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Millennial Mom's Review: 2022 Toyota Highlander

The 2022 Toyota Highlander checks all the boxes of a family-friendly SUV

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You know that weird feeling when you’re about to meet a friend of a friend? You’ve heard so many awesome things and genuinely can’t wait to make a new friend who sounds super cool. Then, you meet the person, who seems really cool — great attitude, cool personality, similar interests, all the good stuff. Yet, for some reason, you can’t seem to vibe with them. You really want to like the person and you’re giving them every opportunity to shine and be loved (by you). 

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But nope, still no chemistry. 

That’s how I felt about the 2022 Toyota Highlander. It is a really great three-row seven-seater, and as a parent with three kids, it checks a lot of boxes. My friend owns a 2021 Highlander and often speaks highly of it; in fact, many Canadians seem to love it — it was Canada’s best-selling three-row SUV in 2021. 

And yet, I can’t seem to get on board. 

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The tested vehicle is the Limited trim, a step below the top Platinum trim. However, keep in mind that there is also a Hybrid Limited and Hybrid Platinum and while I’m not saying the hybrid Highlander would have changed my mind about this SUV, if you’re interested in saving some money on those high gas prices, it’s a great option. The Hybrid Limited has a starting price of $2,000 more than the Limited, but the hybrid almost doubles the fuel efficiency of the non-hybrid model — in the city, at least. The Limited gets an average of 11.8 L/100 km in the city and 8.6 L/100 km on the highway; the hybrid averages 6.6 city and 6.8 highway. 

This Ruby Flare Pearl (red) Highlander starts at $53,190 but is also equipped with a $2,300 Platinum package that includes a head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, bird’s eye view 360º camera, heated second-row captain’s chairs, and more. After adding the $255 paint fee, as well as freight and fees, the total cost of this tested Limited trim comes to $57,765 plus tax.

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The infotainment system isn’t all that great, but this has never been Toyota’s strength. Even so, it’d be hard to complain if that was the Highlander’s biggest fault.  The climate controls — and heated and ventilated seat options — are operable independently of the dated infotainment and have buttons that make them easy to find while driving. However, if you really like touch screens, you can also access it all from there. The audio button below the screen provides access to the radio or other sources of music, but it’s a lot easier if you’ve got a streaming service on your device and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, to skip most of the complicated work.

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It is a really smooth and comfortable drive. The driver’s seat is spacious and easily adjusted to specific preferences, regardless of the driver’s height. So, why don’t I love this SUV more? My only complaint is that I found it a bit awkward to see past the A-pillars when trying to switch lanes — however, that could be a matter of height that wouldn’t bother someone taller, whose seat wouldn’t be as close to the steering wheel as mine. 

The second row’s premium leather seats provide a ton of legroom for passengers of any size, as in many three-row SUVs. As in so many other SUVs, however, sufficient space in the second row usually limits space in the third row or vice versa; not as noticeable if you’re a small child, but certainly for an average-sized adult. While testing, my seven- and two-year-old were in the second-row’s captain’s chairs, meaning the seats could be moved forward quite a bit, which also meant my husband had more than enough space in the back row. Not to mention, there’s a latch at the top of the second-row seats that quickly slide the seats forward to allow easy access into the third row.

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The cargo space is sufficient: 453 litres with all seats up, though use of the reclining back seats can make it tricky to fit big items in the trunk. As always, you won’t get as much trunk space as you would in a two-row SUV or minivan, but you can always fold down the third row’s 60/40 split bench, which provides a lot more room. 

2022 Toyota Highlander
2022 Toyota Highlander Photo by Renita Naraine

Before purchasing the Highlander, I’d highly recommend test driving this SUV in a way that’s closest to driving in everyday life. Other than the A-pillars, there are a few other kinks that could easily work out in your favour based on your lifestyle, but you won’t know it until you test it. For example, if a wireless phone charger is a feature you can’t live without, be sure to check if your phone even fits in the limited area in the centre console — it isn’t a flat surface that will fit larger phones.

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I really did give the 2022 Toyota Highlander the best possible chance to woo me; I had this vehicle over the March break, which meant spending a lot of time finding things to do to entertain the kids. The week included a trip to the movie theatre, another movie at a drive-in theatre, and an hour-long drive to visit the grandparents. It really is an awesome vehicle. It’s comfortable, priced similarly to other SUVs in this segment, has an optionable hybrid powertrain, and was the best-selling three-row SUV in Canada in 2021. Rightfully so; it’s a great, family-friendly SUV. 

And still, for some reason, I still find myself unsatisfied. Maybe I just needed more time with it. Or maybe this love just wasn’t meant to be.