Toyota Highlander (2021 – 2023) Review

Toyota Highlander (2021 – 2023) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Toyota Highlander is a leftfield choice if you’re in the market for a big, seven-seat SUV, but there are lots of reasons to consider buying one.

+Hugely practical. Extremely well made. Packed with features. Very comfortable.

-Quite pricey and limited supply of cars to the UK. Not at all engaging to drive. Outdated infotainment system.

Insurance Group 40

Toyota Highlander is a relatively new name in the UK, but it’s well established in other markets – particularly the USA. The Highlander first appeared in 2000 and Toyota decided to launch the latest, fourth-generation version in the UK in 2021. It slots into Toyota’s SUV lineup between the smaller Toyota RAV4 and larger Toyota Land Cruiser. In America, it’s classed as a mid-size SUV, but at five metres long, it’s definitely a large one in the UK. So what exactly is the Highlander?

It’s not too wide of the mark to think of the Toyota Highlander as a seven-seat Toyota RAV4. They share a similar look, similar hybrid powertrains, similarly excellent build quality and an equal focus on comfort. 

There’s currently a single model available in the UK: the Toyota Highlander Excel Premium. It’s a top-grade version that comes with many bells and whistles. Highlights from a very long list of standard equipment include sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, adaptive cruise control, leather seats, an opening panoramic sunroof, a JBL audio system, front seats with electric lumbar support and heating/ventilation, a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.   

The Toyota Highlander has a hybrid powertrain with a 2.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, plus four-wheel-drive and a CVT automatic gearbox. There’s enough power to provide reasonably rapid acceleration and the engine is very quiet (unless you floor the throttle).

Fuel economy of around 40mpg is pretty good for this type of car, while CO2 emissions are also relatively low. Annual VED charges and company car BIK tax rates are pretty reasonable, servicing is unlikely to cost much and the Highlander should prove to be very reliable. Reassuringly, Toyota can provide up to 10 years of warranty cover.

Comfort is the Toyota Highlander’s priority on the road. Its ride is generally very smooth (really big potholes can cause a shudder), the seats are soft and comfy, and the interior is nice and quiet. The steering is light and responsive, while the body doesn’t lean over much in corners.

The car’s size can take some getting used to, especially when parking, but there’s a battery of sensors and cameras to help you out with that. The Toyota Highlander doesn’t feel even slightly sporty on a winding country road and, quite frankly, the driving and passenger experience is all the better for it. It’s still competent enough to make pretty rapid progress, though. On motorways, it feels solid as a rock.

That’s all very well but, if you’re considering a Toyota Highlander, you’re probably more interested in its family car credentials, which are extremely strong.

There’s enough passenger space for seven adults to travel fairly comfortably together. There’s a vast amount of room in the front, and the second-row seats slide back and forth, so you can vary the space from child-sized to limousine-like according to your needs. Although adults can fit in the third row, it’s more comfortable for teenagers.

It’s worth noting, too, that the seats are at a convenient height for lifting kids into the car. You don’t have to strain your back by bending down or stretching upwards.

The Toyota Highlander’s boot is enormous. There is plenty of space for school and supermarket runs with all the seats in place, or for family holiday clobber with row three folded down (and a small wardrobe with row two folded down). If that’s still not enough, you can take advantage of the Toyota Highlander’s two-tonne towing capacity, which is notably high for a hybrid.

Equally importantly for a family car, the Toyota Highlander’s interior is so well made, there is no danger of the kids disassembling it.

The price for all this is just under £58,000 at the time of writing. That’s at the upper end of the range for this type of car, but we reckon the Toyota Highlander’s capability and extensive standard features make it pretty good value. Be aware that supply to the UK is limited, so you may have to wait a while before you can order one.

The Toyota Highlander is still quite a rare car in the UK. That’s partly because of its relatively steep price, but mostly because it faces strong competition from a lot of well-established rivals. However, the Highlander makes a very compelling case for itself. 

Ask Honest John

What's the best seven seater for towing a caravan?

"I need a large family car with seven seats and a towing capacity of 1,850kg. My existing Skoda Kodiaq is used for towing my caravan and driving on family holidays (with my three children and friends/relatives). The new seven-seat SUV diesel options are rather limited these days and I'm assuming I'll need another Kodiaq but I feel they’re a bit dated now, perhaps there could be another option in a similar price range? "
Another Kodiaq probably is your best choice - the seven-seat diesel SUV market is rapidly shrinking! You could try a Kia Sorento as an alternative. It's not as affordable as a Kodiaq but it is well-equipped for the money and offers plenty of space. It also makes for an excellent tow car. You could also consider a Toyota Highlander - it's a large plug-in hybrid SUV capable of towing up to 2,000kg.
Answered by Andrew Brady

Can you recommend a reliable alternative to a Land Rover Discovery?

"My daughter has a Land Rover Discovery which spends more time in the main dealer's workshop than on the road. It's costing them a fortune, which they can't afford. They need to get rid of it! They have three children in car seats, too. Which makes and models would you suggest for a secondhand purchase at a reasonable price? Kind regards."
A Toyota Land Cruiser is a good alternative to the Discovery but their reputation for indestructibility means they hold their value incredibly well. A Citroen C5 Aircross could be a good option – they represent good value for money and have three individual rear seats, which helps with fitting child seats (although only the outer seats have Isofix points). Also consider a Skoda Kodiaq or maybe the new Toyota Highlander.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a Toyota Highlander (2021 – 2023) cost?