Best hybrid estate cars
If you're hunting for a large, practical family vehicle, but you're not struck by the choices available in the bulging SUV sector, then an estate car might be your best bet.
Estate cars are big and spacious, although their larger proportions and tend to make them less fuel efficient.
That's where hybrid technology comes in: hybrid cars – which combine an internal combustion engine with a battery and electric motors – have made great strides in recent years, with improved fuel economy making your money go further between the pumps than ever before.
There are two types of hybrid estate: ‘full’ hybrids and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Full hybrids often have a small battery that’s charged either by the engine or via regenerative braking, offering a fairly short electric-only driving range.
Meanwhile, plug-in hybrids tend to have much larger batteries capable of fulfilling modest commutes without relying on petrol or diesel at all. These also make use of regenerative braking and (occasionally) harvest electrical energy from the engine too, although they're at their most efficient (and cost effective) when charged via a cable.
Interested to find out more? Below we've put together a list of the best hybrid estate cars to help you on your way…
Ford Mondeo Hybrid
The Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate is very comfortable, with good equipment levels and low on-paper emissions figures that ensure low company-car tax rates. It’s also cheaper than many of its rivals, with prices starting from under £30,000.
However, if there’s flexibility in your budget, one of the other options on this list will serve you better: the CVT gearbox is sluggish, there’s significantly less luggage space than the petrol and diesel versions due to the inclusion of the hybrid system, and real-world fuel economy is disappointing.
The Volvo V60 is available in T8 plug-in hybrid form, with a 10.4kWh battery that affords a zero-emissions range of around 30 miles on a single charge. For drivers who need a reasonably sized runabout most of the time with scope for the odd longer journey, the V60 is hard to fault.
Officially it’ll return 135mpg, although you’ll need to charge it regularly to get anything close to that figure. CO2 emissions of 48g/km also make it very clean on paper, which is a bonus if you’re an eco-conscious buyer.
The combination of an electric motor and the 2.0-litre petrol engine produces a total of 385bhp, making the V60 blisteringly quick. The styling also helps to make it an attractive vehicle, although you do pay a premium for it: you can’t get a V60 T8 for less than £50,000.
Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Hybrid
If your money won’t stretch to a Volvo, the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Hybrid estate might be the perfect cheap alternative. Priced from £25,020, the Corolla will comfortably surpass 60mpg on the motorway and – depending on which engine you go for – provide close to 600 litres of boot space.
Inside, it has been finished to a high standard, and it’s easy to find a good driving position as the steering wheel can be adjusted back and forth as well as up and down. The only disappointment is the infotainment system, which is badly designed and lacks smartphone connectivity in the form of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
If the V60 above isn’t quite big enough for your needs, then there’s always the Volvo V90 T8 plug-in hybrid instead. This larger estate comes with 728 litres of boot space, rising to 1,562 litres with the rear seats folded down; more than enough for carrying large items around, although the V90 isn’t quite a class leader in this department.
It has the same 10.4kWh battery as the V60 PHEV, although it returns a little less electric range owing to its extra weight. The official fuel-economy figure is 117.7mpg, but after you’ve exhausted the electric-only range you’re more likely to see somewhere in the region of 30-35mpg from the 2.0-litre engine. Again it’s an excellent package from the Swedish manufacturer, provided you’ve got at least £60,000 to spend.
Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate
As an all-rounder, the Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate appears to do it all: 34 miles of electric range will be enough for most daily commutes, 483 litres of boot space will serve most families well enough, even on longer trips away. The 1.4-litre petrol engine is extremely smooth, too, so the Passat GTE should be a relaxing car to own.
Prices start from well under £40,000, while fleet operators are likely to be drawn in by the prospect of CO2 emissions in the region of 33-35g/km. As an overall package, there are few better options.
Mercedes C-Class hybrid
Volkswagen isn't the only German company offering plug-in hybrid technology on its estate cars: the estate version of the Mercedes C-Class has also been electrified, with up to 35 miles of zero-emissions range delivered from its battery.
In typical C-Class fashion, the hybrid estate model is comfortable and refined, although it's somewhat of an oddity as it combines its electric power with a diesel engine. A petrol variant is on the way (a choice between petrol and diesel is available on the larger E-Class hybrid), but for now this could be the ideal solution for buyers who do a lot of motorway miles.