10% of Prius cars listed in Cars.com’s dealer inventory as of this writing. Most shoppers will end up with other trims of the Prius, which the EPA still rates a very good 52 mpg combined.
The Prius AWD, meanwhile, employs an additional electric motor at the rear axle, which powers the car continuously from a stop, then as-needed up to 43 mph. There’s no mechanical connection to the main powertrain, which pairs two electric motor-generators with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A power-split device with continuously variable properties doles out power to the wheels.
The whole of it makes for a combined 49 mpg in EPA ratings — short of the front-drive Prius but outstanding for an AWD vehicle that isn’t a plug-in. Our real-world testing returned results consistent with the car’s rating, with 46.6 mpg according to our calculations based on fill-up mileage ( 51.5 mpg on the trip computer) after 215 miles of mixed highway and suburban driving.
What You Give Up to Get There
As with most hybrids, electric operation alone is possible at low speeds under light acceleration, with the engine kicking in for anything beyond that. Under a combination of engine and electric power, the Prius has enough oomph; I needed most of the drivetrain’s reserves to claw my way up to 40 mph with 17 bags of mulch aboard — at least several hundred pounds — but power felt workably adequate.
That’s not to say the drivetrain is all that responsive. Press the accelerator while already in motion, and the Prius hesitates a beat or two before raising rpm to pull noisily ahead. Most modern CVTs implement quicker rpm transitions to mimic a step-gear downshift, but such programming usually trades fuel efficiency for responsiveness, so I seldom observe it with the CVT-style transmissions many hybrids use. The Prius, unsurprisingly, does none of that: Engine revs meander up or down in a slow, old-school fashion.
A few other downsides persist. Toyota’s regenerative brakes — a feature employed in all hybrids — impart a nonlinear pedal feel reminiscent of the technology’s early days. Response is tentative in the first inch or so of pedal travel, then becomes suddenly sharper as you press harder. So-called pedal linearity has improved among many hybrids over the years, even as a few non-hybrids introduce new forms of it.
Ride quality and noise abatement also remain areas that could use improvement. At highway speeds, our test car’s efficiency-oriented Bridgestone Ecopia tires let out quite the howl, with adjacent trucks matching the ambient noise. The suspension sorts out minor bumps well enough, but anything significant sends turbulent aftershocks through the body. The Prius is not especially comfortable or quiet.
Is this the penalty for sky-high mileage at an affordable price? Maybe; the rival Honda Insight is no bank vault, either. Mass-market hybrids aren’t known for sophisticated suspensions or gobs of noise insulation, but some execute those things better than others. A redesigned Prius will probably improve on such aspects, and with the current Prius entering its sixth model year for 2021, time for a new version is nigh.
By contrast, the Prius’ hybridness has little bearing on its other deficiencies. Most trims get a touchscreen measuring just 7 inches diagonally — an inch short of what you’ll find in the base version of many mass-market cars — with modest screen resolution and undersized volume and tuning knobs. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration are included with the 7-inch system, but they require a tethered connection as opposed to the wireless integrations that are expanding industrywide. Upgrade to the front-drive Prius Limited and you get the Prius Prime’s 11.6-inch vertically oriented touchscreen, but it confoundingly loses Android Auto connectivity. See our impressions of it otherwise.
Where It Still Shines
An early example of Toyota’s well-executed TNGA platform, which now underpins many other cars, the Prius boasts improbably good handling. The steering has a touch of vagueness on-center, but it communicates lively feedback as you turn the wheel into corners. Body roll is nicely controlled, and the AWD model shows unexpected balance if you slide it around — something the Bridgestones easily allow.
Space efficiency, at least up front, is also among the Prius’ strengths. The low center console leaves good space for your knees and thighs, and all but the tallest drivers should find sufficient headroom, even with the seat elevated all the way. The backseat is a bit low to the floor, so adults may find their knees uncomfortably elevated, but we found sufficient clearance to fit bulky rear-facing child-safety seats behind a 5-foot-6-inch front passenger. (That’s not to say, however, that the Prius passed Cars.com’s Car Seat Check with flying colors; parents with young children should check out our full scoring.)
We measured 13.1 cubic feet behind the Prius’ backseat, a figure comparable to our audits for two other smallish hatchbacks, the Mazda3 (13.1 cubic feet) and Subaru Crosstrek (13.0 cubic feet). (Note that our independent accounting of cargo space differs from manufacturer specs, which we’ve found overrepresent hatch space, underreport trunk volume and are unreliable for comparison.)
The Prius earned top scores in most crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but suboptimal results in the passenger-side small overlap front test kept the vehicle from garnering one of IIHS’ influential, if widespread, Top Safety Pick awards. Still, Toyota’s long list of safety and driver assist features is impressive: Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure steering assist and automatic high-beam headlights are standard, as are adaptive cruise control and hands-on lane centering. Those last two features can both operate from a standstill all the way up to highway speeds. New for 2021 is the latest generation of Toyota Safety Sense, which adds more detection capabilities, and all but the base trim level get a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. Top trims add curve-adaptive headlights.
Should You Buy a Prius?
The Prius starts around $25,500 for the cheapest front-drive trim. That’s roughly commensurate with Toyota’s immediate competition, and the base Prius doesn’t skimp on multimedia features or safety and driver-assist tech, as some rivals do. Optional AWD adds a modest $1,000-$1,400 to the Prius’ mid-level trims, depending on specifics; the cheapest AWD Prius lands comfortably under $30,000 (all prices include destination charges).
Ascending trim levels add items like faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat. Oddly enough, you can’t get certain top-of-the-line features on any AWD model, and niceties like a memory driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control and genuine leather are unavailable on any 2021 Prius.
Loaded with factory options, the Prius tops out around $34,500. You should be able to find plenty of examples well below that, given about two-thirds of the new 2021 models listed on Cars.com are priced at or below $30,000. Still, budget-conscious shoppers might find wider affordability on the Insight, with 82% of its new 2021 models priced at or below $30,000 on Cars.com.
That said, the venerable Prius is bound to find plenty of shoppers. The current generation shows its age through its drivability and multimedia tech, but lower trim levels offer a good mix of value and efficiency — especially with AWD, a capability that hybrid shoppers would otherwise need an SUV to get.
With a little help from Nissan, Mitsubishi returns to relevancy with its undeniably distinct and unexpectedly engaging fourth-generation Outlander SUV.
Mitsubishi needs a hit. It's no secret that the Japanese automaker is now a minor player in the U.S. market, its product lineup lacking the star power of an Evo, or even a Montero. It doesn't help that two of its four remaining models—the Eclipse Cross and the three-row Outlander—are compact crossovers that compete in the most cutthroat segment in America. After all, there are only so many driveways to fill every year, and in 2020 alone more than 1 million of them added either a new Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, or Toyota RAV4. Meanwhile, the Outlander (Mitsubishi's most popular U.S. model) found just 173,674 takers from 2016 through 2020. Facing increasing competition and decreasing market share, the company could've ordered up another facelift and resigned itself to perpetual fringe-player status. Instead, it found a tag-team partner and fought for relevancy.
Enter the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. While there’s certainly plenty of scandal and strife between Nissan and Renault, this is also Mitsubishi's redemption story. In short, the merger means Nissan developed a platform and powertrain for the all-new 2021 Rogue and then shared those fundamental pieces with Mitsubishi, which used them to create the fourth-generation 2022 Outlander. The result is a surprisingly compelling addition to the throng of compact utes jockeying for the public's attention and the press's admiration. To be clear, we're not just impressed with the new Outlander because it's better than its predecessor, which set the bar somewhere down in the Mariana Trench. We're charmed by its competent handling, handsome interior, and roster of desirable features. Its extroverted bodywork will likely have as many haters as fans, but its bold face does look better in person and some might even say it has shades of Range Rover if you look past the three-diamond emblem and squint really hard.
HIGHS: A cabin we like spending time in, more popular modern features, sporting intentions shine through not-so-sporting bones.
Mitsubishi calls the design inspiration I-Fu-Do-Do, which means “authentic and majestic” in Japanese. We'll just leave that right there. But we will point out that the new Outlander is one of only two compact crossovers with 20-inch wheels, which is surely to attract a size queen or two. The Volkswagen Tiguan also offers 20s and it's the only other seven-seater in this class, but the VW’s third row is limited to front-drive models. Every Outlander seats seven, but only five comfortably. Even though Mitsubishi says the rear-most seats are intended for kids only, we're confident anyone with legs won't be comfortable back there. At least passengers in the other two rows have adequate stretch-out space and enjoy more hip and legroom than before, thanks to a 3.4-inch width increase and an extra 1.4 inches between the axles. Cargo volume also grows from 33 to 34 cubic feet behind the second row and from 11 to 12 cubes behind the third row.
While the Outlander’s exterior is a clean break from the previous generation, its interior is an even wilder departure—not because it’s outrageously bizarre or futuristic, but because it’s genuinely nice. In the past, our most vitriolic comments were reserved for the Outlander’s prehistoric interior design and offensively cheap materials. Now, the dashboard is almost luxury-car grade in its elegant simplicity, and the hard plastics are mostly relegated to surfaces out of sight and infrequently within reach. Even base models have dual-zone climate control, knurled switchgear, and nice-feeling window switches. Stepping to a top-of-the-line SEL trim brings legitimate luxuries like leather, quilted door panels, and aluminum trim on the center console. Our Diamond White SEL example carried an as-tested price of $38,590, but that included the $2700 SEL Touring package with semi-aniline leather upholstery, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, a head-up display, and a panoramic sunroof. While we appreciated the crisp resolution and configurability of the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, only die-hard fans of The Price Is Right will appreciate the Big Wheel-inspired speedometer and tachometer. The 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system—up from the standard 8.0-incher—works flawlessly with wireless Apple CarPlay, though Android Auto users must still be plugged in.
The Outlander SEL we tested was also fitted with the $1800 all-wheel-drive system and the aforementioned 20-inch wheels. They're standard on most trims and even optional on the base one and are fitted with wide-for-this-class (255 section width) Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus all-season tires. They provide a notable 0.85 g of cornering grip and contributed to the Outlander's newfound agility. Sure, their narrower sidewalls and the SUV's lack of isolation combined to send hollow thuds up through the structure. The hood flutter at 70 mph is enough to have a passenger question whether the bonnet was actually latched. We’re not surprised that the steering offers little in terms of feedback, but the car doesn’t fall on its face if you have to hustle it around a cloverleaf to merge. It needed 172 feet to stop from 70 mph, which is respectable for the class and 8 feet shorter than a 2016 Outlander we tested. We’d feel even better about the brakes if the pedal weren’t so squishy.
But the biggest demerit is the Outlander’s 181-hp 2.5-liter inline-four and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It's the only powertrain until the plug-in-hybrid variant arrives. Thankfully, the new engine isn't quite the boat anchor that the 166-hp 2.4-liter four-pot it replaces was, but the 224-hp V-6 is no longer an option. The old four-cylinder powertrain carried the Outlander to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds. The Nissan-supplied version takes 8.2 ticks and is a half-second quicker between 50 and 70 mph (6.0 seconds flat). Both times are identical to the Rogue we tested, despite the Mitsubishi's 226-pound disadvantage. But even though the Outlander feels responsive at city speeds and can keep pace on the highway, the transmission's syrupy behavior and overall lack of urgency when merging dulls our enthusiasm. Especially when the top trim's sticker price mirrors that of a turbocharged Mazda CX-5.
Mitsubishi’s resolutely average powertrain is probably the right call for this market. Remember the 2010 Outlander GT? It featured a V-6, an electronically controlled limited-slip front differential, a lockable center diff, magnesium column-mounted paddle shifters, an aluminum roof, and a 7.5-second 60 time. Nobody bought that one.
So, four-banger and CVT it is. Though the Outlander's CVT mimics traditional gearchanges and effectively mitigates the dreaded engine drone, it doesn't really pay off at the pump. The EPA estimates all-wheel-drive versions will earn 24 mpg city and 30 highway. That's not particularly impressive, and an equivalent and lighter Rogue is rated at 25 mpg city and 32 highway. We tested both on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test and observed 32 mpg with the Nissan and a much lower 26 mpg with the Mitsubishi.
Even with our enthusiast-slanted gripes and its underwhelming powertrain, the 2022 Outlander finally has some style and substance to compete against today's top compact crossovers. “Spend money where people can see it” is probably a good strategy when your audience cares more about a quality interior than having a tarmac setting on the all-wheel-drive system. And compared with the Rogue, the Outlander also offers a higher towing capacity (2000 pounds versus 1350) and a longer powertrain warranty (10 years or 100,000 miles versus five or 60,000). Credit Nissan with the assist, but Mitsubishi made its own decisions and took its own chances to transform the Outlander from punchline to prime time.
A capable and seriously practical family SUV with hybrid power as standard
The Toyota Highlander isn’t a car that’ll be familiar to most people in the UK, but if you live in the USA, Russia or Japan you may well recognise it. This fourth-generation model is the first that’s been available in Western Europe and the UK, with Toyota now deciding that it has a gap to fill in its passenger car lineup.
The Highlander is a large, seven-seater SUV in the same vein as cars such as the Kia Sorento, Skoda Kodiaq and Land Rover Discovery – but with a uniquely Toyota character and specification. Chief among these is its hybrid powertrain, which is the only engine option and promises low running costs and a smooth, easy driving dynamic.
It sits really comfortably in between Toyota’s RAV4 SUV and its Land Cruiser off-roader, which was previously the only seven-seat Toyota car and only available with a rather agricultural diesel engine.
Simple model lineup makes for an easy choice
Toyota’s really made choosing a Highlander easy. There’s a pair of well-equipped trim levels and just one engine, so there’s no need for buyers to navigate a confusing mess of option packs.
The range kicks off with Excel models, which have almost all the equipment you could want – 20-inch alloy wheels, heated leather seats, tri-zone climate control, LED headlamps and a panoramic sunroof to name but a few highlights.
Excel Premium trim adds a few choice luxury touches, such as a head-up display, ventilated front seats and a ‘smart’ rear view mirror (actually a screen with rear camera feed), but unless you’re truly committed to owning the best variant there’s almost no need.
This does mean that the Highlander’s starting price is significantly higher than some of its main rivals, but the gap narrows when you consider similarly-equipped models. It effectively straddles the line between premium hybrid SUVs, such as the Volvo XC90, and more value-oriented offerings such as the Kia Sorento.
Hybrid engine is particularly good
Toyota’s been building hybrid engines for more than two decades, and its latest effort in the Highlander is a particularly good offering. It’s a self-charging hybrid rather than a plug-in – Toyota says drivers of cars like this typically take longer trips than would suit their limited electric-only range. Though it hasn’t totally ruled out a plug-in Highlander in the future (the mechanically similar RAV4 has a PHEV option), it would likely involve losing the two rearmost seats to make space for the battery – making it unlikely.
It pairs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors, shuffling between the two power sources as it sees necessary. It’s got plenty of power, even for such a big car, which means you don’t have to work the engine hard. That eliminates a typical issue of hybrid cars, namely that they tend to rev uncomfortably high – not an issue with the Highlander unless you really try to press on.
It’s also highly refined – nearly silent at a cruise – and very efficient, easily matching its diesel competition in this area. Smooth and powerful, it’s a great match for the Highlander’s bulk.
Hugely versatile interior
The Highlander seats seven, though the third row is somewhat tighter than rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery – it’s better suited to children or short journeys with adults.
Toyota Highlander rear three quarterEnlarge0videoEnlarge16photo
There’s loads of room in the two forward rows, though, and the centre row slides forwards and back by 180mm to balance legroom and luggage space.
The boot’s incredibly practical, too. With all seven seats in place there’s more luggage space than you find in a Land Rover Discovery or a Volvo XC90. In five seat mode, it’s bigger yet, and with all the rear seats folded there’s a cavernous 1,909 litres of space up to the roof, with a completely flat floor.
Toyota Highlander practicality and boot space
The Highlander is one of the largest cars Toyota sells – smaller only than the long-wheelbase Land Cruiser and the decidedly van-like Proace Verso.
Those exterior dimensions have been well-used and translate into a spacious interior with seven seats and a cavernous boot.
The front seats are particularly wide, soft and comfortable, as you’d perhaps expect for a car that sells very well in the USA. The second row is great too, with space for a six-foot adult to stretch out.
The third row’s a little tighter. Unlike the Land Rover Discovery, you won’t particularly want to seat adults back here, at least not for long trips – but they’ll be fine on short journeys, and there’s plenty of space for children.
The second row slides fore and aft by 180mm, too, allowing you to effectively balance legroom between the seats. Isofix child seat mounting points are present in the two outer seats.
Interior stowage space is excellent, and has been very well thought out – not always a given, even in cars that purport to be family friendly. The Highlander offers a big glovebox and a large centre cubby under the armrest for larger items, while storage for smaller oddments is ample – there are smartphone-sized pockets in all four doors, ideal when every passenger has their own device.
The Highlander’s boot is one of the biggest around, even among similar large SUVs. With all seven seats in place, there’s still 332 litres of space – that’s the size of a good-sized supermini’s boot, and easily enough to accommodate a family’s weekly shop.
Drop the third row of seats, meanwhile, and you’ll liberate 658 litres – and with both rear rows of seats folded there’s a cavernous 1,909 litres up to the roof. The rear seats also go totally flat, making it easier to load bulky or awkward items, while all cars get an electric tailgate. On top-spec Excel Premium cars, it's gesture-operated by waving a foot under the rear bumper.
If that huge boot still isn’t enough for you, the Highlander will tow a trailer up to 2.0-tonnes in weight.
The Toyota Highlander hasn’t yet been tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, but the signs are encouraging for it scoring well when it is.
North American market models were very highly rated by the USA’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning their highest commendation – a Top Safety Pick+.
The mechanically similar, albeit smaller, RAV4 SUV scored a full five stars when NCAP tested in 2019, which is a further encouraging sign.
Toyota’s loaded the Highlander with active safety aids, too, as part of its Advanced Toyota Safety Sense pack. All models come with autonomous emergency braking capable of detecting vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists in day or night conditions. There’s also Emergency Steering Assist and Intersection Turn Assist, both of which will actively steer you away from an impending collision.
Lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert complete a thoroughly impressive armada – and it’s all standard equipment on both of the Highlander’s trim levels.
Toyota Highlander interior and comfort
Toyota’s taken plenty of lessons from its RAV4 SUV when it comes to the Highlander’s interior trim, and in many ways that’s a really good thing.
It’s lovely and straightforward to navigate, with most of the controls positioned up relatively high on the dashboard so you don’t have to take your eyes too far off the road to work them, and in a sensible layout.
Better still, functions are, for the most part, controlled by big, chunky buttons and dials rather than awkward touch-sensitive pads. As a result, we think most drivers will feel at home in here very quickly indeed.
Build quality feels up to Toyota’s usual high standards and the Highlander looks as though it’s well-equipped for the rough and tumble of family life. Ergonomics are good, too – it’s not too high up of a clamber into the driver’s seat, and there’s plenty of adjustment. The view out of the narrow rear window is rather compromised, but that’s a gripe you’ll find on most cars of this size and shape.
Those expecting sumptuous luxury like you’d find on a Land Rover Discovery may be disappointed, though. With the exception of a little shiny trim and some token fake wood, almost everything’s a shade of dour grey or black, and the design is practical rather than stylish. Thank goodness for the standard panoramic glass roof, or the Highlander’s interior would feel very dark indeed.
The infotainment system is also rather below-par by the standards of the segment. Its 8.0-inch screen feels rather small perched atop the dashboard, and the interface is outdated and awkward to use. That’s grating against more expensive rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery or Volvo XC90 – but it’s embarrassing to think that base-model Kia Sorentos or SsangYong Rextons come equipped with a superior infotainment system.
The specification is otherwise very good, however. All models come with the aforementioned panoramic roof, but keyless entry, LED headlamps, triple-zone climate control, a wireless charging pad, leather upholstery and a premium JBL sound system are also present even on the ‘base’ model – a high level of spec that goes a long way towards explaining the Highlander’s entry price compared with some rivals’ more Spartan accommodations on their lower trim levels.
Refinement is one of the Highlander’s most impressive points. The hybrid engine is virtually silent at a cruise, and provided you don’t hoof it and keep the revs low it’s very quiet around town too. Combined with low levels of road noise, the most intrusive sound you’ll hear is a moderate level of wind noise whipping around its bluff front end and large door mirrors.
With soft suspension, the Highlander rides well over most surfaces – it’s not as pillowy soft as the Land Rover Discovery’s air springs but still deals effectively with all but the largest potholes. It resists body roll surprisingly well for such a tall car, too, helping reduce potential car sickness – ideal when you could have the back rows full of children…
The front seats are heated on all models, while top-spec cars come with heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. Particularly toasty in the winter.
Toyota Highlander running costs and mpg
What is miles per pound?
Hybrid petrol engines 7.0 - 7.1 mppLow figures relate to the least economical version; high to the most economical. Based on WLTP combined fuel economy for versions of this car made since September 2017 only, and typical current fuel or electricity costs.
Running costs for the Toyota Highlander should prove impressively low by the standards of the large SUV class, but a slightly deeper dive than usual is required to figure out why.
It’s true that, without a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model in the range, Toyota can’t claim anything like the 100.9mpg Volvo can for its XC90 T8 (when tested on the WLTP cycle). However, numbers like these are often only achievable with short journeys and regular charging stops. Toyota reckons buyers of large SUVs like the Highlander want a vehicle that’s also efficient on longer journeys.
To that end, fuel economy from its single self-charging hybrid powertrain ranges from 39.2 to 39.7mpg – and during a long, mixed test route we bested that with over 41mpg showing on the trip computer.
That’s a highly impressive figure and one that’s comparable to a lot of diesel SUVs. However, unlike a modern diesel, the Highlander doesn’t require a long warmup period or regular substantial journeys to clear out its emissions systems – it’ll provide strong economy on short runs just as well as it does longer ones.
CO2 emissions range from 160-163g/km, meaning the Highlander attracts a low first year VED bill and even lower company car tax. Those figures are on a par with the Kia Sorento Hybrid, which starts at 158g/km – however, once you apply a similar level of specification, the Kia’s CO2 is higher.
Few surprises here – Toyota cars are some of the most reliable vehicles you can buy, and its hybrids are legendary for their longevity. Just look at the number of Prius taxis clocking up mega miles in cities around the world…
While there’s not yet any data on the Highlander’s past in the UK – remember, this is the first time it’s been available in Western Europe – its reputation in the USA in particular is of a very solid and reliable vehicle.
Like all Toyotas, it’s backed up with a five-year, 100,000 mile warranty, and Toyota dealers are known for providing excellent, fuss-free service.
Toyota Highlander engines and performance
Strong performance, but not for speed demons
Choosing an engine for your Toyota Highlander couldn’t be easier – there’s only one, so you like it or lump it.
It’s the latest evolution of Toyota’s 2.5-litre self-charging hybrid powertrain, similar to the engine found in the RAV4 as well as some Lexus models. It pairs a four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors, one on each axle providing four-wheel drive – though the car stays front-wheel drive until it senses a loss of grip.
We’re pleased to say that for most drivers, it should provide stellar service.
With 248hp it’s certainly no slouch – 0-62mph is dealt with in 8.3 seconds, which is more than fast enough for a family SUV. What that power really does is mean you don’t have to strain the Highlander’s engine to make good progress.
That’s important as common to all Toyota hybrids is a continuously variable transmission. These have the tendency to send the revs spiralling high as soon as the driver asks for a bit of extra pace, making for a raucous experience. But with the Highlander’s ample pulling power, especially at low speeds where the two electric motors can really lend a hand, the engine remains hushed unless you really floor it.
It’s possible to force the Highlander to drive in ‘EV’ mode for a few miles, by pressing a button near the gear selector, but for the most part it’s best to simply let the car get on with it. It’ll shuffle between power sources all by itself, and the electric motors can cut in at speeds up to 78mph so they’re even useful on the motorway.
There are four other driving modes, named Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail. Eco dulls the throttle response in a bid to force you to drive more carefully, but it makes the Highlander feel rather sluggish. Sport goes too far the other way, sharpening responses to the point where it’s fairly difficult to drive the car smoothly. We’d recommend leaving the Highlander in Normal mode most of the time.
Trail Mode optimises the four-wheel drive system and accelerator for the best grip off-road. We haven’t had the opportunity to test the Highlander’s ability in the rough stuff, but it’s not really intended as a hardcore mud-plugger – opt for a Land Cruiser if that’s your priority.
One look at the Toyota’s bulky bodywork ought to be enough to reassure you this isn’t a particularly sporty car. But that’s fine, because it doesn’t try to be – instead, the Highlander’s strength is comfort.
That doesn’t mean it’s a wobbly mess, though. In fact, with a low centre of gravity, it controls body well much better than you’d expect for a car this size.
Toyota Highlander rear corneringEnlarge0videoEnlarge16photo
The steering is lightweight and direct, so it’s easy to manoeuvre the Highlander at slow speeds and position it where it needs to be on the road. That does translate into being slightly twitchy on the motorway, however.
A total lack of meaningful feedback, however, means those who really enjoy driving ought to opt for something more engaging, such as a Skoda Kodiaq.
Toyota Highlander verdict
Should you buy a Toyota Highlander?
The Highlander is a surprise hit from Toyota, packing an incredibly family-friendly interior into a package that’s comfortable, efficient, and very well-equipped.
It comfortably ticks every box that’s expected of a large family SUV and should prove conveniently painless to own, too.
The value story isn’t quite as strong as it needs to be for us to recommend it outright, however. A Highlander Excel is more expensive on manufacturer PCP (at the time of writing) than a Volvo XC90 B5 – a car that feels far more premium, and is better to drive too.
It’s even within spitting distance of the excellent Land Rover Discovery, and significantly more expensive than the fiercely capable – albeit slightly smaller – Kia Sorento Hybrid.
The Highlander’s low CO2 and petrol-fuelled powertrain make it a good choice for a company car, though, and if you’re a private buyer who plans on keeping it for a long time then there’s little else we’re so confident about labelling as reliable.
There aren’t that many direct rivals for the Highlander, so if a well-appointed and well-built hybrid SUV – that doesn’t plug in – is on your shopping list, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.