Best plug-in hybrid cars
By combining a petrol or diesel engine with a battery-powered electric motor, plug-in hybrids are capable of the kind of low running costs typically associated with pure-electric cars, but with none of the range anxiety.
The way they work is very simple: you plug in your car and charge up the battery with a cable, leaving you free to complete short and medium length journeys on electric power alone. Depending on the model, you could commute to work, do the school run and pop to shops, spending only pennies in the process.
But should you need to cover a longer distance, the petrol or diesel engine simply kicks in and performs as it would in a normal car, meaning you don’t have to worry about where and when you next need to charge up.
But which model should you choose? There are dozens of PHEVs on sale already, and over the next few years we’re going to see countless more introduced by manufacturers.
To get you started, we've put together a list of 10 of the best plug-in hybrid models on sale right now. In no particular order, they are as follows...
Mercedes A 250 e
The plug-in hybrid version of the Mercedes A-Class is one of the best of its kind on sale right now. Available in hatchback and saloon form, the A 250 e features a 15.6kWh battery that will return up to 42 miles of electric-only range; handily more than most people will drive on an average day. As such, running costs should be suitably low, with a full charge from a home wallbox unit likely to cost just £2. In electric-only mode the A 250 e will manage up to 87mph, so it won't be hampered by stints on the motorway, and when you do run out of juice there's a very capable 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 158bhp to fall back on.
BMW 530e iPerformance
At over £45,000, the BMW 530e certainly isn’t cheap. However, the running costs are low once you’ve met the purchase price, and the low CO2 emissions figure translates into a very reasonable Benefit-in-Kind rate for company-car tax payers. The 530e’s 2.0-litre petrol engine produces 182bhp, while the electric motor is capable of 94bhp: working together, they’ll deliver a maximum of 248bhp. The battery will give you 29 miles of electric range, and charging takes less than five hours using a household plug.
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine
Volvo's plug-in hybrid range – denoted by the T8 Twin Engine moniker on its PHEV vehicles – are all very impressive, but none more so than the XC90. This large SUV is capable of carrying up to seven people, making it one of the most practical and family friendly vehicles in its class. An 11.8kWh battery helps return up to 28 miles of range (20 is more realistic when fully laden with passengers and luggage), while an electric motor joins forces with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine to produce a combined 398bhp. That results in a 0-62mph figure of 5.8 seconds; very fast for a car of this size.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is one of the most popular plug-in hybrids in the UK today thanks to a combination of affordability, practicality, low running costs and a low company-car tax rate. The SUV body makes the Outlander PHEV ideal for families, and the latest model houses a 13.8kWh battery capable of around 25 miles on a single charge. It’s by no means exciting to drive, but that'll pale into insignificance if you can ferry your family around for peanuts.
The BMW 330e is another example of a manufacturer getting a plug-in hybrid vehicle spot on: a 12kWh battery gives it up to 37 miles of electric range on paper, with the electric motor capable of 68mph before needing assistance from the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. More impressive than that, however, is that the 3 Series is still great to drive as a plug-in hybrid: the weight of the battery hasn't dulled its performance in corners, and the engine is tuneful enough to put a smile on your face on a fast B-road.
Kia Niro PHEV
At 36 miles, the Kia Niro PHEV offers a very handy electric-only range, and while you’ll get a little bit less than this in the real world, it's enough to make potential buyers think twice about which version of the car would be best for them. Officially, the Niro PHEV will return 200mpg (achieving this in the real world depends on regular charging of the battery via a cable) and emissions of just 29g/km of CO2 make it an attractive company-car prospect. It’s spacious and well-equipped, too.
Skoda Superb iV
If you call a car 'the Superb', it really has to be rather good. Luckily for Skoda, it is, and especially so in plug-in hybrid form. Using a the same set-up as the Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate, the Superb iV contains a 1.4-litre petrol engine that's mated to an electric motor for a total of 215bhp. While it's not the sportiest of vehicles, the performance on offer is more than enough to get by with, and 34 miles of electric range means you can feasibly run the Superb iV in electric-only mode most of the time. It's hugely practical too, and Skoda is telling it across all trim levels, making it is accessible as possible.
Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In
The Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In is the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid’s main rival, and at the moment the Ioniq has the upper hand. It delivers the same electric-only range of 39 miles, but produces marginally less CO2 and is cheaper than Toyota’s offering. And that’s not all: the Ioniq is a five-seater (the Prius only seats four), the boot measures a handy 341 litres (compared to the Prius’s 191), and it’s lighter than the Prius, making it better to drive.
BMW X5 xDrive45e
Straight off the bat, the BMW X5 hybrid can boast the longest electric-only range of any plug-in hybrid car on sale at the time of writing. It has a 24kWh battery (enormous by PHEV standards) that can return up to 54 miles on a single charge, and the X5 xDrive45e can reach speeds of 83mph without assistance from the 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The six-cylinder unit is potent, and working in tandem with the electric motor it'll produce a whopping 389bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds. As well as being fast, 500 litres of boot space is rather handy too.
Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine
The Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine ticks many boxes, promising all the practicality of many of its SUV rivals with a slightly more upmarket approach. 28 miles of electric range is by no means class-leading, but 385bhp and 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds is right up there with the fastest plug-in hybrids currently on sale. A choice of R-Design and Inscription trim levels provides a high-quality interior finish and plenty of technology as well. Meanwhile, the ride is comfortable, and head and legroom are plentiful throughout. It's a seriously good all-rounder.
|DrivingElectric: related articles|
|What is a plug-in hybrid, and how do they work?|
|Guide: plug-in hybrid vs hybrid vs electric cars|
|How do I charge a plug-in car?|
|These are the best second-hand plug-in hybrid cars|