Best plug-in hybrid SUVs
Sales of SUVs continue to grow, with car buyers valuing their raised driving positions, generous interior dimensions and surprisingly low running costs.
SUVs were previously associated with high running costs, due to needing large and powerful petrol or diesel engines that put out a lot of CO2, but thanks to plug-in hybrid technology that combines electric and internal-combustion power, they can be very frugal and efficient.
Plug-in hybrid SUVs are straightforward: they contain a battery that's charged from a domestic socket or charging point, giving a certain amount of electric-only range. When the battery runs out, a petrol or diesel engine steps in to drive the car as normal.
This means you could complete shorter journeys without burning any fuel, potentially saving a lot of money over the course of a year. However, you’ll experience none of the range anxiety that can be associated with pure-electric cars, which are entirely reliant on being charged.
So which plug-in hybrid SUV should you buy? Below, we’ve rounded up 10 of our current favourites for your consideration.
Audi Q7 TFSI e
Audi's latest plug-in Q7 is expected to cost in the region of £70,000 in the UK, but then few other plug-in hybrid SUVs deliver quite as much luxury. The amount of space inside is huge, meaning head and legroom are generous, and the relaxed feel of the car is only enhanced by the smoothness of the hybrid system. Up to 25 miles of electric range will serve you well on short journeys, and for longer distances you’ll be supremely comfortable thanks to the excellent seats. Audi’s infotainment system is a joy to operate, too.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has long been the UK's best-selling plug-in hybrid model. It can do nearly 30 miles in electric mode and a standard domestic power socket will charge it fully in four hours. The boot can hold a useful 463 litres of luggage and features a lip-free opening to make loading as easy as possible. The Outlander PHEV is also spacious inside, boasting good head and legroom throughout for passengers.
Kia Niro PHEV
Officially, the Kia Niro PHEV will do 30 miles on battery power and hit a combined fuel-economy figure of over 200mpg. Of course, these numbers are difficult to reach in the real world, but even the more realistic figures are at the upper end of what you can expect from a good plug-in hybrid SUV. The 324 litres of boot space on offer is handy if not class-leading, but an abundance of standard equipment makes the Kia ideal for family duties.
MINI Countryman Cooper S E All4 Hybrid
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but the MINI Countryman Cooper S E All4 Hybrid is an extremely palatable car. It’s one of the best plug-in hybrid SUVs to drive thanks to its responsive hybrid system and its assured all-wheel-drive handling, plus it has many other things going for it. Electric range is 31 miles and charging should take no more than three hours from a domestic socket, reducing by an hour if you have a wallbox at your disposal. The smooth ride ensures comfort and while interior space can’t match the Q7 above, it’ll handle four adults quite happily.
Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine
Volvo might not strike you as a performance brand, but its XC60 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid SUV is rapid by any measurable standard. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 5.5 seconds en route to a top speed of 140mph, thanks to 385bhp from an electric motor and 2.0-litre petrol engine that's both turbocharged and supercharged. Speed credentials aside, the XC60 T8 Twin Engine can get close to 123mpg over short distances, with an electric range in the region of 25 miles. The only drawback is the steep starting price, although it's still less expensive than the Q7 and Range Rover Sport PHEV.
Audi Q5 TFSI e
The Q5 is one of a wave of new Audi plug-in hybrids launched in late 2019 and early 2020, all carrying the 'TFSI e' designation (e-tron is now reserved for Audi's pure-electric cars). Like the other cars on this list, it mixes comfort, speed and low running costs to great effect, and boasts the typical handsome styling and ultra-high-quality interior we've come to expect from modern Audis. It'll do a shade over 25 miles in electric mode and could return over 100mpg if you charge it up regularly.
BMW X5 xDrive45e
In the 2020 DrivingElectric awards, we named the BMW X5 xDrive45e our best large plug-in hybrid vehicle. The headline figure is its official electric range of 54 miles, which should cover the daily journeys of a large proportion of buyers, but it's also massively quick, covering 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. Handling is impressive for such a large and heavy vehicle, too, so as long as you can swallow the big purchase price, there are few downsides.
DS 7 Crossback E-Tense
Bringing something a little different to the plug-in hybrid SUV class, this is the electrified version of the Citroen luxury spinoff brand's largest SUV. The focus is on comfort and design flair rather than out-and-out performance, but the E-Tense is no slouch all the same: a 296bhp total power output takes it from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds. You'll probably be too busy enjoying the sumptuous and quirkily styled interior to be worrying about traffic-light drag races, however. The DS 7 is a sister model to the forthcoming Citroen C5 Aircross, Peugeot 3008 and Vauxhall Grandland X plug-in hybrid SUVs.
Range Rover PHEV
Once a byword for 'gas-guzzling SUV', even the luxurious Range Rover has had to move with the times and electrify. The plug-in hybrid version's 25-mile range isn't the most impressive on this list, but it still has low enough CO2 emissions to qualify for London Congestion Charge exemption and could return in the region of 80mpg if you drive carefully. Along with that, you get all the Range Rover hallmarks of a decadent interior, imperious road presence and superior off-road ability.
Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid
The Porsche Cayenne is renowned for combining SUV practicality with sports-car power and handling and that formula remains intact with the addition of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Two versions will shortly be available: a fast E-Hybrid and an even faster Turbo S E-Hybrid, with a choice of regular or 'coupe' bodystyles, too. Note that the Porsche is strictly a five-seater, in contrast to the seven-seat Volvo XC90, but it's still an impeccable choice for families after a swift and cheap-to-run form of transport.
Bentley Bentayga Hybrid
Bentley previously offered a V8 diesel engine as the 'sensible' engine option in its ostentatious Bentayga SUV, but since 2019 that has been discontinued and replaced with this plug-in hybrid version. It draws on technology used in other VW Group models, such as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne further up this list, to give a pure-electric range of 24 miles and potential fuel economy of over 80mpg. Performance is appropriate to the brand, with 0-62mph coming up in 5.5 seconds courtesy of a 443bhp total power output.