Revealed: What Car? names the best electric cars you can buy

Britain’s best electric and plug-in hybrid cars named in first-ever What Car? Electric Car Awards, in association with Myenergi...

The UK’s best new electric (EV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars for every budget have been revealed at the inaugural What Car? Electric Car Awards, held in association with charging point provider Myenergi.

Electric Car Awards 2020 winners

The Awards were launched following a surge in interest in electric cars online during lockdown. As restrictions eased in early July, 26% of What Car?’s audience said they were more inclined to buy an EV or PHEV as a result of the changed environment they were living in, while interest in the stories outlining the best electric and plug-in hybrid cars on sale today surged, out-performing other areas of the website.

The awards state the best car in each category, and we define electric as cars that are capable of running entirely on all electric power, so essentially entirely electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. Let’s take a look:

VALUE CAR: Seat Mii Electric 36.8kWh

VALUE CAR: Seat Mii Electric 36.8kWh - £22,800

List price £22,800 (£19,800 inc £3000 gov’t grant) Target Price £22,800

Target PCP £308 per month 0-62mph 12.3sec Top speed 81 miles

The Seat Mii is now electric-only and one of the cheapest ways to get into EV ownership. Yes, you can buy a Renault Twizy for much less, but the Mii has a far greater electric range and is much more practical. It can also go much farther on a charge than Smart’s EQ electric models. The Mii managed a handy 111 miles in our Real Range test.

Pouring some extra volts into the Mii is pretty painless, too. You get a regular Type 2 cable as standard that slips into a 7kW home wallbox and is able to get the battery from 0-100% in six hours. If you’ve only got access to a three-pin plug, it takes 16 hours for a full recharge and you’ll have to pay extra for the necessary cable. The Mii Electric is also compatible with CCS rapid chargers. Able to accept up to a 40kW charging rate, it’ll get you from empty to 80% in an hour and makes longer journeys that much more bearable.

VALUE CAR: Seat Mii Electric 36.8kWh

VALUE CAR: Seat Mii Electric 36.8kWh - £22,800

The suspension is pretty soft, so it’s surprisingly comfy for such a tiny car, yet this doesn’t translate into wallowy handling. Sure, it isn’t as agile as a conventionally powered Kia Picanto, but it’s certainly more fun to drive than the Smart twins. Downsides? Well, with a power output of just 82bhp, you won’t be troubling Teslas in a drag race, although performance up to 30mph or so is surprisingly sprightly. And the infotainment system isn’t exactly cutting edge.

SMALL CAR: Peugeot e-208 Allure Premium

SMALL CAR: Peugeot e-208 Allure Premium - £30,118

List price £30,875 (£27,875 inc £3000 gov’t grant) Target Price £30,118

Target PCP £384 0-62mph 8.1sec Top speed 93mph

Unlike many of its rivals, including the Honda E and Renault Zoe, this isn’t a bespoke electric car that’s designed to stand out from ‘normal’ petrol and diesel cars. It’s just a Peugeot 208 with a big battery and an electric motor instead of an engine with valves and pistons. And that’s a good thing, because the 208 is a top-notch small car. Indeed, it’s beaten only by the Volkswagen Polo, and there’s no electric version of that car.

The 208’s eye-catching, classy interior puts even the Audi A1’s to shame, and its supple suspension does a great job of keeping you comfortable, even on rough roads. These attributes have been carried over to the e-208 intact. And unlike many electric cars that are derived from conventional models, there’s been no impact on boot space.

SMALL CAR: Peugeot e-208 Allure Premium

SMALL CAR: Peugeot e-208 Allure Premium

Although the e-208 is challenged on the desirability front by the Honda E and isn’t as much fun to drive, in most other areas it leaves that car for dead. It has a much bigger boot, for example, and can cover 160 miles or more between charges in the real world, whereas the Honda can barely manage 100 miles. The Zoe, heavily revised earlier this year, puts up more of a challenge. It can manage almost 200 miles in realworld conditions, is slightly cheaper to buy and has a better infotainment system and a bigger boot than the e-208. But it isn’t as nippy nor comfortable, isn’t as upmarket inside and has a worrying lack of modern safety equipment.

All things considered, then, the e-208 is the best small electric car you can buy. The Allure Premium version is is the sweet spot of the range. It’s attractively priced but still comes with loads of kit, including climate control, rear parking sensors, wireless phone charging and a 10.0in touchscreen infotainment system with phone mirroring.

FAMILY CAR: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium

FAMILY CAR: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium

List price £33,950 (£30,950 inc £3000 gov’t grant) Target Price £32,951

Target PCP £372 per month 0-62mph 9.9sec Top speed 103mph

While the Ioniq Electric isn’t a revolutionary family car, it does the job better than any rival. Take the Nissan Leaf, for example. Like the Ioniq, it’s an electric hatchback that’s designed to slot as easily into your daily life as a plug into a socket, but in the ways that matter most to buyers, the Ioniq is the better fit. It’s more engaging to drive, for a start, with light, accurate steering that makes manoeuvring around town a doddle, and with its 134bhp motor, it can get you up to motorway speeds quicker than most versions of the Leaf.

And then there’s the official range. Promising up to 193 miles between charges, the Ioniq will get you farther than regular, 40kWh versions of the Leaf, as well as the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf. Granted, you can get a Leaf with a bigger battery and longer range, but that version has a bumpy ride and is seriously pricey.

FAMILY CAR: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium

FAMILY CAR: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium interior

The Ioniq is a practical choice, too, with a good-sized boot and plenty of leg room in the rear, although the sloping roof means tall passengers might find that there’s less head room than in conventional family cars such as the Skoda Scala. And compared with the i3’s cramped rear seats, the Ioniq is palatial.

When it comes to technology, the Ioniq’s infotainment system has a larger (10.3in) touchscreen than the Leaf’s and is easier to use, although some of its smaller icons can be tricky to hit on the move. The Ioniq is simply bursting with equipment, too, including heated front seats in our recommended Premium trim. Every car gets automatic emergency braking that can recognise cyclists and pedestrians, plus lane-keeping assistance as standard. And if anything should go wrong, you’ve got a five-year, unlimited-mileage new car warranty to fall back on.

FAMILY SUV: Kia e-Niro 64kWh 3

FAMILY SUV: Kia e-Niro 64kWh 3

List price £36,850 (£33,850 inc £3000 gov’t grant) Target Price £36,850

Target PCP £474 per month* 0-62mph 7.5sec Top speed 104mph

WHEN THE KIA e-Niro won our overall Car of the Year title in 2019, it showed that uncompromised electric car ownership was no longer reserved for the privileged few. With an impressive real-world range of 253 miles, it not only proved capable of covering the same distance between charges as the much more expensive Jaguar I-Pace but also went farther than any Tesla we’ve tested.

Two years on, the e-Niro is still something of a people’s champion. And it’s more well rounded than its competitors. That Jaguar I-Pace-matching range means it can go farther between top-ups than any rival we’ve tested, apart from the Kona Electric, which beats it by six miles. At the same time, its 201bhp electric motor – shared with its siblings, as is its big battery – gives it hot hatch-rivalling performance.

FAMILY SUV: Kia e-Niro 64kWh 3

FAMILY SUV: Kia e-Niro 64kWh 3 interior

Unlike some small electric cars that are nippy around town but start to feel out of their depth at higher speeds, the e-Niro feels perfectly at home on the motorway; in fact, because it’s so refined and can go so far between top-ups, it makes a fine

long-distance cruiser. It has more composed handling and a more comfortable ride than the Kona and Soul, too, while there’s more space inside for occupants, although the Soul’s boot is slightly bigger.

The e-Niro’s interior isn’t as visually alluring as the e-2008’s, but it feels plusher inside than the Kona’s. And in mid-range 3 trim, it benefits from a long list of standard equipment, including adaptive cruise control, leather seats, a heated steering wheel and an impressive infotainment system with a 10.3in touchscreen. Although this category is getting increasingly competitive, the e-Niro has proved that it has real staying power.

LUXURY SUV: Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S

LUXURY SUV: Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S

List price £65,195 Target Price £63,256 Target PCP £686 per month

0-60mph 4.5sec Top speed 124mph

One of the things we like most about the Jaguar I-Pace is that, despite being a heavy luxury SUV, it handles and steers exceptionally well, helping to make it a more entertaining car to drive than its main rivals, the Audi E-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC. Given that electric cars are sometimes accused of feeling quite similar to each other, the fact that the I-Pace stands out in its class for its dynamic prowess is something to be celebrated.

But fine handling isn’t the I-Pace’s only party trick; it’s also scorchingly quick. Its two electric motors pump out a combined 395bhp for a 0-60mph time of just 4.5sec – noticeably nippier than any current version of the E-tron or EQC. It also delivers an impressively long range. In fact, it ranks second equal in our Real Range table with the Kia e-Niro, covering 253 miles on a full charge in real-world driving, whereas the EQC is down around the 200-mile mark and the E-tron is lower still.

LUXURY SUV: Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S

LUXURY SUV: Jaguar I-Pace EV400 S dashboard

Recharging will take about 10 hours with a typical home wallbox, and a 0-80% charge will take about 40 minutes from a 100kW public rapid charger. Unlike the E-tron, though, the I-Pace can’t take full advantage of even faster chargers. The slight trade-off for its sporty character is that the I-Pace isn’t quite as refined at high speeds as its German rivals, but that’s like saying a steel girder isn’t as hard as a diamond. As with most EVs, it’s wonderfully hushed most of the time.  The ride is very comfortable and well controlled on the standard suspension, too, so there’s no need to slash out for the optional air setup.

Although the I-Pace isn’t quite as spacious inside as its rivals and its boot isn’t huge, it’s still a very comfy car even for tall occupants, while the quality of the materials is among Jaguar’s best yet. It’s loaded with technology, too, including a digital instrument panel and twin central touchscreens that control the infotainment and many of the secondary functions. All in all, given its long range and the fact that it’s competitively priced and better to drive than its main rivals, the I-Pace remains our favourite electric luxury SUV.

EXECUTIVE CAR: Tesla Model 3 Performance - £56,490

EXECUTIVE CAR: Tesla Model 3 Performance

List price £56,490 Target Price £56,490 Target PCP na

0-60mph 3.2sec Top speed 162mph

Tesla’s Model S showed that battery-powered travel could be luxurious, far-reaching and fast. But not cheap, and it took the Model 3 to put those fruits within easier reach. The Model 3 was an executive car price-point winner in our 2020 Car of the Year Awards – proof that it can mix it with stalwarts such as the mighty BMW 3 Series. Meanwhile, the top-spec Performance model became our favourite large electric car, but since then the Polestar 2 (another new brand, but associated with Volvo) has joined the fray. So, how is the Model 3 Performance still top dog?

Let’s start with performance, given that it’s in the car’s name. Its pace is truly breathtaking, warp-speeding you from 0-60mph in a whisker over three seconds. Now, the Polestar 2 is no slouch, but it’s more than a second behind the Model 3 in a drag race. At the other end of the performance spectrum is the range. Officially, the Model 3 Performance will cover up to 329 miles on a full charge, compared with the Polestar 2’s 292 miles.

EXECUTIVE CAR: Tesla Model 3 Performance

EXECUTIVE CAR: Tesla Model 3 Performance dashboard

In our scientific Real Range test, the Model 3 Performance managed a still-impressive 239 miles, and that’s farther than you’re likely to get in the Polestar. Then there’s Tesla’s epic Supercharger network. These rapid chargers are easy to use, reliable and, with around 500 charging points in the UK, widespread. Plug in for as little as 22 minutes and they’ll zap a 10-80% charge into the battery.

The Model 3 Performance isn’t  as much fun to drive as a Porsche Taycan, but its mighty traction, vast grip and agility make it more entertaining than the Polestar, yet it has a more comfortable ride. If technology is more your thing, the Model 3’s 15.0in infotainment screen is bigger than the Polestar’s and offers more services, including Netflix and games (when you’re stationary). And Tesla’s pioneering over-the-air updates mean that software bugs can be fixed and new features added, even while you sleep. The Model 3 Performance is a very good car.

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Taycan 4S

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Taycan 4S

List price £84,189 Target Price £84,189 Target PCP na

0-62mph 4.0sec Top speed 155mph

The Taycan 4S is what we like to call a Goldilocks car: a model in the range that’s not too hot and not too cold. It’s just right. How, you ask? Well, not only is it the cheapest version of Porsche’s Tesla Model S-rivalling electric saloon, but it can also travel farther between charges than its significantly more expensive Turbo and Turbo S siblings, with an official range of up to 288 miles.

Mind you, to get that near-300-mile range, you’ll need to add the £4613 Performance Battery Plus option. This gives you the same battery as you’ll find in the Turbo model, providing you with a maximum charging rate of 270kW (versus 225kW for the standard car). That means a 10-80% top-up can be done in just over 20 minutes – around 15 minutes quicker than the Tesla Model S Performance takes at its maximum charging speed of 200kW.

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Taycan 4S

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Taycan 4S

With a whopping 483bhp, straightline performance is, unsurprisingly, gut-thumpingly impressive; 0-62mph takes just 4.0sec. Of course, lots of other electric cars, including the Model S and smaller Tesla Model 3, offer instant, eye-popping acceleration. For us, though, where the Taycan really moves the game on is in the corners. Despite weighing more than two tonnes, the way it hides its enormous mass is nothing short of miraculous.

It exhibits stunning levels of body control, in contrast to the comparatively wallowy Model S, and its accurate, feelsome steering makes it feel much smaller than it actually is on tight country roads. And while the 4S is capable of finding massive traction regardless of conditions, on the right road there’s still enough playfulness to keep more experienced drivers entertained. Put simply, the 4S has raised the bar for electric performance cars by demonstrating that battery power doesn’t have to mean a one-dimensional driving experience.

SEVEN-SEATER: Tesla Model X (7 seat)

SEVEN-SEATER: Tesla Model X (7 seat)

List price £86,380 Target Price £86,380 Target PCP na

0-60mph 4.4sec Top speed 155mph

OKAY, THE competition for this award wasn’t exactly fierce, but a shortage of electric seven-seat rivals shouldn’t take anything away from Tesla’s achievement. In fact, since suggesting that a family of six buys a car with five seats clearly isn’t going to fly, the Model X has an obvious and unique purpose in the world of EVs.Granted, it isn’t cheap.

Our favourite Long Range version costs more than £80k, so you won’t get any contribution from the Government towards the price. What you will get is an enormous, five-metre-long SUV with gullwing doors (think DeLorean), some of the best self-driving tech around and acceleration that can embarrass many sports cars. You can have a five-seat version for slightly less cash or a six-seater for slightly more, but it’s the seven-seat version that makes most sense, because its extra flexibility is something other electric SUVs such as the Audi E-tron and Jaguar I-Pace can’t match.

SEVEN-SEATER: Tesla Model X (7 seat)

SEVEN-SEATER: Tesla Model X (7 seat) interior

Those gullwing rear doors make getting into the third-row seats surprisingly easy, and although space back there isn’t exactly palatial, adults will fit. And when you don’t need to carry more than five people, the two rearmost seats can simply be folded away to boost boot space. Interior quality isn’t the X’s strongest suit, but it does at least look upmarket inside, partly thanks to the enormous, 17.0in touchscreen that controls most of the car’s systems (or you can use it to watch Netflix or play video games when you’re parked up).

On the road, the Model X is indecently quick when you want it to be, but it’s also super-easy to drive and not in the slightest bit intimidating. The gigantic, 100kWh battery can be charged from 10-80% in as little as 38 minutes using one of Tesla’s own Superchargers or you can  just plug into a regular 7kW wallbox at home for an overnight charge. A full battery can officially get you more than 300 miles, although 230-250 miles is more realistic.

So that’s the pure electric car options – what about plug-in hybrids? Read on

FAMILY CAR: Mercedes A-Class A250e AMG Line

FAMILY CAR: Mercedes A-Class A250e AMG Line

List price £32,980 Target Price £31,461 Target PCP £360 per month

0-62mph 6.6sec Top speed 146mph Official economy 256.8mpg

The Mercedes-Benz A250e is something of a game-changer among plug-in hybrids. How so? Because, with a starting price of less than £33,000 in our recommended AMG Line trim, it’s the first relatively affordable one to offer an official electric-only range of more than 40 miles. And the more time you spend running on battery power, the less petrol you’ll burn and the more money you’ll save.

Company car drivers benefit even more than private buyers. While most similar-priced plug-in hybrids fall into the 10% benefit-in-kind tax bracket, the A250e’s longer range means it attracts a rate of just 6%, translating into really low monthly salary sacrifices. Although the A250e isn’t as sharp in corners as conventional rivals such as the BMW 1 Series, it has a comfortable ride that’s troubled only by particularly vicious potholes and expansion joints.

FAMILY CAR: Mercedes A-Class A250e AMG Line

FAMILY CAR: Mercedes A-Class A250e AMG Line dashboard

Meanwhile, a combined power output of 215bhp from its 1.3-litre petrol engine and electric motor makes it far swifter than other affordable plug-in hybrids, including the cheaper Kia XCeed PHEV. In electric mode, power is down to 100bhp, although that’s still enough acceleration to keep pace with fast-moving traffic. The A250e isn’t as smooth as the XCeed when it switches between electric and petrol power and its engine is more raucous under hard acceleration, but we suspect you’ll forgive it that for its interior.

Not only does it look striking, with big digital displays and turbine-style air vents, but it’s also laid out in a very user-friendly way. Space in the front and rear seats is unaffected by the addition of the hybrid technology, although boot capacity takes a hit compared with other A-Class models. As in its siblings, the infotainment system is impressive, offering a variety of ways of interacting with it, plus quick responses to inputs and easy-to-fathom menus. Overall, then, the A250e is a fine car in its own right, and one that has some serious financial benefits whether you’re buying privately or receiving one as a company car.

SMALL SUV: Kia Niro PHEV 1.6 GDi 3

SMALL SUV: Kia Niro PHEV 1.6 GDi 3

List price £31,945 Target Price £29,843 Target PCP £340 per month*

0-62mph 10.4sec Top speed 107mph Official economy 201.8mpg

It’s the fully electric e-Niro that grabs the zero-emissions limelight, but many families might find that the plug-in hybrid Niro meshes with their lifestyle more comfortably. After all, it can provide quiet all-electric running for up to 30 miles on a full charge, yet it also offers the stress-free long-distance cruising ability of a regular petrol car.

The Niro may not be as glamorous as upmarket plug-in hybrid rivals such as the BMW X1 xDrive25e and Volvo XC40 Recharge T5, but it’s in a league of its own when it comes to ownership costs. For starters, it’s one of the cheapest plug-in hybrids you can buy (particularly among SUVs), significantly undercutting its premium rivals, both as an outright purchase and on a PCP finance scheme. Business users will benefit here, too: the Niro occupies the same lowly 10% benefit-in-kind bracket as the X1 xDrive25e, but its much lower price tag makes the salary sacrifices far more palatable.

SMALL SUV: Kia Niro PHEV 1.6 GDi 3

SMALL SUV: Kia Niro PHEV 1.6 GDi 3 dashboard

You might think that spending far less money means you get far less of a car, but that isn’t the case. In fact, the Niro is a well-rounded car. It may not be all that exciting to drive, but it’s far from a chore, and few will complain about comfort on urban roads or on the motorway, with only the occasional pothole spoiling the peace. And the transition from electric to petrol power is smoother than it is in the XC40.

There isn’t much wrong with the Niro’s interior, either. Those of the X1 and XC40 are more glitzily styled, but the Niro is well built and uses good quality materials. Equipment isn’t in short supply, either, regardless of which trim level you opt for, and the infotainment system is full-featured and easy to use. There’s plenty of space for a growing family, too. Overall, the Niro PHEV isn’t quite the world-beater that its fully electric e-Niro sister is, but it does enough, well enough and for a low enough price to be a compelling prospect among plug-in hybrid SUVs.

LARGE SUV: Ford Kuga PHEV 2.5 PHEV Titanium

LARGE SUV: Ford Kuga PHEV 2.5 PHEV Titanium

List price £33,585 Target Price £31,836 Target PCP £287 per month*

0-62mph 9.2sec Top speed 125mph Official economy 201.8mpg

Too many plug-in hybrids have a fatal flaw: once you call their engines into action, their fuel economy isn’t all that great. That’s especially true of large SUVs, which often have big petrol engines that return miles-per-gallon figures in the mid-30s at best. The Kuga PHEV bucks this trend, though; even with a flat battery, it managed a seriously impressive 52mpg on our carefully controlled test route. That’s better economy than you get from some small diesel SUVs, let alone big petrol ones.

Of course, keep its battery charged  and the Kuga PHEV does even better. In our test, it got close to its official electric range of 35 miles, covering 31 miles before handing over to the petrol engine. That’s a lot farther than the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 can go. Making the most of every amp and drop of petrol helps the Kuga slot into the 10% BIK bracket, and the fact that it undercuts most rivals on price keeps company car tax down. There’s good news for private buyers who are looking at PCP finance, too; the PHEVs offer some of the lowest monthly payments of the entire Kuga range.

LARGE SUV: Ford Kuga PHEV 2.5 PHEV Titanium

LARGE SUV: Ford Kuga PHEV 2.5 PHEV Titanium dashboard

You won’t feel short-changed by the driving experience, either. It isn’t the fastest plug-in SUV you can buy, but its performance is more than adequate. We managed to beat Ford’s official 0-62mph time in our tests, and it’s quicker than the Outlander PHEV. Performance in electric-only mode is more sedate but nippy enough to keep pace with traffic in typical day-to-day driving, and the transition between petrol and electric power is virtually seamless.

On a twisty road, too, you’ll have more to smile about than just the money you’re saving. The Kuga is agile for a big hybrid SUV, with precise steering and relatively little body lean. It actually feels less bulky than its premium BMW X3 xDrive30e rival and happier to be driven with verve. And although the ride can be a little fidgety at times, it’s generally more comfortable than both the XC60 Recharge T8 and Outlander. Summed up, the Kuga PHEV doesn’t just make sense as a plug-in hybrid SUV; it’s a great large SUV full stop.

LUXURY SUV: BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport

LUXURY SUV: BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport

List price £68,245 Target Price £66,235 Target PCP £779 per month

0-62mph 5.6sec Top speed 146mph Official economy 201.8mpg

Of all the cars to benefit from plugin hybrid technology, a luxury SUV is one of the most logical. Think about it: a serene driving experience, effortless performance and plenty of space are prerequisites for a luxury SUV, and the first two of these attributes are unquestionably improved by adding electric power into the mix. That’s certainly the case with the BMW X5 xDrive45e. With an official class-leading 54-mile all-electric range (more than both the Audi Q7 TFSIe and Volvo’s XC90 Recharge T8), you don’t need to pussyfoot around worrying that you’ll wake the petrol engine under the bonnet with a simple overextension of your right foot.

On our set test route, which replicates a range of real-world driving environments, we managed an impressive 32.5 miles of pure electric travel (versus just 18.7 for the XC90). That’s easily enough for most people to get to work and back without using a drop of petrol. And when you do wish to go farther afield, if you enter your destination into the sat-nav, BMW’s hybrid system is clever enough to juggle between petrol and electric power sources to maximise fuel economy on your trip. For example, if the first stretch is on a motorway and your journey ends in a city, the 3.0-litre straight six petrol engine will be used for the faster roads and the electric power will be saved for slower, more congested sections.

LUXURY SUV: BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport

LUXURY SUV: BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport dashboard

Just be aware that when the battery is fully depleted, fuel economy will drop to below the level of an equivalent X5 xDrive30d diesel. In truth, it’s on company car tax that this X5 will save you the most money; the fact that hybrids are judged on their CO2 emissions and pure electric range puts the X5 in a very sweet position. With a CO2 output of just 31g/km and that impressive electric-only range, the X5 attracts a benefit-in-kind rate of just 6%. To put it another way, that means your monthly tax bill will be less than if you’d gone for a sub-£25,000 1.0-litre Ford Puma.

However, the 45e is far more than just a luxury SUV for pennypinchers. Not only does it offer hot hatch-rivalling performance (on our private test track, we managed a 0-60mph time of just 5.1sec), but it also handles better than the Q7, rides more comfortably than the XC90 and features a beautifully finished interior with a class-leading infotainment system. The only real disappointment is that BMW doesn’t offer the 45e with seven seats, but at least it retains a capacious boot, despite the inclusion of a hefty 24kWh battery.

ESTATE CAR: Skoda Superb Estate iV SE Technology - £34,196

ESTATE CAR: Skoda Superb Estate iV SE Technology

List price £34,870 Target Price £34,196 Target PCP £492 per month

0-62mph 7.8sec Top speed 138mph Official economy 209.1mpg

We’ve been big fans of the Skoda Superb Estate for many years because, to put it simply, it represents Skoda at its very best by offering class-leading space and practicality for a very affordable price. And this is a trend that Skoda has continued with its plug-in hybrid Superb Estate iV. It’s powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a battery that’s big enough for an official all-electric range of 35 miles, similar to the setup on the Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate. But the Superb is significantly cheaper and it’s also more spacious inside, with a smart interior that feels just as solidly screwed together as the VW’s.

It also sports a bigger boot – which, let’s face it, is what estates are all about. Thanks to clever design, the battery pack under the rear floor doesn’t eat into luggage space too much. Yes, the underfloor boot storage gives way for a charging cable cubby, but you still get 510 litres, compared with 483 in the Passat GTE Estate. There’s lots to like about the driving experience, too. With 215bhp, it’s plenty quick enough, even when carrying a family and their paraphernalia, and its light steering, soft ride and near-silent running in electric mode make wafting around town a truly relaxing prospect.

ESTATE CAR: Skoda Superb Estate iV SE Technology

ESTATE CAR: Skoda Superb Estate iV SE Technology  dashboard

In fact, the Superb positively encourages you to drive smoothly, allowing you to eke out every last drop of electricity from the battery. In real-world driving, we’d expect to see around 20 miles of pure electric running. If you have the facility to charge both at home and at work, that could be enough to effectively make the Superb a very luxurious electric car for commuting.

Company car drivers will also appreciate the Superb iV’s modest 10% BIK tax rate, and if you cover a lot of miles, you’ll be pleased to know that the long kit list of our favourite SE Technology trim gives you leather seats (heated up front), sat-nav and blindspot monitoring as standard.

EXECUTIVE CAR: BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport - £39,940

EXECUTIVE CAR: BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport

List price £41,460 Target Price £39,940 Target PCP £469 per month

0-62mph 5.8sec Top speed 143mph Official economy 201.8mpg

Few cars show times are changing quite like the BMW 330e, because it isn’t just the best plug-in hybrid executive car on sale, but the best executive car full stop. Even a couple of years ago, diesels completely dominated this class, with the 330e’s sister model, the 320d, leading the way. However, the 330e is very nearly as sharp to drive, despite the extra weight of its battery, and it makes a much cheaper company car, because it’s taxed at 10% (rather than 27-29%, depending on spec).

Then there’s the fact that, if you do mostly short journeys, you’ll barely burn any fuel at all, with the 330e being able to cover 26.5 miles on electric power alone in realworld driving. Plus, it remains fairly frugal when it runs out of charge (we managed 37.2mpg). And as refined as the 320d is for a diesel, its engine is still nowhere near as smooth as the 2.0-litre petrol unit in the 330e.

EXECUTIVE CAR: BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport

EXECUTIVE CAR: BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport dashboard

It’s worth pointing out that the 330e’s boot is about a third smaller than the 320d’s, because its battery forces up the height of the boot floor, but we have no complaints about anything else inside. There’s plenty of space for four adults, the driving position is spot on and the materials are classier than those of plug-in hybrid rivals such as the cheaper Volkswagen Passat GTE, as well as the Mercedes-Benz C300de EQ Power.

The 330e’s infotainment system is as good as you’ll find in any car currently on sale, too, combining huge functionality and quick responses with user-friendly controls. No other hybrid executive car is as well rounded as the 330e, and it makes regular petrol and diesel versions of the 3 Series obsolete for most company car drivers.

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid

List price £83,788 Target Price £83,788 Target PCP na 0-62mph 4.6sec

Top speed 172mph Official economy 85.6mpg

Anyone who believes plug-in hybrids are for those only interested in counting miles per gallon clearly hasn’t experienced the acceleration of a Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. And while you’re highly unlikely to ever hit such mind-bending speeds (unless your commute includes a deserted stretch of autobahn), the plug-in hybrid Panamera still has the ability to thrill you on every journey.

Just getting inside and admiring its exquisite interior is an event in itself. The design is as slick as a Savile Row suit, the materials are first rate and the feeling of solidity is unrivalled. And if you place a few ticks on the options list, you can dress it in swathes of leather and Alcantara. Line up this interior against that of this car’s chief plug-in hybrid performance car rival, the Polestar 1, and you’ll struggle to believe that the Panamera is almost half the price. And although the Polestar just pips the Panamera to the finish line in a drag race, there’s no doubting which car feels more special to drive.

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid

PERFORMANCE CAR: Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid  dashboard

Porsche’s 326bhp twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine is an absolute delight, delivering thrilling performance in tandem with its 134bhp electric motor. It will silently and briskly cruise around on electric power alone for up to 27 miles and can even run on all-electric power at motorway speeds. The Panamera really inspires on a twisty road, too. The steering is beautifully weighted and incredibly accurate, and there’s terrific traction thanks to its standard four-wheel drive system. Indeed, it’s the very definition of ‘confidence-inspiring’ to drive. And when you aren’t pelting it around, you’ll enjoy a silky smooth motorway ride courtesy of standard adaptive air suspension.

All this driving enjoyment comes in a practical package, too. You can travel four up with luggage far easier than you can in the Polestar 1. There is another plug-in hybrid Panamera you can buy – the Turbo S E-Hybrid – but while it’s even faster, it also costs an awful lot more money. And really, that extra cash goes mainly on its space-rocket acceleration. In most other respects, the 4 E-Hybrid is just as good, and a much better option than the Polestar. With lots of driver appeal, sensible running costs and a beautiful interior, this Panamera is a prime example of how plug-in hybrids can be exciting and yet eminently liveable. It’s undoubtedly the most recommendable plug-in hybrid performance car around.

SEVEN-SEATER: Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription

SEVEN-SEATER: Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription

List price £68,695 Target Price £63,263 Target PCP £615 per month

0-62mph 5.8sec Top speed 112mph Official economy 100.9mpg

As a seven-seat plug-in hybrid, the XC90 Recharge T8 is in a class of one – but don’t go thinking this accolade is a token gesture. The XC90 is absolutely deserving of recognition in these awards because of the outstanding plug-in package it offers beyond its seven seats. Luxurious, spacious and quick, the Recharge T8 provides plenty of reasons to recommend it. Not least, the fact you should be able to cover around 20 miles in real-world driving conditions on pure electric power alone. Some five-seat PHEVs can go farther on electric juice, but the XC90 still offers plenty to electrify most commutes or school runs.

When you aren’t trying to conserve range, there’s great performance on offer, too. The 0-62mph dash is covered in just 5.8sec and the XC90 feels more agile in corners than the five-seat BMW X5 plug-in. It’s great on longer journeys, too, riding smoothly on motorways. Inside is where the XC90 really shines, though. The suave Scandinavian interior offers plenty of glossy black and chrome finishes that make it look as flash as anything this side of a Bentley, and the materials used are great. Plus, you sit nice and high, with fine visibility all round.

SEVEN-SEATER: Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription

SEVEN-SEATER: Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription  interior

Inscription trim is the one we’d go for. It’s slightly more expensive than the sportier R-Design alternative, but that means it comes with a long kit list; niceties include leather upholstery, 20in alloy wheels, heated front seats and four-zone climate control that includes air conditioning for those in the third row. Those in the very back will not only be kept cool but have also got a good chance of being comfy. The tallest of adults might find it a squeeze, but for everyone else, a third-row journey isn’t the short-straw draw it is in many cars with seven seats, including the non-plug-in Lexus RX L hybrid.

And what if you don’t want to carry seven but do want lots of boot space? The XC90 has you covered there, too. Even with all seats in use, there’s room for a couple of big bulky bags, and when you drop the rearmost seats you get one of the longest and most practical boots of any SUV. All in all, its practicality and performance make the XC90 one of the most versatile PHEVs going.

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