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. That’s because they can not only make a good company car (because of their low CO2 emissions), but they can also be cheap to run if plugged in regularly.
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 name the top 10 plug-in-hybrid car models – and reveal the PHEV that's best to steer clear of. Of course, if you don't fancy reading the full story and are simply looking for the best plug-in hybrid car, then the Mercedes GLC 300e is the best car you can buy.
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.
Your plug-in hybrid questions answered
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.
Learn more about how we test cars, or see the best and worst plug-in hybrids below
Top 10 plug-in hybrids
1. Mercedes GLC 300e
With its official electric-only range of 80 miles, the GLC 300e has one of the longest ranges of any plug-in hybrid on sale. As a result, it's the best plug-in hybrid you can buy with its low official CO2 emissions and low company car tax rating.
However, there’s more to the GLC 300e than just range. The system is very smooth and refined, while performance is brisk. Also, the ride is comfortable with its standard fit rear air suspension, while the latter helps keep the car composed in the corners.
As with many other new Mercedes, the GLC is offered with a shedload 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 Lexus NX. Overall, it’s a brilliant package that’s ideal for both company car drivers and families alike.
For Well equipped | Plug-in hybrid has impressive electric range | Spacious interior
Against Slightly firmer ride than rivals | Stylish interior doesn't feel the most sturdy | Petrol engines need working hard
2. 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.
For Strong performance | Promise of stellar reliability | PHEV has impressive electric range
Against Petrol engine isn't the smoothest | Choppy high-speed ride on F Sport versions | Takumi versions are pricey
3. 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.
For Plug-in hybrid has an impressive ride | Fuel economy and emissions compare well with rivals | Plug-in hybrid C300e has seriously low BIK rate
Against Disappointing interior quality | Not as much fun to drive as the BMW 3 Series | Some road noise
4. 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 CO2 rating and electric range places it in one of the lowest car brackets.
For Sharp handling | Excellent driving position | Strong and frugal engines, including the excellent plug-in hybrid
Against Interior quality is good but it could be better | Fiddly infotainment system | Audi's unimpressive reliability record
5. Range Rover Sport P460e
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 76 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.
For Offers lots of Range Rover qualities for a lower price | Incredible ability off-road | Fantastic range on the PHEV model
Against Cheaper than a Range Rover, but still very expensive | Rivals are sharper to drive | Land Rover's reliability record is a concern
6. Range Rover Evoque P300e
The plug-in hybrid P300e is our favourite engine in the Evoque. It's the fastest model in the range (0-62mph takes just 6.1sec) and is smooth around town and 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. It’s also surprisingly spacious for its size, although the boot isn’t as big as you’ll find in the BMW X1 or Volvo XC40.
For Great driving position | Well equipped | Slow depreciation
Against Limited boot space | So-so fuel economy and emissions | Land Rover's reliability record
7. BMW 3 Series 330e
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.
For Brilliant to drive | Class-leading infotainment system | Great range of engines
Against Ride is rather firm – particularly in M Sport versions | Not as well finished inside as the Audi A4 | Voice command or fiddly touchscreen only way to adjust climate control
8. 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.
For Seven seats fit for adults | Loads of standard equipment | Long warranty
Against So-so performance | Some wind noise | Ultimate trim is pricey
9. Kia Sportage 1.6T GDi PHEV
The Kia Sportage is a hugely capable family SUV, with a vast interior that’s stylish and well made. The boot is also massive, although in the plug-in hybrid the space is slightly smaller than the petrol and hybrid versions (the battery is located under the boot floor).
The plug-in hybrid version is the most powerful version of the car you can buy, and produces 261bhp. Officially, it can manage a respectable 43 miles, which is more than the Hyundai Tucson PHEV can manage. Overall, the Sportage is slightly better to drive than that car, too, with a ride quality that feels slightly more polished.
For Lower spec models are great value | Smart interior | Generous rear leg room and boot space
Against Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained | Rear headroom compromised with panoramic roof | No clever rear seat functions
10. Lexus RX 450h+
Even though it was one of the first hybrid SUVs, the RX has only recently adopted plug-in hybrid power. The system is similar to what you’ll find in the Lexus NX, and like that car, it’s quick, refined and efficient.
The system uses a 2.5-litre petrol engine, an electric motor and a battery to produce 306bhp, which means it can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1sec. In electric-only mode, it can travel 42 miles officially. In the real-world that equates to 33 miles, which is respectable, but it’s still not as far as the Range Rover Sport can manage.
Inside, it’s very well made, and all models come with plenty of standard equipment. Being a Lexus, it should be reliable.
For Well built and well appointed inside | Hushed on the move | Strong performance
Against Rivals are better to drive | Takumi versions are pricey | PHEV's electric range isn't the best
And the plug-in hybrid to avoid...
DS 7 Crossback E-Tense
The latest DS 7 Crossback is a practical choice, but rivals are cheaper and better to drive. The system also isn’t the most smooth or refined, even though the official electric-only range is quite good at 40 miles.
For Spacious and practical | Competitive CO2 emissions | Good level of standard equipment
Against Interior quality poor in places | Pricey against rivals | Grabby brakes and so-so handling
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