Best Hybrid SUVs with Third-Row Seating for 2023

  • By: Sean Cooper
  • Date: January 18, 2023
2023 Sequoia
  1. 2023 Kia Sorento Hybrid/PHEV
  2. 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  3. 2023 Ford Explorer Hybrid
  4. 2023 Toyota Sequoia Hybrid
  5. 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge PHEV
  6. 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
  7. 2023 Lincoln Aviator PHEV

Many people need more than five seats in their SUVs these days, and there’s no shortage of models that can accommodate six, seven, or even eight people across three rows of seating. However, we all know that gas prices are an increasingly important factor at the moment as well. So, what do you do if you need a new SUV with more than five seats but shudder at the fuel economy ratings of traditional three-row SUVs? At least for the moment, the answer has got to be a hybrid, so let’s look at the best hybrid SUVs with third-row seating for 2023.

What surprises me is the relatively few hybrid SUVs available with third-row seating for 2023, just as last year. It could be that some automakers are planning to skip hybrids entirely by jumping straight from internal combustion engines to battery-electric models. If so, they could get their fingers burnt as consumers are still reluctant to go all-electric.

A three-row SUV needs to be pretty big, and a three-row SUV with a full complement of people and cargo will inevitably be heavy. Weight is an enemy of electric vehicles as it demands larger batteries to cope with that weight, which then adds even more weight. For the moment, at least, driving range will be a big problem for the concept of three-row fully-electric SUVs, which leaves hybrid as the only option for the fuel economy-conscious driver.

With that in mind, here are the best hybrid SUVs with third-row seating you can choose from for the 2023 model year, rated out of ten for exterior styling, interior comfort, performance, fuel economy, and value for money.

2023 Kia Sorento Hybrid/PHEV

#1 2023 Kia Sorento (6.4)

MSRP from: $36,590

EXTERIOR STYLING = 5.5

INTERIOR COMFORT = 7.0

PERFORMANCE = 5

FUEL ECONOMY = 6

VALUE FOR MONEY = 8.5

OVERALL SCORE = 6.4

The 2023 Kia Sorento gets off to a good start here as it’s available in both hybrid and plug-in-hybrid versions. The Sorento is an attractive model that represents excellent value for money with its seven-seat capacity, decent performance, and spacious cabin.

A 1.6-liter turbo-four sits at the heart of the 2023 Kia Sorento Hybrid and PHEV, which gets mated with a battery pack and electric motor to produce a combined 227 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.

Fuel economy for the 2023 Sorento Hybrid can be as good as 35 mpg on the highway, 39 mpg in the city, and 37 mpg combined. If you opt for the considerably more expensive 2023 Sorento PHEV, you get an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 79 MPGe and up to 39 miles of electric-only driving. However, it can be ruinously expensive to purchase.

2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

#2 2023 Toyota Highlander (6.1)

MSRP from: $40,220

EXTERIOR STYLING = 4.0

INTERIOR COMFORT = 9.0

PERFORMANCE = 5

FUEL ECONOMY = 7

VALUE FOR MONEY = 5.5

OVERALL SCORE = 6.1

Available in LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels, the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is an excellent choice in this segment and has been for a while now. As well as good fuel economy and that legendary Toyota durability, the 2023 Highlander Hybrid also offers seating for up to eight people and reasonable value for money.

The exterior styling is a little questionable, but the fuel economy makes a compelling case for choosing the Highlander. The hybrid system pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with two or three electric motors, depending on whether you want front- or all-wheel drive.

Front-drive versions of the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid get EPA-estimated economy ratings of 36 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 35 mpg combined. All-wheel drive makes almost no dent in those figures, with the Highlander Hybrid LE AWD getting 35 mpg across the board.

If you want a better interior than the Highlander, you’ll have to pay considerably more, as this is about as good as interiors get, unless you go for a genuine luxury model costing a lot more.

2023 Ford Explorer Hybrid

#3 2023 Ford Explorer (5.6)

MSRP from: $53,005

EXTERIOR STYLING = 6

INTERIOR COMFORT = 7

PERFORMANCE = 5

FUEL ECONOMY = 4.5

VALUE FOR MONEY = 5.5

OVERALL SCORE = 5.6

The Ford Explorer is a perennial favorite for those looking for a three-row SUV with a hybrid powertrain. However, the most affordable trim levels are not available with the hybrid powertrain. The only versions of the 2023 Ford Explorer you can have with a hybrid powertrain are the Limited and Platinum trim levels.

The Explorer’s hybrid powertrain features an impressive 3.3-liter V-6 gas engine paired with a battery pack and electric motor to produce a combined 318 horsepower and 322 lb.-ft. of torque.  

Those who sit in the Explorer’s third-row seats get a modest 32.2 inches of legroom, which is about par for a vehicle of these proportions.

You can expect the best fuel economy ratings from rear-drive models that can offer up to 27 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg combined.

2023 Toyota Sequoia Hybrid

#4 2023 Toyota Sequoia (5.5)

MSRP from: $58,300

EXTERIOR STYLING = 5.5

INTERIOR COMFORT = 8.0

PERFORMANCE = 5

FUEL ECONOMY = 4

VALUE FOR MONEY = 5

OVERALL SCORE = 5.5

Toyota is now competing against itself in the three-row hybrid SUV segment with the all-new 2023 Sequoia, which is now exclusively hybrid. Despite its size, the Tundra-based Sequoia is let down a little by a cramped third row. The all-new 2023 Toyota Sequoia is also getting reported as a little juddery when towing a trailer, but if towing is your priority, there are plenty of alternatives.

New this year is a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 hybrid system that develops 437 horsepower and 583 lb.-ft. of torque, which is considerably more than the previous 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. Rear-wheel drive is the standard format, but most models on lots will be four-wheel drive with a 2-speed transfer case for genuine off-roading. And if you can put up with a little juddering, the maximum tow rating is an impressive 9,520 pounds.

With its rugged good looks and impressive off-road capability, the 8-seat capacity Sequoia offers something different from the more urban-focused Highlander. The only problem is the considerable uplift in price for a model that will still only get you fuel economy ratings of up to 21 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined.

2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge

#5 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge (5.3)

MSRP from: $71,900

EXTERIOR STYLING = 4.0

INTERIOR COMFORT = 9.0

PERFORMANCE = 6

FUEL ECONOMY = 4

VALUE FOR MONEY = 3.5

OVERALL SCORE = 5.3

If you take the 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge plug-in hybrid on its merits alone, you’d have to say it’s an impressive hybrid SUV with third-row seats that can accommodate up to seven people in some comfort. Where I have a problem with Volvo is its place in the market.

The 2023 XC90 is a decent-looking three-row SUV, if not an especially exciting one. The build quality is high, and it’s exceptionally comfortable inside. The T8 plug-in hybrid system produces 455 horsepower, it can get you to 60 mph from a halt in just 5.0 seconds, and the fuel economy is a respectable 58 MPGe. The Volvo’s one-pedal driving makes the most of its electric mode for up to 32 miles before the gas engine kicks in.

And as with any Volvo, the safety credentials are almost off the scale. So, what’s the problem with the XC90, then? The XC90 is a classic illustration of understated Scandinavian restraint and sensibility. If you like that sort of thing, that’s fine. But with a starting MSRP above $70k and a questionable claim to be a luxury brand, it’s easy to find better value and more fun without looking too hard.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

#6 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (5.0)

MSRP from: $39,845

EXTERIOR STYLING = 3.5

INTERIOR COMFORT = 6.5

PERFORMANCE = 4.5

FUEL ECONOMY = 5

VALUE FOR MONEY = 5.5

OVERALL SCORE = 5.0

Mitsubishi is a new entry into our list of best hybrid SUVs with third-row seating this year, but that gets balanced out by the lack of a three-row option for the fabulously redesigned Lexus RX. The Outlander PHEV is relatively affordable with a solid standard specification, including a seven-seat passenger capacity.

The good news is this plug-in version of the Outlander is this model at its best. The PHEV’s new body houses a 20-kWh battery pack instead of the previous 13.8-kWh unit, and the 85-kW front and 100-kW rear motors are also improvements on the previous 60-kW and 70-kW offerings.

At the heart of the system is a 2.4-liter inline-four gas engine, and the combined output of the PHEV is a creditable 248 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. The system offers an impressive 38 miles of electric-only range, and the combined fuel economy rating is 64 MPGe.

The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV isn’t without its issues, however. The exterior styling is an acquired taste, to say the least, and the third-row seats are strictly for occasional use by smaller passengers. On the upside, the safety ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS are top-of-the-class.

2023 Lincoln Aviator PHEV

#7 2023 Lincoln Aviator (4.9)

MSRP from: $69,190

EXTERIOR STYLING = 3.5

INTERIOR COMFORT = 7.5

PERFORMANCE = 6

FUEL ECONOMY = 4

VALUE FOR MONEY = 3.5

OVERALL SCORE = 4.9

If your budget can run to it, the 2023 Lincoln Aviator in Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label trim levels comes with a standard plug-in-hybrid powertrain. The PHEV system pairs a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 gas engine with a 75-kW electric motor and a 13.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack to deliver 494 horsepower and 630 lb.-ft. of torque.

This system gets you an EPA-estimated MPG equivalent (MPGe) fuel economy rating of 56 MPGe. Although the PHEV can tow 1,100 pounds less than the gas-only version of the Aviator, it can still manage a creditable 5,600 pounds. On the downside, the Aviator PHEV can only offer a maximum of 21 miles of electric-only driving, and that 56 MPGe economy rating isn’t particularly impressive either.

Although the third-row seats are compact, to say the least, the interior is extremely comfortable and very well-equipped. There’s no way you could possibly describe the Lincoln as good value for money, but it does come impressively specified.

Verdict

It’s always going to be difficult to compare luxury models with mass-market offerings, but you could make the case that the supposed luxury hybrid SUVs with 3-rows of seats are in between luxury and mass-market. The Lexus RX is sadly missed after its redesign, but there is hope an L version with seven seats could be in the pipeline.

In the meantime, it’s easy to single out the Kia Sorento as the best choice in this segment. If the Telluride was available in a hybrid or PHEV format, that would probably top the Sorento. The Toyotas are unsurprisingly strong contenders also, but the sheer value for money of the Kia puts it at the top of our list for 2023.

And if you want to know the best price for these or any other new vehicles in your area, check out the free tool below to get no-obligation free quotes from dealers in your locality.