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Toyota’s Highlander SUV squares up to some tough Far Eastern rivals

A huge seven-seater Highlander is staking its claim to the high ground with a new universal warranty offer.

It’s arrival coincides with this week’s announcement that all new and used Toyota and Lexus can be covered up to a decade old, if serviced at a dealer.

The Toyota Highlander has a fight on its hands in the UK, facing keenly priced Far Eastern rivals including Kia’s award-winning Sorento and Hyundai’s Santa Fe.

Toyota's new Highlander seven seat Hybrid SUV  is a comfortable, practical and economical family SUV but it comes at a price - from £50,595 for the entry-level Excel

Toyota’s new Highlander seven seat Hybrid SUV  is a comfortable, practical and economical family SUV but it comes at a price – from £50,595 for the entry-level Excel

Driving it around Surrey, I can confirm it’s a big beast but with plenty poke from the gutsy 245 bhp 2.5 litre petrol-electric hybrid engine, boosted by front and rear electric motors, accelerating from rest to 62 mph in 8.3 seconds up to a top speed, where legal, of 111 mph.

Yet despite its size, it’s not at all overpowering, easy to drive, surprisingly nimble, feels comfortable and has lots of neat storage spaces and cubby holes.

The self-charging hybrid system lets it cruise in electric power only at up to 78 mph, which helps maintain relatively frugal (for a vehicle of this immense size) economy figures of 39.2 mpg and planet-preserving CO2 emissions of 163g/km. 

Verdict: Ray found the Highlander easy to drive, surprisingly nimble and comfortable with lots of neat storage spaces and cubby holes

Verdict: Ray found the Highlander easy to drive, surprisingly nimble and comfortable with lots of neat storage spaces and cubby holes

The Highlander's self-charging hybrid system lets it cruise in electric power only at up to 78 mph, which helps maintain relatively frugal economy figures of 39.2 mpg

The Highlander’s self-charging hybrid system lets it cruise in electric power only at up to 78 mph, which helps maintain relatively frugal economy figures of 39.2 mpg 

The HIghlander's 245 bhp 2.5 litre petrol-electric hybrid engine can take it from rest to 62 mph in 8.3 seconds up to a top speed, where legal, of 111 mph

The HIghlander’s 245 bhp 2.5 litre petrol-electric hybrid engine can take it from rest to 62 mph in 8.3 seconds up to a top speed, where legal, of 111 mph

You can set it to eco, normal or sport for on-road driving, the latter being the most engaging, with ‘trail’ for off-roading.

Fold-flat seating offers up to a vast 1,909 litres of boot space.

It can also pull a braked trailer weighing up to two tons; handy for towing boats and the like.

The Highlander's fold-flat seating offers up to a vast 1,909 litres of boot space. It can also pull a braked trailer weighing up to two tons; handy for towing boats and the like

The Highlander’s fold-flat seating offers up to a vast 1,909 litres of boot space. It can also pull a braked trailer weighing up to two tons; handy for towing boats and the like

Will it fit in my garage? 

  • New Toyota Highlander Excel hybrid
  • On sale: Now
  • Price: from £52,595 
  • Seats: 7
  • Length: 4,966mm Width: 1,930mm Height: 1,755mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,850mm
  • Weight: 2,050 to 2,105kg
  • Engine: 2.5 litre in-line 4-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid
  • Power: 244bhp
  • Transmission: continuously variable e-CVT automatic
  • Drive: All wheel drive. Electric motors on each axle.
  • Top speed: 111mph
  • 0 to 62mph: 8.3 seconds
  • MPG: up to 39.79mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 160 to 163g/km
  • Boot capacity: 7-seats up: 332 litres
  • 2-front seats up: 1,909 litres
  • Wheel size: 20 inches
  • Wading depth: 400mm
  • Fuel tank capacity: 65 litres

It’s packed with passive and active safety kit and benefits from Toyota’s reputation for reliability; it’s just been voted the most reliable car brand in the Auto Trader New Car Awards and came second of 31 makes in WhatCar? reliability survey.

But all of this comes at a hefty price; from £50,595 for the entry-level Excel.

The price of the Highlander rises to £52,575 for the Excel Premium which buys you the addition of: a head-up display; a hands-free kick-activated tailgate, ventilated front seats; heated outer second row seats; a digital rear view mirror (which helps give a clear view of the road behind).

That’s a big jump up from Hyundai’s Santa Fe priced from £39,460 and Kia’s Sorento which ranges from £39,110 to £47,210 for the hybrid, up to £53,095 for the plug-in hybrid I drove recently. 

There is no Highlander PHEV.

As Toyota’s largest SUV, the Highlander joins a line up which now includes the longstanding RAV4 (which has just added a new entry-level Design trim to its range priced from £46,495), C-HR, and new compact Yaris Cross.

The roomy new seven-seater all-wheel drive Highlander has long been on sale in Japan, USA, and Eastern Europe, and arrives now in the UK and western Europe for the first time.

Toyota launches 10 year warranty  

The market for cars, vans and pick-up trucks — new and used — has seen a significant shake up this week.

Toyota and Lexus have launched Relax, a rolling warranty scheme which applies not only to all new cars, but also retrospectively to ones up to ten years old.

Toyota's Relax warranty scheme applies not only to all new cars, but also retrospectively to ones up to ten years old

Toyota’s Relax warranty scheme applies not only to all new cars, but also retrospectively to ones up to ten years old

The key catch is they must be serviced by an official Toyota or Lexus dealer to qualify.

Existing warranties are standardised at three years or 60,000 miles for both marques. Thereafter, having an annual dealer service gives you the full ten years’ or 100,000 miles cover at no extra cost.

Rivals Kia currently offer a seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty on its new cars, while Hyundai and Renault offer five years.

Extended warranties are also offered by a range of private providers.

Caravan and motorhome thefts soar in the pandemic 

Caravan and motorhome thefts increased by 50 per cent in the weeks following periods of lockdown, says stolen vehicle recovery firm Tracker.

As UK based ‘staycations’ increase, Tracker is urging caravan owners to take extra precautions as thieves ‘make up for lost time’. 

Caravan and motorhome thefts increased by 50 per cent in the weeks following periods of lockdown

Caravan and motorhome thefts increased by 50 per cent in the weeks following periods of lockdown

This includes fitting wheel-clamps and security posts, or a substantial gate if parking on your drive.

Last year Tracker, which fits covert trackers to vehicles, recovered more than £1 million of stolen caravans and motorhomes; the most valuable being a £45,000 2017 Elddis Encore motorhome and a £33,400 Coachman VIP caravan. 

Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, said: ‘Criminals cut through barriers, locks, and other physical deterrents to steal valuable vehicles parked on driveways in seconds.’

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