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Should You Buy a Hybrid SUV?


PUBLISHED FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2022

A hybrid SUV checks all the boxes.

If you're thinking about switching to alternative fuel, you might be wondering if a hybrid SUV is a good choice. Or maybe you're ready for your next SUV and are considering making the switch to a hybrid to maximize mpg. The great news is you've got plenty of options. A used hybrid SUV checks a lot of boxes, from cargo space to punchy powertrains to comfort for road trips.

Here's what you need to know about buying a hybrid SUV.

What Are the Types of Hybrid SUVs?

Before you commit, think about the type of hybrid that will suit you. In general, there are two types: one with a gas engine that uses a battery and motor for extra power and improved mpg, or a plug-in hybrid that has electric-only range but has to be charged like an electric car.

Mild Hybrid SUVs

These practical vehicles are a great step into the benefits of electric. They drive just like a regular gas car, but with an electric motor to give you an extra boost. A mild hybrid is great if you don't want to have to charge your car but want to add more to your range.

Take the Lexus RX 450h, for example. 2017-2022 AWD models have a 3.5L engine backed up by three electric motors. Together, these give you an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined, which is great if you're on a long road trip.

Hybrid powertrains balance performance with frugality, something that's clear from the 2017-2022 Lexus 450h's 308 horsepower.

Here are some other great options if you're looking for a hybrid:

Plug-In Hybrid SUVs

A plug-in hybrid feels a little different than a regular gas-powered car. That's because you get the benefit of some all-electric power. Plug-in hybrids typically use battery power before switching to the combustion engine as a backup. These are great if you want to save money on gas for around-town errands, while still having the option to fill up on long trips. As the name suggests, you'll need to plug in these hybrids to benefit from the battery power.

There are a number of examples of plug-in hybrids, including the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. 2018-2022 models have a 177-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine and a 60kW electric motor. These models achieve an EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined for gas only, with a total of 74 MPGe when taking the electric motor into account.

As a plug-in hybrid, the Outlander will also do electric-only miles. With a fully charged battery, you'll get an EPA-estimated 22 miles of range on 2018-2019 models.

You can also look for these plug-in hybrid models:

Popular Hybrid Car Features

If you're wondering if a hybrid SUV is right for you, think about what you need from your vehicle. Hybrid models often have more features than the base model of the same vehicle. This means access to high-tech sound systems, the latest convenience features, and plenty of driver aids.

For the Tech-Obsessed

If you're a little tech-obsessed, the 2017-2022 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid might fit your needs. You'll get a power liftgate, Bluetooth® connectivity, tri-zone automatic climate control, and more. 2022 models also come with standard driver-assistance features, two 12.3-inch displays, and available Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity.

For Music Lovers

Love to listen to your favorite music on the way to work? Look for the 2018-2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It has standard Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto connectivity, along with a six-speaker sound system.

For Weekend Travelers

Hybrids are pretty practical, too. The 2017-2022 all-wheel-drive V6 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can tow an estimated 3,500 lbs., when properly equipped.

If minimizing stops at the pump is important to you, look for 2017-2019 models, which include a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and two electric motors to achieve an EPA-estimated 40 mpg combined.

For Large Crews

Got lots of passengers and gear? You have some great options. The three-row 2017 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid has plenty of configurable space for both passengers and cargo, boasting 16 cubic feet with all seven seats in place. This increases to 40.8 cubic feet with the back row folded.

If five seats are enough, take a look at the 2017-2019 Nissan Rogue Hybrid. Its clever cargo system, called Divide-N-Hide®, can be configured to maximize your storage options. The 2019 Rogue has 27.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, with a total of 61.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid SUVs

As with any vehicle, it's important to weigh the pros and cons to ensure you find something that fits your lifestyle.

Hybrid SUV Pros

  • Improved fuel economy, thanks to the hybrid powertrain

  • Often more practical than an all-electric vehicle

  • Lots of space, as you'd expect from an SUV

  • Many models offer AWD or 4WD

  • Capable engine options

  • High driving position for increased visibility

Hybrid SUV Cons

  • You still have to fill up at the gas station

  • Not all models have electric-only range

  • Not quite as green-conscious as an electric-only vehicle

  • Not always practical for narrow city streets or parking lots

Best Hybrid SUVs

If you're sold on the idea of a hybrid SUV, check out the best hybrid SUVs for 2022 shoppers, based on CarMax sales data from September 1, 2021, through February 28, 2022.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

If you're looking for a capable hybrid SUV to reduce trips to the pump, the RAV4 is a good choice. The 2019 model has a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and two electric motors for an EPA-estimated 40 mpg combined.

The standard all-wheel drive is great if you regularly encounter poor weather or want to do some light off-roading.

With 70 cubic feet of maximum cargo space in 2017-2019 models, the RAV4 Hybrid is ready for any adventure. 2020-2022 models also benefit from Android Auto connectivity and a standard power driver's seat on the XLE trim.

Standard features on the 2017-2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid include:

  • 6.1-inch touchscreen

  • Cloth upholstery

  • Power sunroof

  • Six-way adjustable driver's seat

  • Rearview camera

Learn more at our Toyota RAV4 Hybrid research page.

Lexus RX 450h

The Lexus RX 450h is a luxurious hybrid SUV with plenty of high-end features. You'll appreciate the power of the 3.5L engine and its electric motors. With all-wheel drive, 2017-2022 models get an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined.

This is great news if you love road trips and want fewer trips to the gas station.

All 2017-2022 Lexus RX 450h models include these standard features:

  • Forward-collision warning

  • 12-speaker audio system

  • Power liftgate

  • Dual-zone automatic climate control

  • Eight-inch color touchscreen

Explore more Lexus RX 450h research today.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

With seating across three rows, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a supremely practical SUV that's great for trips with family and friends. You'll get 13.8 cubic feet of space behind the third row—plenty of room for your things, even when you have a full load of passengers. 2017-2019 Highlander Hybrids have a 306-hp 3.5L V6 engine with three electric motors. Together, they get an EPA-estimated 29 combined mpg on LE Plus models, and 28 combined mpg on standard models.

In 2020, a redesigned Highlander Hybrid hit the road with a four-cylinder engine alongside the electric motor. While this offered a little less power than before, it boosted the EPA-estimated mpg for two-wheel-drive 2020-2022 models to 36 mpg.

All 2017-2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrids include these standard features:

  • Windshield wiper de-icer

  • Six-speaker audio system

  • 6.1-inch touchscreen display

  • Rearview monitor with projected path

  • Five USB ports

Learn more! View all our Toyota Highlander Hybrid research.

Lexus UX 250h

The upscale Lexus UX 250h is a head-turning hybrid that can accommodate five passengers in comfort. All 2019-2022 UX 250h models are powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors for a combined 181 horsepower. From the base trim up, this is a feature-filled SUV with deluxe finishing and useful tech, including a suite of driver aids, standard all-wheel drive, and a trio of driving modes.

The 2019-2022 Lexus UX 250h features as standard:

  • Adaptive cruise control

  • Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay integration

  • Seven-inch display screen

Continue your Lexus UX 250h research to learn more.

BMW X5 Plug-In Hybrid

Smooth sedan-like handling and utilitarian performance make the five-seat BMW X5 Plug-In Hybrid a great choice. The 2017-2018 X5 Plug-in Hybrid has a 2.0L four-cylinder hybrid powertrain that provides a dazzling 308 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Its fuel economy is noteworthy too, with an EPA-estimated 56 MPGe when fully charged.

A refreshed hybrid returned to the X5 lineup in 2021 after a two-year hiatus.

The 2017-2018 BMW X5 Plug-In Hybrid includes these standard features:

  • Adjustable suspension dampers

  • 10.2-inch display screen

  • Power liftgate

Find out more on our BMW X5 Plug-In Hybrid research page.

Best Hybrid SUVs under $30,000

If you're looking for a hybrid SUV on a budget, check out this list of great vehicles under $30,000 (based on CarMax sales data from July 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021).

Be aware that newer model years and upper trim configurations may bring the prices of some of these vehicles over $30,000.

Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid

An excellent choice for heading into the wilderness, the 2018-2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a gutsy crossover with all the comforts of a smooth-running family vehicle. The 2018-2020 Outlander is powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine and two 60kW motors, with a 12kWh onboard battery pack. With standard 4WD, 7.3 inches of ground clearance, and a real-time GPS display in the driver panel, the Outlander is ready for adventure.

The five-seat 2018-2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV features as standard:

  • Active stability control

  • Premium leather seating

  • Seven-inch touchscreen

Find more Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid research to help you decide.

Nissan Rogue Hybrid

The 2017-2019 Nissan Rogue Hybrid would be a welcome addition to any urban driveway, thanks to the fuel economy boost from its 176-hp combined powertrain. The 2.0L four-cylinder engine and onboard electric motor can be paired with front- or all-wheel drive. The 2017-2019 FWD model achieves an EPA-estimated 34 mpg combined, with the AWD version close behind at an EPA-estimated 33 mpg.

Available in two trims (SV and SL), the 2017-2019 Rogue Hybrid is well equipped, though you may prefer a 2018 or 2019 model if smartphone connectivity and a hands-free power liftgate are must-have features.

All 2017-2019 Nissan Rogue Hybrid SV models include these standard features:

  • Alloy wheels

  • Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert

  • Six-speaker audio system

Learn more at our Nissan Rogue Hybrid research page.

Infiniti QX60 Hybrid

The 2017 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid is a great option to consider if you're shopping for a seven-seater. The hybrid powertrain (a supercharged 2.5L four-cylinder gasoline engine with an onboard battery and electric motor) delivers improved fuel economy, which is always appreciated when your days are filled with work appointments and family errands. The 2017 QX60 Hybrid achieves an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined.

The 2017 QX60 is a deluxe model, so expect features like leather seating and premium audio as standard.

The 2017 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid model also features:

  • Moonroof

  • Heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel

  • Traction control

Continue your Infiniti QX60 Hybrid research to learn more.

Nissan Murano Hybrid

Built for the 2016 model year only, the bold and stylish Nissan Murano Hybrid should be on your short list. In addition to its hybrid powertrain, the five-seat 2016 Murano Hybrid has easy-to-use tech and an upscale, plush cabin that will please your passengers, especially on long road trips. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the 2016 Murano Hybrid has a supercharged 2.5L four-cylinder engine with a 15kW motor, delivering an EPA-estimated 29 mpg (FWD model).

Standout features of the 2016 Nissan Murano Hybrid include:

  • Zero Gravity seat cushioning

  • Leather upholstery

  • Premium Bose® audio system

  • Around View® monitor

Explore more Nissan Murano Hybrid research today.

Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

If you're looking for a seven-seater with hybrid power, the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid is a crossover SUV that runs on a supercharged 2.5L engine with an onboard battery and electric motor.

Well suited for multiple school and work drop-offs, the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid is equipped with Nissan's EZ Flex Seating System, bringing sliding and reclining functionality to all three rows for ease of access and journey comfort. The 2014 model is available in three trim levels (SV, SL, and Platinum).

The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid SV trim features as standard:

  • Tri-zone automatic climate control

  • Six-speaker audio system

  • Rearview camera

Find out more on our Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid research page.

If you're looking for a practical vehicle that's ready for daily errands—with plenty of tech, too—a used hybrid SUV is an excellent choice. A hybrid powertrain offers the best of both worlds and lets you go farther between fill-ups.

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