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Shocking SUVs! Toyota Kluger, Kia Sorento and the other big hybrid seven-seater SUVs you can afford and be able to drive soon

The Toyota Kluger Hybrid opens up a new chapter in big seven-seater SUV motoring in Australia, but rivals are ready to pounce.

As usual, it’s up to Toyota to show the way when it comes to SUVs, hybrids and electric cars. No shock there (pun intended).

For example, the current RAV4 Hybrid has far exceeded initial sales forecasts for the company’s perennial, pioneering mid-sized SUV, sometimes accounting for nine out of 10 orders. With supply trailing demand by at least six months and longer, that situation isn’t going to change any time soon.

Now, Toyota is hoping that lightning will again strike, but this time in the big seven-seater SUV wagon segment, with the all-new Kluger, coming from June with its first-ever hybrid (and four-cylinder) option.

However, Australia’s number-one brand won’t have the market to itself for long, because the competition is already descending with their own petrol-electric alternatives. Here’s what’s going to be big – and green – in 2021 and 2022.

Best get your order in soon if the Kluger Hybrid and company do a RAV4 and take off.

Toyota Kluger Hybrid – out in June

Democratising electrification. That’s the Toyota way. We’ve witnessed its beginnings 20 years ago with the arrival of the first Prius, but it was 2019’s RAV4, 2020’s Yaris and Yaris Cross, and now 2021’s all-new Kluger that offer a hybrid option for every budget.

There is little doubt that the latter will continue to rule the big seven-seater SUV segment (after the off-road focused Prado), with its range-wide $6500 hybrid all-wheel drive (AWD) option presenting itself as a very compelling reason to dominate.

Right now, you can order a base GX AWD Hybrid from $54,150 (plus on-road costs), netting you a 142kW/242Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and three electric motors (totalling 184kW), offering just 5.6L/100km combined average fuel consumption in a three-row family wagon.

Like the closely-related RAV4, front-drive only Kluger 2WD Hybrids are set to follow later on, possibly bringing the starting price under $50K, but until then, this is the affordable big seven-seater SUV superstar.

There’s never been a roomier, safer, quieter, comfier or better-driving version than this all-new generation iteration, either.

And, don’t worry, Kluger traditionalists. You won’t lose your weekends with the cheaper 218kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6s still available, and starting from $47,650 plus ORC in the latest model.

Kia Sorento PHEV – out in August

Kia’s push into electrification this year will be relentless, with four all-new models almost upon us, promising to elevate the brand beyond being just cheap and cheerful (and with a long warranty to boot).

Most relevant to Kluger-class buyers will be the Sorento PHEV, a plug-in hybrid EV version of the brand’s new, acclaimed, fourth-generation seven-seater SUV wagon.

Unlike Toyota’s so-called “self-charging” series-parallel Kluger Hybrid, this one can be driven beyond a couple of kilometres on pure electricity – up to 57km in fact, or more than most peoples’ daily commutes – before a 132kW/265Nm 1.6-litre petrol turbo and six-speed auto take over. The combined consumption total is a barely-believable 1.6L/100km.

Best of both worlds stuff, the Sorento PHEV’s punchy internal combustion engine will get you anywhere you need to be – between state capitals on a single tank if necessary – with enough power (195kW) and torque (304Nm) for all your holiday trip getaways.

Being a plug-in, you can recharge those batteries at home in under 5.5 hours, or less than two hours using a public charging station.

The Sorento PHEV is the big electrified seven-seater SUV to watch, because it builds on the latest model’s designer cabin and dazzling multimedia systems… all while still supported by Kia’s good old seven-year warranty.

Expect pricing to breach the $60,000 barrier when sales commence in the third quarter.

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid – from about August

Hyundai, too, is wanting to own the electrification space, and so is taking a more traditional approach than Kia’s Sorento PHEV with an all-new hybrid version of its ever-popular Santa Fe.

Based on the recently facelifted fourth-generation version launched last year, the Santa Fe Hybrid is taking the fight right up to the Kluger Hybrid from August, with a 132kW/265Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine up front, while an electric motor drives the rear axle. Total power and torque outputs are a competitive 170kW and 350Nm respectively.

Like the Kluger equivalent, Hyundai’s seven-seater hybrid provides little to no pure electric drive, but instead promises better economy and electrification-enhanced performance.

Final Aussie specs are yet to be revealed, but overseas-market versions of this Santa Fe peg fuel economy at 7.4L/100km on average, which is somewhat shy of the Toyota's. On the other hand, the Hyundai can manage 100km/h from standstill in 9.1 seconds.

Further down the track, a Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid EV is also on the cards – something that 2020’s platform overhaul has been specifically engineered to accept.

Cost? Don’t bet against Hyundai going toe-to-toe with the Kluger Hybrid’s pricing, so expect the base version to start from about $55,000.

Nissan Pathfinder – first half of 2022

Nissan’s been here before, of course, with the previous-generation (R52) Pathfinder Hybrid.

Launched way back in 2014, the American-made seven-seater SUV carved out a niche as a ground-breaking alternative to the then-resolutely petrol-only Kluger as well as popular diesels such as the Ford Territory TDCi.

Right now, you can’t buy a Pathfinder Hybrid, as it’s out of production. But the all-new from-the-ground-up R53 generation unveiled in February is expected to also go down the electrification route in time for 2022.

Like Hyundai’s Palisade, the strikingly restyled Pathfinder scores seven as well as eight seating configurations (2+3+3).

But the big question is what will the coming hybrid version consist of, to supplement the already-announced 212kW/351Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and fresh nine-speed torque-converter automatic (replacing the previous, unloved CVT)?

Although the new Nissan’s platform is a development of the R52 version’s, a revised 2.5-litre four-cylinder supercharged petrol engine/electric motor combo is unlikely, given its increasingly uncompetitive outputs (188kW/330Nm) and comparatively high consumption (8.6L/100km) in the old Pathfinder.

More intriguing is speculation of the implementation of Nissan’s e-Power system, which uses a small petrol engine as a range extender to charge the batteries that run the big electric motor(s). Or, alternatively, some sort of downsized 2.0-litre four-pot turbo with electrification attached has been speculated for months.

Whatever ends up powering the Pathfinder Hybrid, we’ll let you know as soon as we do, so stay tuned.