Best plug-in hybrid cars 2024 – best and worst PHEVs named

Plug-in hybrid cars can reduce fuel consumption to an absolute minimum, but which models are the best all-rounders and which ones should you avoid?...

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by
Darren Moss
Updated17 April 2024

We all want the world to be a cleaner, greener place, but when it comes to plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), what's good for the planet can be good for your finances too. That’s because their low CO2 emissions make them affordable company car choices, and if you charge them regularly  they can be cheap to run for all.

By combining a small petrol engine with an electric motor and a battery that can be topped up via mains electricity, there's the potential to eke out incredible fuel economy, without suffering the range anxiety that’s often associated with fully electric cars.

Best plug-in hybrid cars

After thousands of hours spent testing all of the latest plug-in hybrids, our highly experienced road testers have concluded that the Mazda MX-30 R-EV is the best of the bunch – but you'll need to read on to find out why it’s our pick, and which version is best.

Please note that the prices you see here will in some cases reflect the non-hybrid version of the car – we've noted the prices for hybrid versions as of the time of writing alongside each model where that's the case, but you can also find them by following the links through to the relevant model.

If you decide that the MX-30 or any other car on this list is right for you, you can click on the review links to discover more or follow the deals links to find more discounts with our free New Car Deals service.


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Our pick: 125kW R-EV Prime Line 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 9.1 sec
MPG/range: 282.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 21g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 350 litres
Insurance group: 22E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Good ride and handling balance
  • Great infotainment system
  • Smart interior

Weaknesses

  • Poor rear-seat space
  • Limited rear visibility
  • Average resale values

It's a case of 'better late than never' for this plug-in hybrid version of the Mazda MX-30. You see, we don't think the electric MX-30 is one of the best EVs on sale, being hampered by a short official range and fast depreciation. The R-EV looks to address the first of those problems directly, by using a tiny engine to act as a generator for its battery – allowing you to go further.

The R-EV is also more powerful than regular MX-30, with 168bhp rather than 143bhp – resulting in a lower 0-62mph sprint time of 9.1 seconds. 

As a cash buy, you'll pay less for the R-EV than you would for rivals including the DS 4 E-Tense and Kia Niro PHEV, and you should also benefit from lower running costs – although, as with most plug-in hybrids, you're unlikely to match the official economy figure of 283mpg unless you're able to plug the car in regularly.

Downsides? Well, the MX-30 shares the same space issues as its electric sibling, because there isn't much of it. And while its odd reverse-hinged rear doors add some visual drama of getting in and out, they can be tricky to use in narrow parking bays. 

At the time of writing, Mazda MX-30 R-EV prices start from £31,495.

“Pressing the brake pedal on the MX-30 R-EV requires a bit more pressure than the one in the DS 4 E-Tense, but I don't think that's a bad thing, because its more precise response makes it easier to bring the Mazda to a halt smoothly.” – Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor

Read our full Mazda MX-30 R-EV review

Our pick: GLC 220d 4Matic AMG Line 5dr 9G-Tronic

0-62mph: 8 sec
MPG/range: 52.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 141g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 620 litres
Insurance group: 40E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Well equipped
  • Plug-in hybrid has impressive electric range
  • Spacious interior

Weaknesses

  • Slightly firmer ride than rivals
  • Stylish interior doesn't feel the most sturdy
  • Petrol engines need working hard

With its official electric-only range of 80 miles, the Mercedes GLC 300e has one of the longest ranges of any plug-in hybrid on sale.

However, there’s more to the GLC 300e than just range. The system is very smooth and refined, while performance is brisk. And while the plug-in hybrid GLC doesn't handle with quite the same agility as regular models, it still offers plenty of grip and composure, and the steering is accurate enough to let you place the GLC wherever you want it.

As with many other new Mercedes models, the GLC is offered with a huge amount of tech, with an infotainment system that’s responsive and easy to navigate. The boot is also a good size, while rear space is better than in the rival Lexus NX. Overall, it’s a brilliant package that’s ideal for both company car drivers and families alike.

At the time of writing, Mercedes GLC 300e prices start from £58,710.

“With standard air suspension at the rear, the GLC does a fine job of soaking up bumps, plus it remains hushed even at motorway speeds” – Lawrence Cheung, New Cars Editor

Read our full Mercedes GLC review

Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Spacious and sumptuous interior
  • Impressive infotainment system
  • PHEV's class-leading electric range

Weaknesses

  • No air suspension or rear-wheel steering in UK
  • E200 is not particularly sprightly
  • Boot space in PHEV is compromised

Choice is the order of the day in the latest E-Class, because you can have it in petrol mild hybrid, petrol plug-in hybrid or even diesel forms. And that's before you get to the fully electric Mercedes EQE.

The E300e plug-in hybrid is our recommended choice, and gets a combined 328bhp from its 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor. In fact, it's currently the most potent E-Class you can buy, accelerating from 0-62mph in a hot hatch-rivalling 6.5 seconds.

As a luxury car counting the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series among its key rivals, you'd expect the E-Class to be comfortable inside, and to be surrounded by premium materials. That's largely the case, although the E-Class' infotainment system is neither as slick nor as intuitive to operate as the 5 Series' iDrive setup. And while the interior is visually appealing, the materials aren't as plush as those used on the A6.

This sixth-generation E-Class is larger in every respect than its predecessor, and that means there's lots of head and leg room throughout. And while plug-in hybrid models lose some boot space compared with regular versions, there's still likely to be enough for your family's holiday luggage.

At the time of writing, Mercedes E-Class E300e prices start from £68,020.

“I like the E-Class' rear seats – the space is generous, and the seatbacks fold down in a handy 40/20/40 split, so you can load longer items with ease while still keeping space for a passenger or two.” – Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Read our full Mercedes E-Class review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Plug-in hybrid has an impressive ride
  • Fuel economy and emissions compare well with rivals
  • C300e has a very low company car tax rate

Weaknesses

  • Disappointing interior quality
  • Not as much fun to drive as a BMW 3 Series
  • Some road noise

Given that its models occupy three spaces on this list, you'd be right in assuming that Mercedes clearly knows a thing or two about building tempting plug-in hybrids. Indeed, this version of the C-Class shares many of the same positive attributes as its GLC and E-Class siblings, but crucially will cost you less to buy.

Plug-in hybrids tend to be less comfortable than their conventionally powered siblings, because the extra weight of the batteries requires a stiffer suspension set-up, but the C300e comes with rear air suspension as standard, which helps to solve this problem. 

In addition, being able to run on electric power for up to 68 miles at a time – according to official figures – helps it to qualify for a super-low company car tax rating.

The C300e can be a relatively practical choice, too, with a boot that’s just as long and wide as that of the regular C-Class. And while interior build quality falls some way behind rivals such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, there’s no denying the visual wow factor.

At the time of writing, Mercedes C-Class C300e prices start from £52,025.

“It's easy to get comfortable inside the C-Class. All versions come with plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, while AMG Line Premium cars and above get electric seat adjustment – useful if, like me, you have a long commute.” – Stuart Milne, Digital Editor

Read our full Mercedes C-Class review

Our pick: xDrive50e M Sport 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 4.8 sec
MPG/range: 313.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 20g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 500 litres
Insurance group: 49E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Fantastic plug-in hybrid version
  • Great to drive
  • Classy, well-designed interior

Weaknesses

  • Wide standard tyres generate road noise at speed
  • Third row of seats costs extra
  • There are more spacious and practical rivals

Only a handful of plug-in hybrids can travel further on a charge than the BMW X5, which is particularly impressive given that it’s a big, luxurious SUV.

In fact, if you commute less than 30 miles each way to work, the 65-mile electric range of the X5 xDrive50e could mean you’ll not burn a drop of fuel. Keep the battery charged, and you could see the official figure of 235mpg, although we recorded 27mpg when driving with a flat battery. Most drivers should see fuel economy between those two extremes, and company car drivers will enjoy low tax bills regardless.

Like the rest of the X5 range, the plug-in hybrid is superb to drive, with comfortable yet sure-footed handling and responsive steering. Its trump card here is straight-line performance: it takes 4.8sec to accelerate from 0-62mph – fractionally faster than the Range Rover Sport.

Inside, the X5 – in any guise – is hard to fault. The quality is exceptional, and the tech is brilliant, easy to use and plentiful. It’s just a shame it’s not quite as practical as the Volvo XC90.

At the time of writing, BMW X5 xDrive50e prices start from £80,835.

“It's very efficient, but the X5 comes with very wide tyres as standard, and these generate a fair amount of road noise as you drive along. Thankfully, the X5's standard stereo speakers can drown the din out.” – Darren Moss, Deputy Digital Editor

Read our full BMW X5 review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Great driving position
  • Well-equipped
  • Slow depreciation

Weaknesses

  • Limited boot space
  • So-so fuel economy and emissions
  • Land Rover’s reliability record

The plug-in hybrid P300e is our favourite engine in the Range Rover Evoque. It's the fastest model in the range (0-62mph takes just 6.1sec) and is smooth around town yet punchy on the motorway. It combines a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and 15kWh battery, and can officially travel up to 38 miles on electric-only power. 

As you’d expect from a car that bears the Range Rover name, the Evoque’s interior is beautifully finished, with most of the surfaces you touch regularly coated in high-end materials. The driving position is also spot on, giving you a great view out and placing you higher than in most rival SUVs. Lots of adjustment means that it's easy to get comfy, too.

The Evoque is also surprisingly spacious for its size, having more space for rear passengers than most other family SUVs, although the boot isn’t as big as you’ll find in the BMW X1 or Volvo XC40.

At the time of writing, Range Rover Evoque P300e prices start from £49,000.

“The Evoque is a good choice if you regularly need to fill every seat in your car – that's because its rearbench is nice and wide, meaning fitting three adults side by side is less of a squeeze than in most rivals.” – Doug Revolta, Head of Video

Read our full Range Rover Evoque review

Our pick: 450h+ 2.5 5dr E-CVT [Premium Pack]

0-62mph: 6.3 sec
MPG/range: 313.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 21g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 525 litres
Insurance group: 38E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Strong performance
  • Promise of stellar reliability
  • PHEV has an impressive electric range

Weaknesses

  • Petrol engine isn’t the smoothest
  • Choppy high-speed ride on F Sport versions
  • Takumi versions are pricey

The latest Lexus NX is one of the most compelling reasons to go green that we've yet seen, with a long electric-only range that should not only slash your running costs, but also makes for tempting company car tax rates. 

This large SUV is good to drive, too, and has an interior that's hard to fault in any respect – indeed, it places you higher above the road than the rival Audi Q5, giving you a more commanding driving position. Plus, it’s a car your family will enjoy, because they’ll have more room to stretch out than they would in some rivals, and the boot will have no trouble swallowing your holiday luggage.

Drawbacks are relatively few, but the petrol engine can get rather raucous under acceleration, and the ride on the racy F Sport version is a little firm, both of which are at odds with its otherwise refined demeanour. 

At the time of writing, Lexus NX 450h+ prices start from £54,950.

“If you're the kind of driver who likes to make a quick getaway from traffic lights, then you'll appreciate the extra pulling power that the 450h+ has over lesser NX models – its 305bhp is enough to reach 60mph in 5.8 seconds, which is faster than the Mercedes GLC 300e could manage.” – Mark Pearson, Used Cars Editor

Read our full Lexus NX review

Our pick: 330e 22.3 kWh M Sport 4dr Step Auto

0-62mph: 5.9 sec
MPG/range: 353.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 19g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 375 litres
Insurance group: 34E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Brilliant fun to drive
  • Class-leading infotainment system
  • Great range of engines

Weaknesses

  • Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions
  • Not as well finished inside as an Audi A4
  • Voice command or fiddly touchscreen only way to adjust climate control

You’re probably familiar with the BMW 3 Series; it’s long had a reputation for being among the best executive cars you can buy, and these days, our preferred version is also a plug-in hybrid.

The 330e model combines an electric motor with a punchy yet smooth 2.0-litre petrol engine, for an official electric range of 37 miles – that could be enough to cover your daily commute without using a drop of fuel.

Elsewhere, the 330e is nearly as rewarding to drive as any 3 Series, with sharp handling and a firm, well-controlled ride. The interior, meanwhile, is classy, comfortable and exceptionally user-friendly. Indeed, BMW's infotainment system is easier to get along with than the touchscreen setups you'll find in the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class.

At the time of writing, BMW 3 Series 330e prices start from £46,985.

“Like a lot of plug-in hybrids, pushing down on the 330e's brake pedal activates a regenerative braking system which, to the uninitiated, can feel a bit odd. It's useful, though, and I found it more confidence-inspiring than the brakes of some rivals.” – George Hill, Staff Writer

Read our full BMW 3 Series review

Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Outstanding seven-seat practicality
  • Plush interior
  • Long warranty

Weaknesses

  • Pricing yet to be confirmed
  • Hybrid engine not particularly inspiring
  • Styling might be divisive

There are lots of impressive facts and figures associated with the Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid. There's the 36 miles that it can officially cover before it needs to burn any fuel. Then there's the 173.7mpg and 37g/km of CO2 that it averaged in official tests. But perhaps the most significant number of all is seven, because it’s one of the few plug-in hybrids that can carry that many people.

Alternatively, you can fill its massive boot with luggage instead – in our tests, we fitted 10 carry-on suitcases inside, which is more than the rival Nissan X-Trail.

The Santa Fe also impresses for value, because you get so much equipment as standard. Even entry-level cars come with adaptive cruise control, heated leather seats and keyless entry.

Just be aware that an all-new Santa Fe is due to arrive in the UK very soon, and should offer an improved all-electric range.

At the time of writing, Hyundai Santa Fe 1.6 T-GDi plug-in hybrid 4WD prices start from £48,385.

“The third row of the Santa Fe is amazingly spacious relative to rivals, and no longer means that anyone relegated to the rearmost seats will feel like they've drawn the short straw.” – Claire Evans, Consumer Editor

Read our full Hyundai Santa Fe review

Our pick: 1.6T GDi 157 48V ISG 3 5dr

0-62mph: 9.9 sec
MPG/range: 42.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 562 litres
Insurance group: 20E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Lower-spec models are great value
  • Smart interior
  • Generous rear leg room and boot space

Weaknesses

  • Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained
  • Rear head room compromised with panoramic roof
  • No clever rear seat functions

Our favourite family SUV, the Kia Sportage, also makes a lot of sense as a plug-in hybrid. It combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a total of 216bhp, with the system sending its power to all four wheels.

While non-PHEV versions do a better job of rounding out lumps and bumps in the road, the plug-in hybrid Sportage is never uncomfortable, and feels well settled at speed, just like its Honda ZR-V rival. And despite its heft, the Sportage offers a well-judged handling balance, even if it's not as exciting as a Ford Kuga.

The Sportage is one of the most practical cars around, and no matter which seat your passengers are in, they'll have plenty of room to stretch out. And while the plug-in hybrid loses some boot space compared with other versions of the Sportage, it should still be perfectly practical for the needs of most families.

At the time of writing, Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi PHEV AWD 3 prices start from £38,685.

"Despite costing more than non-hybrid versions of the Sportage, the plug-in hybrid model remains competitive, and like any Sportage should hold on to its value well. Plus, there's that ultra-cheap 8% benefit-in-kind company car tax rate to think about.” – Dan Jones, Reviewer

Read our full Kia Sportage review


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And the plug-in hybrid car to avoid...

DS 7 Crossback E-Tense

The DS 7 Crossback is a practical choice, but rivals including the Audi Q3 and Lexus NX are better to drive. The hybrid system isn’t the most smooth or refined, either, even though the official electric-only range is quite good at 40 miles. Read our review

FAQs

What is the highest mileage plug-in hybrid?

The highest mileage plug-in hybrid is currently the Mercedes GLC 300e, which offers an official electric-only range of 80 miles. Not far behind is the Range Rover Sport P460e, which can travel 76 miles officially.

What is the difference between PHEV and plug-in hybrid?

PHEV stands for 'Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle'. A PHEV is different from a regular hybrid (HEV), because it can travel for longer distances on electric power. The battery can also be topped up with a charger, whereas in a regular hybrid the battery is much smaller and charged solely by the engine.

What gets better mileage, hybrid or plug-in hybrid?

Officially, plug-in hybrids have better mileage, but you need to plug them in regularly to get most out of them. If not, the fuel economy isn’t as good, because the engine is having to pull around the heavy battery without as much assistance from the electric motor.

What’s best plug-in hybrid or self charging?

It depends on your lifestyle. For instance, if you don’t have a driveway (for charging at home) and do mostly urban driving, a ‘self-charging’ hybrid might suit you better. A plug-in hybrid, meanwhile, can be ideal for a short commute or school run, so you can use electric power for those journeys, and the engine on longer ones. Both hybrids and plug-in hybrids are ideal for urban driving, with the latter being most efficient when plugged in regularly.

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