Top 10 best hybrid SUVs and hybrid 4x4s 2023
SUVs and 4x4s traditionally used a lot of fuel, but there are now plenty of efficient hybrid options in the ever-popular class. These are the best ones to buy right now
Lots of brands have added hybrid technology to their best-selling SUVs and 4x4s, combining the style and practicality buyers want with impressive fuel economy and low CO2 emissions to cut your running costs – allowing you to have your cake and eat it, in other words. It means that the best hybrid SUVs should cover all the family car bases and we’ve tested every one of them to bring you the list below.
The term ‘hybrid’ needs some explanation because nowadays it’s often used to refer to regular petrol and diesel models that incorporate a small 48-volt electric motor to act as a starter motor and generator, taking some of the load off the engine. These are called ‘mild-hybrids’ (MHEVs) and they usually only bring modest improvements in fuel economy compared to a petrol or diesel engine without any kind of electrification.
In our round-up of the best hybrid SUVs, we’ll only be including full-hybrids (often referred to as self-charging hybrids) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The former use small batteries charged via regenerative braking or the petrol engine plus an electric motor to help the main engine power the car, and they can greatly boost fuel economy. Plug-in hybrids take this a step further with a larger battery and electric motor that can be used to power the car on electricity alone for distances of thirty miles of more. These can be charged the same way as their self-charging siblings, or plugged-in via a cable like a fully-electric car.
As you can guess, with the popularity of both hybrid cars and SUVs, there’s quite a few models to choose from. Here we’re going to list what are, in our opinion, the best hybrid SUVs you can buy today based on our own in-depth testing of every hybrid SUV on sale.
If you’re after PHEV specifically, why not check out our list of the best plug-in hybrid SUVs? If you’re looking to step into the world of electric motoring, we also have a list of the best electric SUVs currently on sale.
Best hybrid SUVs and 4x4s to buy now
Read on for our top hybrid SUV picks and click the links under each one to read the full in-depth reviews…
1. Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
The fourth iteration of the Tucson is by far the best, bringing a striking design and the latest drivetrain technology to what was once just a competent but conservative family SUV. The Hyundai is a great all-rounder, offering a comfortable and composed ride, impressive build quality and efficiency at an affordable price for this type of vehicle. All-wheel drive comes as standard, too. A plug-in hybrid version is available, but the full-hybrid Tucson is our pick as it can still return up to 50mpg and is a good chunk of change cheaper than the PHEV.
2. Kia Niro Hybrid
Our Best Hybrid Family Car for 2023, the Kia Niro is available as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, as well as a fully-electric Niro EV. It’s the former two we’re focusing on here, though, with the regular Hybrid model being our favourite. It can return up to 60mpg and offers a relaxing and smooth drive around town. Topping this all off, we must say that the latest Niro is also quite the looker, with cues carried over from the larger Sportage and flagship EV6, combined with a class-leading, dual-screen infotainment setup.
3. Lexus NX 450h+
Lexus is well-known for its hybrid technology and perhaps nowhere is this better showcased than in the NX 450h+ hybrid SUV. The latest Lexus SUV gets a clever plug-in hybrid powertrain which can offer an electric-only range of up to 40 miles. However, once the battery is depleted, unlike most PHEVs that turn into regular petrol models, the NX 450h becomes a full-hybrid, keeping the MPG figure high and your fuel costs low. Pair this with Lexus’ bright and responsive new touchscreen infotainment system and it's easy to see why the NX 450h+ made it onto the final podium spot.
4. BMW X5 xDrive45e
If you’re after a large luxury hybrid SUV, you can’t go wrong with the BMW X5 xDrive45e. Its big battery provides an electric range of up to 54 miles and BMW says it’ll even return up to 235mpg on the WLTP tests – though you may struggle to reach this in the real world. Despite the extra weight of the batteries, the X5 PHEV drives just as well as a BMW should, with tight body control and sharp steering. It’s worth noting that the X5 was facelifted for 2023 and an updated xDrive50e model arrived with an electric range of up to 68 miles – close to that of the new plug-in Range Rover Sport.
5. Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid
Kia offers its Sportage family SUV in petrol, full-hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms – but it's the latter which we think is the most impressive. With up to 43 miles of pure-electric range, the Sportage is able to go much further than its Tucson counterpart without using a single drop of fuel, and can even return up to 252mpg, provided you keep the battery charged up. With an interior that’s almost as striking as its exterior, the Sportage hybrid is packed with the latest tech and is an ideal choice if the Niro is just a bit too small for your family.
6. Hyundai Santa Fe
The Santa Fe sits a class above the Tucson, offering a choice of diesel, full-hybrid or plug-in hybrid power, but with the additional versatility of a seven-seat layout and more interior space in general. Fuel economy of the regular hybrid version won’t touch that of the plug-in (which has an electric range of up to 36 miles), but it won’t break the bank, either, at around 40mpg in town and closer to 30mpg on the motorway. Because of the size and weight of the Santa Fe, you don’t expect it to be fun to drive, but it does feel planted and grips the road well regardless.
7. Toyota Yaris Cross
The latest Toyota Yaris is a solid and well engineered hybrid supermini, so it wasn't surprising to see Toyota roll out a jacked-up SUV version to cater for changing customer tastes. It runs the same powertrain as the regular Yaris, comprising a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor, as well as Toyota's 'e-CVT' automatic transmission. What you might also not expect is that the Yaris Cross is also a hybrid 4x4 – entry-level models have front-wheel-drive, but top-spec cars get an ‘intelligent’ all-wheel-drive system. Overall, the Yaris Cross delivers what you'd expect from a good compact SUV, plus efficient hybrid power.
8. Volvo XC60 Recharge
Volvo is on fire with its latest range of plug-in hybrids – the V60 Recharge estate offers some of the best range figures in its class – but it’s the XC60 Recharge SUV that we’re focusing on here which, like its counterpart, offers a superb electric range alongside a cosseting ride.
According to Volvo, the XC60 Recharge can travel up to 49 miles before the petrol engine kicks in, and will return up to 283mpg. As mentioned, you’ll be travelling in complete comfort – especially when the car is equipped with the optional air suspension – and we love the XC60’s minimalist cabin, which features plenty of plush-feeling materials and an easy-to-use Google-based infotainment system.
9. Renault Captur E-Tech
The Renault Captur E-TECH won our Best Small Hybrid Car award in 2022 and 2023, for good reason. We think it’s one of the best hybrid small SUVs as it’s comfortable and efficient, plus it’ll cruise effortlessly around on electric power when you’re in town without needing to be plugged in. The full-hybrid Captur can’t quite match its rivals when it comes to practicality, we think its slick Tesla-style infotainment system makes up for it and is one of many highlights in the compact Renault’s well-appointed cabin.
10. Toyota C-HR
Rounding off our best hybrid SUVs list is the sporty-looking Toyota C-HR – another one of several hybrid Toyota SUVs to choose from. Despite its sloping roofline, the C-HR is surprisingly spacious for a small SUV, and boasts a well-built (if, perhaps a tad unexciting) interior.
The real stars of the show, though, are the pair of hybrid engines on offer. The top-of-the-range 2.0-litre 184bhp model offers plenty of punch, but we think the base 134bhp 1.6-litre hybrid will suit most buyers. It should be nippy enough for driving around town and Toyota says it’ll return around 58mpg on the combined WLTP test cycle, meaning it’ll be cheap to run, too.
Top 10 best hybrid SUVs to buy in 2023
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