The 2021 Toyota Highlander Struggles in 3 Key Areas

The 2021 Toyota Highlander received a few beneficial updates but still struggles in a few different areas. These issues might not be dealbreakers because the Toyota Highlander has been a trusted and reliable SUV for over 20 years! But let’s see what problems you should consider before making your purchase. 

Is the 2021 Toyota Highlander a good SUV? 

Yes, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is an excellent SUV option. It’s a reliable midsize SUV that’s good for adventuring, commuting, and smaller families. While the 2020 model started the new generation with a significant redesign, the 2021 model get some major upgrades too. 

2020 Toyota Highlander parked outside of a brick building
2020 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

For 2021 the Highlander gained the XSE trim with a better chassis, sport-tuned suspension, a stiffer anti-roll bar in the rear, and more responsive steering. These upgrades all help to provide a sportier driving experience. But it still could use a little tweaking as this brings us to the first potential drawback. 

1. The Highlander is lumbering 

According to Edmunds, the 2021 Toyota Highlander still feels like a larger SUV. This can take a bit of the exciting, sporty feel away. Competitors still feel lighter and can stop faster. However, it does have improved handling and balance around twisty mountain roads. 

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid driving down dirt road
2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid | Toyota

The gas-powered Highlander has a 3.5-liter V6 engine with plenty of power. It provides 295-hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. Edmunds was able to get it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. This is an above-average speed, but it won’t blow other SUVs away either. 

You can pick the Toyota Highlander XLE for that fine-tuned suspension if you want a better performance. Otherwise, the Highlander is a perfectly comfortable and convenient daily driver to consider. 

2. The Toyota Highlander isn’t for tall folks 

We won’t dis the limited third-row space that everyone likes to point out about the Toyota Highlander. The third-row is for smaller kids. But according to AutoBlog, the second row is limited as well. 

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Taller teens and adults in the second-row may notice the lack of headroom, even if the panoramic sunroof provides the feeling of more space. While the seats are comfortable, opting for captain’s chairs instead of the standard bench in the second row could help teens be more comfortable on longer trips. 

3. The 2021 Highlander lacks cargo space 

Cargo space was actually expanded for the new Toyota Highlander model, just not enough. It gained an additional 2.2 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats. So, it has 16.0 cubic feet behind the third row and up to 84.3 cubic feet total. 

The interior of the 2021 Toyota Highlander from the rear with its seats folded
2021 Toyota Highlander rear interior | Toyota

This amount of space is limited compared to rivals. For example, the Hyundai Palisade has 18.0 cubic feet behind the rear seats with up to 84.6 cubic feet total. Keep this in mind when your passengers are packing for a vacation because space for luggage is limited with the third-row seats up. 

There is a fair amount of cabin storage with deep pockets and bins. However, the wireless phone charge sits above the center console, so you have to move it for access. If you don’t remember to move your phone first, it could go flying!