Growing emphasis on planet-friendly transport, coupled with rising fuel costs that make economical driving a priority, means that many motorists are considering purchasing a hybrid vehicle for their next new car.
Hybrids combine a traditional engine with an electric engine. There are a number of hybrid options:
- A full hybrid (the car can be powered by either the electric engine or the petrol engine).
- A partial hybrid (the car is powered by both engines, operating at different stages of the driving process).
- A plug-in hybrid (the car can be powered purely by electricity, but needs to be recharged at a suitable charging point).
Here we take a look at seven of the best hybrid SUVs currently on the market. We consider the pros and cons of each, as well as suggesting the drivers who might benefit the most from each option.
1. Toyota RAV4
It's Australia's best-selling mid-size SUV, so from the outset, it's pretty clear that the RAV 4 is going to be an impressive choice. Up-to-date tech, formidable performance, excellent safety features and a high level of comfort mean this car is always a winner.
In hybrid terms, the AWD option is particularly exciting - an additional generator to the two offered in the FWD format provide about 80% of the rear axle's torque - perfect for successfully traversing sand, mud or other unstable surfaces.
- AWD hybrid option offers plenty of grip.
- Very safe.
- Good level of tech.
- Speed limited space-saving spare tyre.
- Some people don't like the raised front passenger seat.
Who should drive the RAV4?
It's a versatile vehicle that is likely to appeal to anyone wanting a good-quality SUV. The space-saving tyre may be a drawback if you regularly take longer trips, and the RAV4 isn't the cheapest. All that said, it's an SUV hybrid that holds its value and is unlikely to disappoint.
2. Toyota CH-R
Smaller than the RAV4, the CH-R benefits from striking exterior styling, a wealth of safety features and a 1.8l hybrid engine in the high-spec Koba variant. Like other Toyotas, it benefits from a good resale value, excellent reliability and a generous servicing package post-purchase.
- Good range of tech.
- Stylish interior that's a great place to spend time.
- The rear seats are cramped and light is limited compared with other SUVs.
- Some reviewers complain that the hybrid action is noisy.
- The extravagant styling makes rear visibility a challenge.
Who should buy the CH-R?
This is a compact SUV with limited rear space, so better for younger families. Some reviewers are less than enthusiastic about the driving experience, so if you like thrills behind the wheel, the CH-R may not be ideal. If you can afford it, it's probably worth paying the extra and splashing out on a RAV4.
3. Subaru Forester
Competitively priced and with a reputation for reliability, the Forester is a perennial favourite in the Australian car market. Unfortunately, reviewers don't rate the performance of its hybrid option particularly favourably, so buyers might be better advised to stick with the tried-and-tested petrol variants.
- Extremely safe, with a generous suite of autonomous safety features.
- Very reliable.
- Good value. It's competitively priced and you get a lot of gadgets and gizmos for your money.
- Driving performance is solid rather than stunning.
- Some people find a large number of switches and dials in the cabin irritating.
- Reviewers aren't particularly impressed by the hybrid variant.
Who should drive the Forester?
If you're shopping on a budget, the Forester could be right for you. Most SUV owners want a versatile workhorse that will work well for the school run, commuting, longer trips and the odd bit of off-roading with reasonable success. The Forester can do all that, as well as being very safe and offering great value.
4. Ford Escape
Benefiting from some upgrades for 2021, the Escape is Ford's answer to the likes of Toyota's RAV4 and the Mazda CX-30. The hybrid is due out for release towards the back end of 2021, so it will be interesting to see how it performs.
- Reviewers rave about the amount of tech you get, even in the base spec.
- A decent amount of space in the rear row and the boot size is good.
- Reviewers complain about a lack of comfort and seats that are a little too small.
Who should drive the Ford Escape
Decent sizing in the rear makes the Escape a good choice for families with teenagers, or people who carry adult passengers. Lack of comfort may be an issue on longer trips, however, so the Escape may be best for drivers that primarily need it for the school run or a short commute.
5. Mazda CX-30
It's not the cheapest in the SUV market, but the level of luxury the CX-30 offers may well be worth the price tag. Beautifully styled and with a very impressive array of tech, the combination of strong performance and good looks make the CX-30 an attractive choice.
- Beautiful styling both inside and out.
- Impressive tech and plenty of autonomous features.
- It's not particularly roomy in the back.
Who should drive the CX-30?
If you like a touch of luxury in your car, the Mazda is a great choice. The lack of rear space may mean it's better suited to drivers who rarely carry rear row passengers.
6. Toyota Kluger
Bigger than the RAV4, the Kluger is a seven-seater SUV that's perfect for larger families. Intriguingly, it's also one of very few larger SUVs that come in a hybrid variant.
- Very spacious.
- Some reviewers feel that the materials used in the interior give a cheap, tacky vibe.
- Reviewers don't rate the tech highly, given the price of the Kluger.
- Reviewers prefer the standard petrol engine over the hybrid variant.
Who should drive the Kluger?
If you have a large family and want a hybrid, the Kluger is the one for you! Although the tech isn't all that it could be, that's not necessarily a deal-breaker compared with the advantages the Kluger offers. If you want an attractive, tech-filled option, the CX-30 or the RAV4 may be more suitable. For drivers who need seven seats and a large luggage area, the Kluger works really well.
7. Kia Niro
Kia's first hybrid to hit the Australian market, the Niro is a plug-in option that's surprisingly affordable.
- Great value
- Quick charging
- Very comfortable to spend time in and to drive.
- Relatively limited range
- Small boot
Who should drive the Kia Niro?
The Niro is great for shorter commutes, the school run and nipping out to the shops - which is what most people use their car for 90% of the time! If you take longer trips, however, the lack of range and concerns about topping up the plug-in on the road mean the Niro isn't going to be the best choice.