Feature article

Best Toyota Hybrid Cars Available in NZ: Buying Guide

Toyota hybrids are a popular choice among buyers here in New Zealand. So what are the best Toyota hybrids in NZ?

Last updated: 27 May 2024

Toyota hybrids are a popular choice among buyers here in New Zealand. And it’s buyer preference that has driven Toyota NZ to move its focus to offering solely hybrid powertrain in many of its models to meet the demand. 

What is a Toyota hybrid though?

Without getting too technical, Toyota's hybrid system combines an internal combustion engine with one or more electric motors in order to reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions compared with a traditional ICE-powered vehicle. And these hybrids are not something you need to plug in to charge. The system takes care of itself with kinetic energy from braking being harnessed and turned into electricity to charge the battery.  

Along with the improved efficiency, another advantage is that the electric torque and e-CVT transmission that Toyota hybrids use makes for an easy, and refined drive.

Toyota has been refining the hybrid drive system for over 20 years and it’s getting better with each generation. It has also proved extremely reliable, a Toyota hybrid is the rideshare operator’s car of choice for good reason. 

So what are the best Toyota hybrids in NZ? It depends on how big a car you are after, but given Toyota’s vast range of vehicles, it has you covered.

Toyota RAV4 hybrid - the best all round option

The RAV4 is New Zealand’s best selling SUV for good reason; it combines the benefits of a hybrid powertrain with the practicality of a compact SUV. The RAV4 lineup is now exclusively hybrid, with five models to choose from starting at $48,790 and rising up to $60,990. All use the 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol electric drivetrain. With 163kW, it has the power of a comparable V6 but with vastly reduced fuel consumption. Toyota lists this as 5.3L/100km, better than most small hatchbacks. With its reduced consumption, it also emits fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases.

The RAV4 Hybrid comes with an on-demand all-wheel-drive system with an electric motor on the rear axle adding its input when needed. This enhances traction, making it a good choice for varying driving and weather conditions and off the beaten trail too.

The electric motor provides instant torque, which enhances acceleration and responsiveness. Additionally, the hybrid system helps in delivering smooth and quiet driving.

Toyota's reputation for reliability extends to the RAV4 Hybrid. It consistently receives high marks for dependability and longevity.

All models gain the benefit of Toyota’s advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic emergency braking, while the infotainment system with its touchscreen interface enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

The RAV4 Hybrid offers a spacious and comfortable interior with ample room for passengers and cargo. Its cabin is designed with high-quality materials and thoughtful ergonomics. It’s also a hybrid that can tow, rated at up to 1500kg.

View listings on Trade Me Motors: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota Corolla hybrid - a great car for those that don’t get the hype about SUVs

The Corolla is still going strong despite the market’s overall preference for SUV. It can be had in both five door hatch and wagon variants, the latter good if you need some extra luggage space in the boot. It’s one of the not so great aspects of the Corolla hatch; a small boot. But the rest is good from its striking design to its low overall cost of operation. 

Like the RAV4, the range is all hybrid, starting at $37,290 rising to $44,490. The Corolla Hybrid offers excellent fuel efficiency, rated at just 3.8L/100km. With the hybrid’s ability to run on the motor alone in slow moving traffic, it is an economical choice for daily commuting. And unlike EVs and plug-in hybrids, the Corolla does not have to pay any Road User Charges, meaning in some circumstances, it can be cheaper to run than an electric car.  

Corolla has a solid reputation for reliability, the hybrid is no exception. It benefits from Toyota’s five year/150,000km warranty, if you keep it maintained that is. And Toyota NZ helps out there with fixed price service costs, which for the Corolla is $315 every 15,000km/12 months. 

The Corolla is not so humble anymore, equipped with Toyota Safety Sense system that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams. 

It’s a value offering too with a comfortable and well-designed interior using high-quality materials. Rear seat space is adequate, though as mentioned, the cargo space isn’t huge in the hatch. 

Like all Toyota hybrids, the power delivery is smooth and there’s lots of low end torque for easy driving. And with Toyota’s recent focus on engineering, its cars are good to drive, no longer boring. 

View listings on Trade Me Motors: Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Toyota Highlander - it’s big but fuel consumption remains low

Those needing a big family car should have the Highlander on the list. Especially if fuel economy and low emissions are important. This big seven seater has room for large families and all the gear but won’t guzzle gas. This is especially important for a vehicle that is likely to do a lot of running around the city, ferrying the kids and their friends around.

It’s bigger than the RAV4, and more expensive starting at $68,490, the top model with added luxuries being $80,990. 

Compared with other big seven seaters, which are mainly diesel powered, the Highlander has a lower emissions footprint, with consumption rated at 6.2L/100km and 142 g/km of CO2. But it doesn’t lack for power, the hybrid system output rated at 184kW. The combination of the petrol four cylinder and twin electric motors gives it strong acceleration and a refined overall performance. It’s all-wheel-drive system is advantageous for New Zealand's diverse terrain and weather conditions. 

In addition to the fuel savings of a hybrid, the Highlander Hybrid can have lower operating costs due to fewer mechanical issues associated with hybrid technology and regenerative braking reducing brake wear. Fixed service costs are just $315 every 12 months/15,000km for the first four years of ownership.

The Highlander Hybrid offers a roomy and comfortable interior with seating for up to seven. This makes it ideal for families or those who need extra passenger capacity with the split-folding rear seats allowing for easy adjustment between passenger and cargo needs.

The infotainment system includes a large touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to ensure passengers remain connected and entertained. The Highlander Hybrid also has a respectable towing capacity, at 2000kg braked. 

View Listings on Trade Me Motors: Toyota Highlander Hybrid


Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine - autocar.co.nz

Kyle has been reviewing cars since starting at NZ Autocar magazine in 2003 and has been editor since 2009. In that time he’s become an expert on what makes for a good vehicle while also gaining insights into the local automotive industry.