As hybrid options expand and SUVs continue their dominance, it seems fitting to discuss the best hybrid SUVs on the market.
“Hybrids and Plug-Ins and EVs, oh my!” young Dorothy might say if she were looking to buy a car today instead of chasing the Yellow Brick Road. Automakers of all ilks are releasing ever-increasing numbers of vehicles propelled by more than just gasoline. Early on, hybrids were relegated to small, odd-looking blobs with a singular focus on efficiency. However, with the insatiable American demand for SUVs, this tech has adapted for use in more mainstream applications making it an ideal moment to discuss the best hybrid SUVs on the market. As a sidebar – EVs are not technically hybrids since they are 100% electrically powered as we discuss in depth here.
Kia’s smallest hybrid SUV, the Niro, comes in three flavors – traditional hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and full EV. Starting at just under $25,000, the HEV variety is a tremendous value considering it sports an EPA efficiency estimate of 53 mpg in city driving and 48 on the highway. A 1.6L inline-4 making 104 horsepower (hp) combines with a single electric motor to make a combined 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The level of regenerative braking is adjustable and there is an impressive 55 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row.
Kia’s DriveWise suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) requires moving past the base model but the 100,000-mile warranty is included on all Niros. An 8” screen with wireless Apple and Android smartphone integration is also standard fare with high-end amenities like Highway Driving Assist, a semi-autonomous driving mode, Harman Kardon audio system and dual-zone automatic climate control all available. Kia has a reputation for packing huge levels of content into a relatively low price point and that clearly extends to their hybrids.
The Blue Oval has been building hybridized Escapes for more than 15 years, 2022 marks the fourth generation. It’s given them time to perfect the art and ability to offer a $28,000 Escape HEV that will hit 44 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. Typically, a hybrid costs quite a bit more than its non-hybrid counterpart in exchange for better efficiency but that’s not the case here. A regular, gas-powered Escape with save you about $1000 versus the HEV, but it will cost you at the pumps with an EPA city driving estimate of 28 mpg.
About 10” longer than Kia’s Niro, the Escape naturally has more cargo space at 61 cubic feet. It also has available all-wheel-drive, Active Park Assist and a hands-free liftgate further up the trim ladder. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 standard group of ADAS features blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and lane keeping assist. Between the 165 hp, 2.5L four-cylinder and 96 kW electric motor, hybrid Escapes have a combined 200 hp, more than enough to get up and go. But if you’re more interested in stretching a gallon of gas, there is also a plug-in model that is rated for a huge 105 MPGe.
After a 6-year hiatus, the Venza nameplate returned in 2021 as a hybrid-only, midsize SUV with elegant styling. Toyota is no stranger to the hybrid game with their highly regarded Prius lineup making it an obvious choice on this list of Top 10 hybrid cars. They have since expanded with a roster of hybridized SUVS that includes the RAV4 and Highlander. But the Venza makes this list because it adds a swish of style to an occasionally staid segment. Some might even mistake it for a Lexus.
Unfortunately, getting frisky with the shape results in a cargo hold that matches that of the smaller Kia Niro. However, Toyota makes up for that with a 10-year/150,000-mile warranty on the battery pack plus 2 years of complimentary maintenance. That battery pack powers a 118 hp front motor and 54 hp rear motor that combines with the gas-powered four-cylinder to produce a net 219 horsepower. It’s rated for 40 mpg around town, double that of a Honda Passport, and comes with a long list of ADAS plus optional Star Gaze electrochromic glass roof. Not bad for a starting price of $32,980.
Now, for something completely different we have the $51,000 Jeep Wrangler 4xe. Past and present collide with a stick-axled anachronism that you can plug into a wall. Wranglers are unabashedly old school 4x4s that can ford 30” of water, drop into low range and lock both differentials. All of that still applies with the 4xe (pronounced “4 by e”) thanks to tricks like a waterproof battery pack. Jeep is even working with Electrify America to build charging stations at trailheads around the country.
The idea of PHEV Wrangler may seem silly but where else can you drive, in silence, off-the-grid with no doors or roof? It is certainly expensive but there is 3 years of included factory maintenance, a 49 MPGe rating and all-electric range of 21 miles. Oh, and the 270 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque coming from the turbocharged 2.0L inline-4 and dual electric motors is enough to hit 60 mph in 6 seconds flat. That is both a terrifying thought and grantor of instant access to any list of best hybrid SUVs.
Moving upmarket, the Volvo XC90 Recharge comes with a wall plug and that unique brand of Scandinavian style starting at $64,800. The Swedes go engineering crazy here with a 2.0L four-cylinder breathing through both a turbo and supercharger. Combined with the electric motors, powered by a 11.6 kWh battery pack, this T8 eAWD configuration runs 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via 8-speed automatic.
There is no shortage of luxury SUVs to choose from, but Volvo blends their signature understated exterior styling with an elegant interior, handcrafted crystal gear shifter and available wool upholstery. It helps the plug-in XC90 stand out in a crowded segment. Seven seats, 86 cubic feet of cargo space and a tow rating of 5,000 pounds do not hurt. On the efficiency front, this XC90 has a 55 MPGe rating and all-electric range of 18 miles.
You can buy a six-pack of Kia Niros or a single, $165,300 Cayenne Turbo S PHEV and that’s just the starting price. What you will not find in your herd of Niros is a fire breathing twin-turbo V8 and electric motor that combine to produce 670 hp and 663 lb-ft of torque. Or Acid Green brake calipers, adaptive air suspension and the option to shell out $3150 for a Carmine Red paint job.
The actual hybrid specs are not all that impressive with 12 miles of all-electric range and a 42 MPGe rating, but those are not the only metrics associated with being the “best”. To be sure, this is a ludicrous machine that no one is buying to show proof of their tree-hugging ways. But it’ll rip to 60 in 3.6 seconds and top out at over 180 mph making it one of the best hybrid SUVs in my book.