2021 Toyota Kluger Hybrid first drive review

Toyota’s first Kluger hybrid model will come to Australia next year. We get a taste of the model in Canada, where it has already launched.

The Toyota Kluger Hybrid gets the Japanese company’s latest, fourth-generation hybrid electric powertrain, which made its debut in the Camry. It’s based around a 2.5-litre, Atkinson-cycle petrol inline-four with electric motors front and rear for AWD and a nickel-metal hydride battery beneath the second row of seats.

From the outside, the Kluger’s rounded corners and flared arches serve to break up its sheer size – a smidge under 5m in length.

Inside, Toyota has succeeded in taking the Kluger upmarket with this new model. The upscale cabin, at least on our high-end Limited model, has convincing woodgrain trim, comfy leather seats, an imposing, 12.3-inch infotainment screen and rock-solid build quality.

There’s all the space you’ll need, too, particularly for passengers in the first and second rows, with a moon roof to enhance the cabin’s airy feel. Access to the third row is easier than average but adults still won’t want to spend long periods back there, even with the second row sliding a useful 180mm to give your knees some breathing space. Folding the third row flat unlocks a cavernous boot.

On the move, the interior is quiet bar the odd vibration from an unoccupied second-row seat, but we would have preferred to have felt a little less of the road surface through the test car’s 20-inch rims. Specifications for Australia are yet to be confirmed, though we expect the suspension to be retuned for Australian roads with the relaxed body control over larger undulations and body roll on corners surprising even for a North American vehicle in 2020. The Kluger Hybrid does a good job of absorbing smaller bumps, however.

The steering provides acceptable weight and accuracy for a big SUV, but the feel isn’t as satisfying as in a Camry, nor as good as in a Hyundai Telluride, which is our pick of the three-row SUVs on sale in North America.

The Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain is well blended as always. Electric-only running mode is available up to about 30km/h, but also kicks in automatically when coasting. There’s more than enough power for smart acceleration and smooth overtaking, even if the Kluger’s focus is on economy rather than outright performance.

We recorded 6.7L/100km in a week of mostly city driving. The economy is impressive in a segment where 3.5-litre V6s that return around 11.3L/100km are the norm.

Assuming Toyota comes up with more acceptable ride and handling for Australian buyers, the Kluger Hybrid should have a lot going for it when it arrives next year. In North America, a V6 Kluger wouldn’t tempt us out of the excellent Telluride, but Kia doesn’t make a hybrid version and even the main electrified competition falls short in the economy stakes.

Likewise, in Australia, it’s hard to see what else could match the Toyota’s vast size and hybrid economy, at least without the premium price tag of a Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine. Toyota has yet to confirm pricing: the Canadian model as tested sells for the equivalent of around $56,000 but we’d guess that the Kluger will retail for more in Australia.

2021 Toyota Kluger Hybrid specs

On sale in Australia 2021 Engine 4 cyls in line, 2487cc, petrol, plus front and rear electric motors Power 179kW at 6,000rpm Torque 237Nm at 4,400rpm Gearbox CVT Kerb weight 2065kg Top speed 185km/h (est) 0-100km/h 8.0sec (est) Fuel economy 5.5L/100km (est) CO2 146g/km (est) Rivals Hyundai Santa Fe, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Graham Heeps

Final Verdict:

Lamborghini Sian makes dynamic debut with limited-run Ducati

603kW hybrid hypercar spawns a matching Diavel 1260 motorcycle from Ducati

Skoda Scala introduces new engine

Skoda has introduced a new entry-point to the Scala range. Skoda has broadened its Scala hatchback lineup, adding a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder...

Green NCAP questions hybrid technology after testing

Manufacturers accused of forsaking “simple but effective” technology to reduce emissions of hybrids. Euro NCAP bosses have said it's “disheartening” that some hybrid manufacturers are forsaking...

Related articles