Best plug-in hybrid cars 2023
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?...
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.
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 often comes with fully electric cars.
It's no good if that means putting up with something that's badly compromised in other areas, though, so here we count down the top 10 plug-in-hybrid car models – and reveal the PHEV that's best to steer clear of.
And remember, if you decide that any of the cars on our list are right for your needs, you can potentially save thousands without the hassle of haggling by using our free New Car Buying service.
Top 10 plug-in hybrids
10. Hyundai Santa Fe 1.6 T-GDi PHEV 4WD
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.
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.
9. BMW 5 Series 530e
The BMW 5 Series, in 530e plug-in hybrid form, is another car that can complete many journeys without needing to wake its engine at all; official tests give it a range of up to 37 miles between charges.
Even when its smooth 2.0-litre petrol engine does fire up, the car is quiet enough to put full-on limousines to shame. You and your passengers can relax in comfort, with soft-touch materials abound inside, lots of space to stretch out and the best infotainment system in the business.
Specify your 5 Series with adaptive suspension for the best ride and the 530e offers all of the benefits of a luxury car without the price tag to match.
8. Skoda Superb 1.4 TSI iV
In plug-in hybrid iV form, the Skoda Superb combines a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a battery big enough for an electric-only range of 34 miles. It's essentially the same guts that you get in the Volkswagen Passat GTE, yet the Superb is cheaper and even more comfortable.
And that’s before we mention space, which the Superb has in abundance. Even with a heavy battery to cart around, you can still fit more into the Superb than you can into the rival BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid. Plus, like any other Superb, it’s full of helpful touches, including hooks to hang your shopping bags on.
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.
Yes, 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.
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.
6. BMW X5 xDrive45e
BMW's plug-in hybrid X5 is every bit as comfortable and luxurious as the petrol and diesel versions, and you barely notice the extra weight of its battery, even in corners.
You can't have the PHEV with seven seats, but that's the only significant downside. Indeed, it has a much longer electric range than the rival Volvo XC90 Recharge T8, with up to 54 miles possible, according to official tests.
Plus, it has a far more user-friendly infotainment system, is more entertaining to drive, and attracts significantly lower company car tax bills. So, unless you really need those extra seats, it's the better car.
The Volvo XC40 is a former What Car? Car of the Year winner, and remains one of the very best family SUVs. You can have it in whatever flavour you like, too, with mild hybrid engine options, a fully electric model called the XC40 Recharge, and the plug-in hybrid option we’re looking at here.
The Recharge T4 offers a total of 211bhp from its 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor – with the result being a brisk 0-62mph sprint time of 8.5sec, which should be enough for most buyers' needs.
It can officially travel for up to 21 miles on electric power alone, and unlike in most other plug-in hybrids, you can fit exactly the same amount of luggage into the boot of the T4 as you can into other XC40s.
4. Range Rover Sport P440e
Being as big as the Range Rover Sport brings advantages in the world of plug-in hybrids. Not least, it means that you can fit a bigger battery than you could in most rivals, and that results in a truly exceptional electric range – up to 70 miles, according to official tests. And that means you might only need to charge it up once a week, if you mainly do local journeys.
Don’t think the addition of plug-in hybrid power makes this Range Rover Sport any less of a luxurious SUV, either. Its interior features the kind of high-quality materials you’d expect, and while you can’t have seven seats, the passengers you can fit inside will have room to stretch out.
3. Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSIe
If you’re in the market for a relatively compact plug-in hybrid with a premium badge on its nose, we’d recommend taking a look at the Audi A3 40 TFSIe.
As well as having a high-quality interior, the A3 impresses with an excellent driving position and a comfy ride.
Yes, a Mercedes A-Class A250e has a slightly cheaper purchase price and a marginally better electric-only range, but it’s not as refined, it doesn’t handle as well and at times its ride is more fractious.
Company car buyers should take note, too, because this A3’s low C02 rating and electric range places it in one of the lowest car brackets.
2. Mercedes C-Class C300e
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, which helps to solve this problem.
In addition, the C300e can officially run purely on electric power for 68 miles at a time. As a result, it qualifies for a 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, there’s no denying the visual wow factor.
1. Lexus NX 450h+
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. 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.
In short, Lexus has proved that driving an electrified car without accepting compromises need not be a fantasy.
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