With automakers adding more hybrids to the lineup in 2010, consumers looking to go green have plenty of choices. What it comes down to depends on your needs for passenger seating, space, power, luxury, warranty and price. Only you can decide which hybrid SUV is right for you – or whether you’d prefer to stick to the non-hybrid versions of the same models, which are thousands of dollars less.

Still, the crop of hybrids SUV available has much to offer. Here we’ve chosen the top 3 based on reviews and analysis of what some of the experts have to say – U.S. News & World Report Automotive Rankings, Edmunds, Consumer Reports, Car and Driver, as well as Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid – Redesigned in 2008, the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is available in base and limited 2008_Toyota_Highlander_Hybrid_DCmodels ($34,700 – $41,020 base starting price). U.S. News & World Report ranks it #1 in Hybrid SUVs and #1 in Affordable Midsize Hybrid SUVs. Pros include roomy interior, smooth ride, refined hybrid power. Cons include steep price compared to non-hybrid Highlander. Fuel economy is 27 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Edmunds says the V6 engine and electric power provide “brisk and seamless acceleration,” and adds “For crossover buyers with environmental leanings looking for a seven-passenger vehicle, Toyota proves there can be only one – the Highlander Hybrid.” With 5 and 4 star ratings from NHTSA in crash test ratings and the highest “Good” score from IIHS, Toyota Highlander Hybrid certainly stands out – plus you get legendary Toyota reliability.
  • 2010 GMC Yukon/Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrids Essentially twins, although the GMC Yukon costs more, these 8-cylinder, 6-liter hybrids garner praise from Edmunds for “amazing fuel economy for a full-size SUV, handsome cabin with solid build quality, comfortable ride, seats eight.” But its third-row seats don’t fold flat and hybrid commands a stiff $8,000 over non-hybrid version (Yukon). U.S. News & World Report ranks the 2010 Yukon Hybrid #2 and 2010 Tahoe Hybrid #3 in Hybrid SUVs. Both hybrids earn perfect 5-star NHTSA ratings and highest “Good” score from IIHS. 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid MSRPs range from $51,185 to top-end Denali at $61,345. For Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, starting prices range from $50,720 to $53,525.
  • 2010 Lexus RX 450hTied for #3 spot in Hybrid SUVs on the U.S. News & World Report listing and #4 in Affordable Midsize SUVs, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h is redesigned this year from its first generation Lexus RX 400H. Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine plus electric motor generators, the Lexus RX 450h, according to Edmunds, “delivers impressive fuel economy plus all the power, amenities and flawless build quality consumers have come to expect from Lexus.” Edmonds doesn’t much like the expensive options packages and wonders about the price vs. environmental benefit – and there’s no third-row seat. Base prices range from $41,660 – $43,250. The 2010 Lexus RX 450h is yet to be tested by NHTSA, but in IIHS testing, the hybrid, a Top Safety Pick, receives the highest “Good” scores.

Other SUV hybrids worth checking into include the Ford Escape Hybrid/Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid for less expensive choices, or the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid for full-size luxury. Want to compare models? Go to Edmunds comparator (not limited to hybrids) and plug in your choices.

What’s your bottom line? Are you amped on buying hybrid? Don’t forget to check out any available hybrid tax credits from the federal government. And, look up used hybrid values on Kelley Blue Book’s site. In the end, only you can decide.

By Suzanne Kane

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