First Drive

First Drive: TOYOTA HIGHLANDER

The story:
Toyota’s Highlander has finally made it to the UK now it has a hybrid powertrain, with the big seven-seat SUV having been sold in the USA, Japan, Australia and other markets since 2000 across four generations
Category:Large SUV
Key rival:Kia Sorrento
TOYOTA HIGHLANDER 2.5 HYBRID AWD EXCEL
Price:£50,010
MPG:39.8mpg
Emissions:160g/km
On sale:Now

The Highlander is the biggest (at least in dimensions) of several big Toyota new models coming this year.

The seven-seat large SUV has been a mainstay of the Japanese brand’s range in some markets since 2000, but its first hybrid powertrain means it’s a viable proposition in Europe for the first time.

First Drive - April 2021 - Toyota Highlander - Image 3The big four-wheel-drive model comes with a 248hp petrol hybrid that offers emissions of 159g/km or 160g/km depending on spec level, with the higher-spec Excel Premium model actually 1g/km, and one BiK band, lower than the Excel.

Lower-spec is a relative term in this £50,000 area of the market, with both of the options offering the kind of equipment levels that are to be expected.

All cars get 20-inch alloys, panoramic roof, powered tailgate, heated steering wheel, LED lights, 8.0-inch touchscreen and tri-zone climate control.

First Drive - April 2021 - Toyota Highlander - Image 7Toyota says its new model doesn’t pretend to be even semi-sporty, but is a comfortable and practical family car.

It’s certainly big and practical, with a sliding middle row of seats that offers a huge amount of legroom when pushed back, and still a decent amount when adjusted to give rear-row passengers more space. It would be possible to carry seven adults, with the least popular seat being the narrower middle one in the second row, rather than the two in the back. Or it could take four adults and a mountain of stuff with ease. The third row folds flat into the floor to create a big load area.

First Drive - April 2021 - Toyota Highlander - Image 9The Highlander feels big to drive. It accelerates briskly and is fairly refined, but when stopping or turning you feel its two tonnes. Still, the light steering and good all-round visibility make it easier to pilot around town than the bulk would suggest.

The cabin is a bit of a mix, with plenty of leather across the dash, and some nice wood and nice chunky switchgear.

Rivals to the Highlander include the petrol or diesel Volkswagen Touareg, as well as the more premium Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, but our Company Car Today CCT100 Award-winning Kia Sorento is the only one that offers a full ‘self-charging’ hybrid powertrain. The Kia, even in top-spec form, is significantly cheaper, but less efficient.

paul barker

The verdict

Excellent emissions and running costs. It’s priced to compete with premium rivals but practicality and space are good.