On paper the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid should be a surefire winner in this category. The Toyota 2009 Highlander Hybrid offers the promise of three rows of seating, impeccable Toyota quality, and an abundance of cargo space. The reality isn't quite as rosy as one might hope, but there are no glaring faults with the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
The 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can seat up to seven passengers, according to ForbesAutos, thanks to "a third-row seat [that] is standard on the Limited and optional on the base version." MyRide.com reports that "all but the very tallest front passengers will find the Highlander comfortable," thanks to "ample leg, head and shoulder room." In the middle row Edmunds says "the second-row seats recline and then also move fore and aft through 4.7 inches of travel. The second-row seat also incorporates a Center Stow seat, an occasional seat that can also be converted to a center console or even stowed away to create separate captain's chairs." Even the third row, which in most mid-size SUVs is reserved only for those who have really upset the driver, offers a usable amount of space. Cars.com reviewers find that, "depending on where the second row is positioned, the third row can be surprisingly adult-friendly," although "headroom [can be] a bit tight." Car and Driver offers a more moderate opinion, claiming the third row "will do for small adults for short trips, and little kids should be happy back there for a while longer."
Compared to the previous-generation Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the new model has grown significantly, and the extra dimensions are most apparent when it comes to cargo space. MotherProof goes a bit overboard with the hyphens in describing the Toyota Highlander Hybrid as "moderately-sized-yet-totally-spacious," though other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com definitely support that statement. According to Cars.com "the third row folds flat into the floor, and the second row folds nearly flat," and "with all seats folded, maximum cargo volume is 95.4 cubic feet." MyRide.com points out that "with the low liftover height and a hatch opening flush to the cargo floor loading and unloading is easy." Car and Driver reports that the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is not only spacious, "but it also has many clever solutions for interior flexibility."
The one word invariably associated with Toyotas is "quality," but on the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid some reviewers feel that competitors are catching up to Toyota in this regard. MyRide.com reviewers aren't sold on the quality, finding that "it's not that the materials aren't good quality; they're [just] out of place in a vehicle that starts at $33,700 for the base model." Cars.com is more critical, claiming that "cabin quality is merely average," and while "the window switches, turn signals and center controls could go straight into a Lexus," overall "most areas are trimmed in hard plastics...and the textures lack the appeal of the stuff in several competitors." Few can argue with the overall build quality, though, and MyRide.com says "exterior construction is good" and "panel gaps [are] average size and most of them are even and symmetrical."
Unfortunately, the hig Toyota build quality doesn't translate into a quiet ride inside the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. ConsumerGuide is disappointed that "wind and road noise are noticed at highway speeds, and the Hybrid's electric motor is annoyingly whiny." Cars.com agrees, finding that the Toyota Highlander Hybrid suffers from "a bit more suspension noise over major bumps than [they've] come to expect in a midsize SUV."