We pick the very best hybrid SUVs on the road, with compact, family and luxury models all making the cut Share Open gallery
Close Share story News by Autocar 9 mins read 8 April 2020 Follow @@autocar
Hybrid SUVs are suddenly big business for all kinds of European car-makers. Combining the fashionable sheen of an added-utility SUV bodystyle with a low-emissions electrified powertrain, they are practical, desirable family cars, some of which are become increasingly affordable — and, thanks to their ‘plug-in’ powertrains, also WLTP-emissions-efficient enough to be run cheaply as company cars. Some of them even offer a bit of high-performance appeal, ticking just about every box going.
Hybrid powertrains combine the silent, emission-free driving of an EV with a traditional fuel tank that eliminates range anxiety. If you’re not quite ready to make the switch to an electric car, then, they may well be the perfect compromise. The Government may not give you a grant to buy one any more, but the differences to your wallet may very well still make a plug-in hybrid worth the investment even if you’re a private buyer.
They make particular financial sense in an SUV, where the equivalent diesel or petrol model can cost significantly more as a company car. Taller, larger SUVs have more room than hatchbacks, too, so the complex hybrid systems often don’t eat into cabin or boot space.
We’ve driven every hybrid SUV on sale in the UK today, and have picked our favourites from the compact, family and luxury segments.
1. BMW X5 xDrive45e
The new BMW X5 plug-in hybrid has gained two extra cylinders yet somehow become more economical (on the official WLTP economy cycle at least) and more BIK tax-efficient at the same time. This feat has been achieved primarily thanks to a significant increase in battery capacity: the car now has 24kWh of the stuff, up from just 9.2kWh in the previous-generation X5 xDrive40e, and having a claimed electric range of 40 miles or more, therefore is also one of very few ‘PHEV’ options currently on sale which qualifies for the UK government’s six-per-cent benefit-in-kind tax bracket.
Happily, what you’re also getting here is an enjoyable steer by the standards of most hybrid SUVs. BMW’s six-cylinder turbo petrol combines very nicely with the electric motor and makes plenty of power and torque, and cabin quality is good enough to shade the Volvo and pretty much anything else on this list. If you need plug-in hybrid power, the X5 xDrive45e is wonderful company.
Save money with new BMW X5 deals on What Car?
2. Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e
Britain’s blue chip 4×4 specialist wasn’t one of the first to the plug-in SUV niche, but it has recently launched a pair of compact SUV PHEVs. The Discovery Sport P300e is perhaps a shade less visually desirable than its Evoque PHEV relation, but it makes up for that with plenty of interior space and 4×4 capability. Even though, unlike other versions of the car, the P300e isn’t available with seven seats, it retains its sliding second row.
The car combines an all-new three-cylinder ‘Ingenium’ petrol engine and smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox up front with a powerful electric motor on the rear axle and a 15kWh drive battery. Claimed electric range is painfully close to the magic 40-mile marker (some versions of the car may yet exceed it); but even at just below it, with a real-world 30 miles possible on electric power, this plug-in Disco will go further than plenty of its rivals without rousing its pistons. Unlike a lot of PHEVs, it’ll also do DC rapid charging when you’re out and about at up to 32kW, which should come in very handy.
Advertisement Advertisement Find an Autocar review MakeAbarthAC SchnitzerAiwaysAllardAlfa RomeoAlpinaAlpineArielAscariAston MartinAudiBACBentleyBMWBorgwardBowlerBugattiBYDBytonCadillacCaparoCaterhamChangan AutoChevroletChryslerCitroenCupraDe TomasoDaciaDallaraDavid BrownDodgeDonkervoortDSDysonEagleElementalEternitiFerrariFiatFiskerFordGeelyGinettaGordon Murray AutomotiveGreat WallGumpertHennesseyHispano SuizaHondaHongqiHyundaiIneosInfinitiIsuzuItalDesignJaguarJannarellyJCBJeepJIAKen OkuyamaKiaKoenigseggKTMLadaLamborghiniLanciaLand RoverLexusLincolnLotusLynk & CoMahindraMarcosMaseratiMaybachMazdaMcLarenMercedes-AMGMercedes-BenzMercedes-MaybachMG MotorMiniMiaMitsubishiMK SportscarsMorganMS-RTMurrayNextEVNioNissanNobleOldsmobileOpelPaganiPeroduaPeugeotPininfarinaPolestarPorscheProtonQorosRadicalRamRenaultRoeweRolls-RoyceSaabSeatSenovaShelbySinSkodaSmartSpykerSRTSsangyongSSCSubaruSuzukiTataTeslaTigerToniqToyotaTriumphTushekTVRVauxhallVencerVeritasVolkswagenVolvoVuhlWestfieldXpengZenosZenvoZolfeZoyte Select model Latest Drives Skoda Octavia Estate 1.0 TSI e-TEC 2021 UK review Ruf CTR Anniversary 2021 review Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid VZ2 245PS DSG 2021 UK review Volkswagen Golf GTD 2021 UK review MK Indy RX-5 2021 UK review
View all latest drives
Read our review Car review Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Top-selling plug-in SUV gets major revisions to styling and suspension as Mitsubishi bids to keep its market advantage
Read our review Back to top
The car has a convincing aura of luxury, riding very comfortably indeed, remaining refined at all times and performing with plenty of torque and impressive smoothness. The edge of its appeal may be blunted for some by its ‘range-extended’ fuel economy however, which is around 33mpg.
Save money with new Land Rover Discovery Sport deals on What Car?
3. Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid
Now in its third-generation form, the popular Ford Kuga has finally discovered electrification. The range-topping plug-in hybrid version jumps straight to (near the) top of this hybrid SUV chart for several reasons but none is more important than the car’s BIK-tax-defining, lab-test-certified electric range which, at just in excess of 30 miles, will make it cheaper-to-run for a fleet driver than plenty of its rivals.
The Kuga follows up that advantage in familiar ways. It’s typically poised and sporty-feeling in its ride and handling, steering sweetly by class standards and maintaining good body control at all times, with a fairly taut but comfortable ride. The car’s 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine, combined with its electric motor, doesn’t give it commanding performance, with the car’s transmission appeaing to sap some of what’s available. Even so, 0-62mph in less than 10sec is at least competitive for a car like this, and drivability is fine. Refinement is also surprisingly good.
Practicality is competitive for a compact SUV, and pricing for retail buyers is realistic. All up, as sensible and recommendable a Kuga as ever there was one.
Advertisement Back to top
Save money with new Ford Kuga deals on What Car?
4. Honda CR-V Hybrid
Narrowly missing out a podium spot here is a car that isn’t a tax-saving plug-in hybrid, but which private buyers should certainly consider; particularly those for whom recharging at home might be difficult. While the Honda CR-V might not be quite as appealing on the eye as its key rival — the Toyota RAV4 — it remains a highly appealing, practical wagon for city-dwelling families and a very practical, drivable, economical and refined real-world prospect.
The hybrid powertrain is smooth and refined around town, while it rides in a comfortable enough manner so as to avoid any great complaint. There’s loads of space inside, and while the infotainment graphics might appear a touch dated, Honda has done an excellent job of isolating the CR-V’s occupants from external road and wind noise.
If you’re not a fleet driver but rather a private buyer who might struggle for charging access, and you simply want a frugal hybrid option that might match your old diesel SUV for real-world fuel economy, look no further than this. The CR-V Hybrid will easily hit 45mpg out of town, might even top 50- if you do mostly urban motoring, and it’s cheaper than most ‘plug-in’ equivalents to boot.
Save money with new Honda CR-V deals on What Car?
5. Mercedes GLE 350de 4Matic
One of Mercedes’ latest diesel-electric plug-in hybrids, the GLE 350de comes with a prohibitive-looking £65k pricetag, but it’s worth the attention of well-heeled company car drivers thanks to its large drive battery and class-leading WLTP electric-only range of 61 miles. That will deliver more competitive monthly benefit-in-kind costs that you might think. Advertisement Back to top
The car impressed us when running in electric and hybrid modes, with good powertrain responsiveness and drivability and excellent refinement. The car’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder ‘range-extending’ diesel engine struggles a little bit to motivate what it a heavy car when the battery’s flat; but with a real-world range that genuinely extends very close to the advertised claim, you might find you don’t use the combustion engine too often.
Ride comfort and isolation is very good, showing less evidence of the added weight of the car’s electrified powertrain than its handling, which is a little bit soft and remote.
Meanwhile, for those with the added capability of a classic SUV in mind, the GLE 350de should also appeal as a tow car; it’s rated to tow up to 2.7 tonnes on a braked trailer, which is much more than many electrified rivals.
Save money with new Mercedes GLE deals on What Car?
6. Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine
Genuinely usable seven-seat cabins are few and far between, and ones with plug-in hybrid powertrains even more so. Volvo’s largest SUV manages both, with a fantastic blend of spaciousness, styling, cabin ambience and engine efficiency, beyond what you’d expect from a vehicle of its size.
It’s not rated to go quite as far on electric power as some of its rivals, and so won’t be as cheap a company car; but it still has plenty of surprisingly classic ‘big Volvo’ ownership appeal. Advertisement Back to top
Save money with new Volvo XC90 deals on What Car?
7. Audi Q5 55 TFSIe
More refined on the move and sharper from behind the wheel than the Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid. Claimed electric range is nothing special, at 26 miles, so tax-efficiency could be better. Neither is the Audi as practical as the Volvo, but its polish wins out in the end, and it’s also quicker than most hot-hatches in a straight line.
It’s also dutifully comfortable on all surfaces and at all speeds, even on 19in wheels and standard steel suspension (optional air suspension is available on higher trim levels). Refinement is top-notch, even when the engine kicks in, and it delivers a decently sporty note if you really open the taps.
Save money with new Audi Q5 deals on What Car?
Advertisement Back to top 8. BMW X3 xDrive30e
BMW has generally done very well in applying itself to the challenge of plug-in hybrid propulsion, and the presence of the X5 ‘PHEV’ at the top of this chart is testament to that. The equivalent version of the X3 isn’t quite such a fantasic advert for Munich, though.
It uses the same 2.0-litre petrol engine and 12kWh battery at the 330e saloon; but because it’s bigger and heavier than that car, it doesn’t apply them quite as well. Outright performance is good but not outstanding, but electric range is a bit disappointing at a real-world 20 miles or so, and electric-only performance is a little bit meek.
Part of the problem here are your own expectations. The X3’s low-rise ‘crossover’ profile and its reputation at a BMW for driver reward lead you to expect dynamic qualities that this X3 can’t really deliver upon. It remains a competitive PHEV offering in some ways, but it’s also one that loses out on boot space in its adaption for ‘plug-in’ power.
Save money with new BMW X3 deals from What Car?
9. Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 PHEV
Volvo’s been offering bigger plug-in hybrid SUVs for some time, but has only just got around to miniaturising the petrol-electric recipe in its visually appealing XC40.
This car combines a three-cylinder, 178bhp turbocharged petrol engine mounted up front with an electric rear axle with up to 80bhp to contribute. Your maths needn’t be advanced to work out that it won’t, therefore, be the quickest or most exciting car of its kind, with total system power pegged at a maximum 258bhp. Performance is nonetheless pretty strong-feeling, though, and the three-pot engine not unpleasant to listen to when it’s running — although power delivery could be smoother.
If you want comfort from your SUV, you’d be well-advised to avoid the sports suspension of R-Design-trim cars. Meanwhile if you want genuine room for the family, you’d be well advised to buy something altogether larger.
Save money with new Volvo XC40 deals from What Car?
10. Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid & Hybrid4
Vauxhall was once a dominant player in the UK company car scene and has ambitions to be again, with the help of this — its first big-volume plug-in hybrid. The petrol-electric Grandland X shares its platform and powertrain with the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 (which we’ve yet to test on UK roads). It’s more of a mid-sized crossover than a full-sized SUV, then, with passenger space little greater than you might find in a biggish family hatchback. Advertisement Back to top
Outright performance and electric range are both impressive, however, since the upper-level, twin-motor ‘Hybrid4’ version of the car has particularly healthy ‘total system’ power and torque outputs of 296bhp and 383lb ft of torque. On the road, the car doesn’t feel quite as quick as those numbers might imply, but it’s certainly muscular away from town speeds, with only a certain clunkiness about the hybrid powertrain’s blending of power sources adversely affecting your perception of the car’s slickness. It’s firm-riding out of town and handling isn’t perfect, but it’s not terrible either.
The car’s secret weapon is a WLTP-certified electric range of up to 35 miles, putting it in the 10% ‘BIK’ tax band.
Save money with new Vauxhall Grandland X deals on What Car?
The 10 best electric cars on sale in Britain 2020
10 Best Electric Hatchbacks 2020
10 Best Hybrid Hatchbacks 2020