Best Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers for 2020
On paper, a hybrid SUV sounds ideal. A car with a roomy interior, SUV versatility and fuel-thrifty ways? Sign us up.
The reality is a bit more complicated. Since SUVs sit higher off the ground, they create more aerodynamic drag than sleek hybrid hatchbacks like the Toyota Prius that can achieve 50 mpg. Finding space for a hybrid battery pack, especially in an SUV that also needs to offer all-wheel drive, presents an additional challenge for automakers. Rear-seat and cargo space often suffer as a result. And while interest in hybrids tends to rise along with fuel prices, regular crossovers generally tend to offer a more affordable alternative without sacrificing much fuel efficiency.
Accordingly, there are only a few good picks among mainstream models that start at less than $40,000, and only a handful more at the luxury level. But whether you’re looking for maximum fuel efficiency with simple utility or something with more style and cachet, we’ve brought together today’s best hybrid SUVs in one place, along with our insightful reviews to help you decide the right fit.
Our editors have compiled robust ratings and reviews for today’s crop of hybrid SUVs. We’ve put these hybrid SUVs through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors. Our analysis dives deep into trim levels, pricing, features, mpg, safety, interior design, and driving and performance. And we pay attention to all the ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there’s enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors can help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Pros and Cons of Hybrid SUVs
Given consumers’ preference for crossovers and SUVs today, it makes sense that there would be similar interest in hybrid versions of these versatile vehicles. Conventional hybrid SUVs return excellent fuel economy, especially in city driving, while offering plenty of room for other passengers and cargo.
Plug-in hybrid SUVs go a step further by allowing drivers to top up the battery whenever they’re near a charger, making it possible for those with short commutes to travel almost entirely without gas. Depending on where you live, there may also be tax incentives for buying a hybrid or plug-in hybrid SUV, reducing the cost to you. With fewer tailpipe emissions, you also help keep your community’s air cleaner.
On the other hand, hybrid battery packs eventually need replacing, which can be a big expense. Hybrid SUVs are also generally at their least efficient when cruising at high speeds, so if you spend a lot of time driving on open roads where the speed limit is 65 mph or higher, you won’t see maximal mileage benefits. Furthermore, hybrid SUVs tend to come with a price premium over their non-hybrid competitors, which could very well offset your savings on gas.
Hybrid vs. Plug-In Hybrid
Conventional hybrids are primarily powered by a gasoline engine and aided by an electric motor in certain driving conditions, such as low-speed city driving (which, depending on speed, can be done solely on electric power) or to help boost a surge of acceleration. Nearly all hybrids can self-charge the electric battery through engine power (similar to a generator) or during braking when the kinetic energy generated can be converted to energy stored in the battery pack.
Plug-in hybrids take this a step further by offering a connection that allows the battery pack to be charged from an electrical outlet, either from a standard household-style outlet or from the faster Level 2 and DC fast-charging connections. Recharging the battery this way typically allows the car to travel a short distance on electricity alone, often between 10 and 20 miles, before the gasoline engine kicks in.
Choosing the Right Hybrid SUV for You
Shopping for the hybrid SUV that best suits your needs is a bit like hunting for unicorns. Even the best choices come with certain compromises. There’s also the cost-value equation. Put simply, many hybrid SUVs don’t deliver significant fuel savings compared to their gas-only counterparts.
But a hybrid SUV can make sense if your driving is limited to short commutes punctuated by stop-and-go traffic, especially if you opt for a plug-in hybrid that offers a cache of electric-only miles. Manage it correctly and you can do much of your driving without ever dipping into the gasoline engine. While hybrid SUVs come with some challenges, they can also be a great fit for many drivers.