Top 10 best plug-in hybrids to buy 2024
The plug-in hybrid market has grown exponentially in recent years. Here are our electrified favourites
Not everyone is ready to take the plunge and buy a fully electric car, which makes plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) a great ‘stepping stone’ option. They combine both an internal combustion engine and electric power to offer some of the benefits of each fuel choice in a single package. So which are the best plug-in hybrid cars to buy? Our expert road testers have thoroughly tested every PHEV on sale in the UK, and we’ve rounded up our top picks right here.
Plug-in hybrids work in the same way as regular hybrids, but they have larger batteries that are charged by plugging the car into a domestic three-pin plug, a home EV wallbox or a public rapid charger when they need to be topped up. Plug-in hybrids can run exclusively on electric power for significant distances or on the petrol or diesel engine with mild electric assistance, like a conventional hybrid. It means you get the benefits of zero-emissions EV driving but when the battery is depleted you can still continue your journey until you are able to recharge the car.
Because of the extra weight, plug-in hybrids can become quite inefficient if you don’t charge them regularly and drive lots of miles with the battery flat. Whether you’re looking to lower your carbon footprint, lower tax rates or just prefer the drive of a plug-in hybrid car, however, there are loads of benefits if you are looking to make the switch.
Best plug-in hybrid cars to buy
Below is our list of the top 10 best plug-in hybrids to buy right now, based on our thorough real-world testing of every plug-in hybrid on sale in the UK.
10. Mercedes S 580 e
The S-Class may no longer be the pinnacle of Mercedes luxuriousness, a title handed to the all-electric EQS, but it’s still sleek, quick and retains plenty of traditional appeal – a refined and technology-laden conveyance for affluent and successful individuals.
The plug-in hybrid S 580e comes with a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine tied to a 148bhp electric motor, producing a combined 510bhp. The 21.5kWh battery pack returns up to 68 miles of claimed fully-electric range, and it can be charged from 0-80 per cent in 20 minutes from a DC rapid charger.
On the road, the S-Class is impressively poised and responsive to steering inputs, making it easy to place the long bonnet in the corners, and even on especially challenging twisty or bumpy roads, there’s little in the way of body roll or discomfort.
9. DS 4 E-Tense 225
One of our biggest twin test shocks of recent times happened when a DS 4 E-Tense 225 beat the Audi A3 TFSI e. While strong discounts for the DS counted in its favour, a big factor in its victory was its better-resolved plug-in hybrid powertrain.
That setup combines a 1.6-litre inline-four engine with a 12.4kWh battery pack with a 108bhp motor to give an electric-only range of up to 41.6 miles. The total system power is 222bhp, which gives strong performance – the DS 4 225 will go from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds, on to a top speed of 145mph.
The DS 4 is also comfortable, stylish, has an interesting cabin design, and offers a nice alternative to its more conventional rivals. It’s taken a while but Citroen’s offshoot is finally starting to find its groove.
8. Range Rover Sport P460e
It’d be tempting to put the plug-in hybrid version of the fully-sized Range Rover on this list, but its Range Rover Sport sibling is very nearly as luxurious while also being cheaper and slightly sharper to drive.
The plug-in Range Rover Sport pairs a 3.0-litre in-line six petrol engine with a whopping 38.2kWh battery pack. This gives an impressive theoretical electric-only range of up to 78.9 miles according to lab results, although we’d expect more like 50 miles in real-world conditions.
The P460e is good for 454bhp and 660Nm of torque, making for a 0-60mph time of 5.3 seconds, so it certainly lives up to the Sport name. It’s important to remember, though, that although the Range Rover Sport is less expensive than a ‘proper’ Range Rover, it still isn’t a cheap car.
7. Skoda Octavia iV
With more space than rivals, lots of thoughtful features and a comfortable interior, the Skoda Octavia is one of our favourite cars. For the first time, this generation is also available with plug-in power, courtesy of a powertrain familiar to Volkswagen Golf GTE owners.
A 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and small electric motor team up to produce 201bhp and 350Nm of torque. It's enough for a respectable 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds, but the Octavia iV's 43-mile EV range is the more important figure. This means the Skoda can slip four adults and all their luggage in and out of the city with virtually no tailpipe emissions.
Official figures are 282mpg and 22-33g/km of CO2, which are sure to appeal to company-car drivers on the hunt for low Benefit-in-Kind liability. Bills are around half those of an equivalent Octavia with a 1.5-litre petrol engine.
When we tested the car, we found 30 miles is easy to achieve in all but freezing weather, and recharging the battery takes just over three hours using a wallbox. That should make it easy for most owners to start the day with a full EV range, or even top-up at work for the drive home.
6. Toyota RAV4
Toyota was a pioneer for mainstream hybrid power, and while full-hybrids are what the brand tends to be associated with, it also knows a thing or two about PHEV technology. The RAV4 Plug-in has a claimed fuel economy figure of up to 282.4mpg, and while it’s unlikely that you’ll see this in the real world, we still managed well over 60mpg when living with the RAV4 as part of our long-term test fleet. It’ll also cover up to 46 miles in pure-electric mode.
Inside, the design is rather conservative but all the essential tech is present and straightforward to use. Toyota has a solid reputation for build quality, too, and the RAV4’s 30th place finish out of 75 cars in our Driver Power survey helps to prove its dependability.
5. Suzuki Across
If you enjoy getting more for your money and are in the market for a plug-in hybrid, the Suzuki Across is almost a no-brainer. It’s basically a rebadged Toyota RAV4 PHEV, yet the Across is currently being offered for almost £200 a month less on leasing.com, and is every bit as quick, well built, easy to live with and spacious.
Just one trim level means standard kit is generous, while the powertrain sees a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine linked to a CVT automatic gearbox, with an 18.1kWh battery pack feeding an electric motor on each axle. That means the Across has 4WD, can return up to 282mpg and has a 47-mile electric range.
4. Kia Sportage PHEV
We’re huge fans of the Kia Sportage, because the mid-size SUV delivers both style and substance in equal measure. The bold, almost extra-terrestrial looks are complemented by a clean, modern interior design with two crisp 12.3-inch displays as the centrepiece. Kia’s infotainment system is excellent, as are the build quality and space inside.
Comfort and refinement are key strengths, but the Sportage PHEV builds on this with a 43-mile electric-only range. Starting at more than £40k makes it the most expensive variant in the Sportage range, so it might not be the ideal choice for private buyers. But company-car drivers will benefit from the 25g/km CO2 figure and a range that puts it into the eight-per-cent Benefit-in-Kind tax band.
An electric motor, a 13.8kWh battery pack and a 1.6-litre inline-four petrol engine blend well to give decent, if not hugely brisk straightline performance, with a 261bhp output getting the relatively heavy Sportage from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds.
3. Lexus NX 450h+
The Lexus NX is mechanically related to the Toyota RAV4, but its smart, head-turning looks and luxurious, well appointed cabin help justify the price premium. Completing the highly accomplished package is a ride that balances comfort and handling, along with what is simply the best infotainment system Lexus has made to date.
No wonder the NX is the UK’s best-selling Lexus and our reigning Mid-size Premium SUV of the Year. The plug-in hybrid NX 450h+ is our pick; it offers hot-hatch-rivalling performance, a pure-electric range of up to 40 miles and, when its 18.1kWh battery is depleted, the car can run as a full-hybrid so fuel economy doesn’t drop like a stone, as with other PHEVs.
2. BMW 330e
It may not be the most futuristic or innovative car, but the BMW 3 Series is a brilliant all-rounder, with the plug-in hybrid 330e serving as the top choice in the range for company-car drivers. The 330e is just as enjoyable and engaging to drive as any other 3 Series, with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor working in harmony to deliver plenty of pace.
It also boosts efficiency, although it can’t match the rival Mercedes’ more impressive electric range, and the BMW’s 10.5kWh battery eats significantly into boot space. Softening the blow for tech fans is the new dual-screen infotainment set-up, while interior quality is still excellent.
1. Mercedes C 300 e
A two-time winner of our Premium Hybrid Car of the Year award, the plug-in hybrid version of Mercedes’ big-selling C-Class is a zero-compromise alternative for company car drivers who aren’t ready to go fully electric. It’s capable of driving up to 70 miles on battery power, so you’ll have to cover quite some distance before waking the 2.0-litre petrol engine.
In addition to cutting down on their fuel bills, company-car drivers will be elated by the five-per-cent Benefit-in-Kind tax band the C 300 e falls into.
Its styling has been influenced by Mercedes’ flagship S-Class, as has the interior that feels almost as plush as the limousine’s. That car’s incredibly slick and intuitive MBUX infotainment system is fitted, too, displayed on a fantastic 11.9-inch touchscreen that’s standard on every model.
One of the downsides of the Mercedes is its price tag. Before you spec any options or packs, a C 300 e will already set you back more than £45,000.
Best plug-in hybrid cars
- Mercedes C 300 e
- BMW 330e
- Kia Sportage PHEV
- Skoda Octavia iV
- Suzuki Across
- Toyota RAV4
- Range Rover Sport P460e
- Lexus NX 450h+
- DE 4 E-Tense 225
- Renault Captur E-Tech PHEV
Should you buy a plug-in hybrid?
With many manufacturers having now joined the PHEV arms race, there’s a huge array of models to choose from – from small, cheaper options to large family hatchbacks and even luxury SUVs and estates, so there’s probably a plug-in hybrid out there to suit your lifestyle.
Fitted with larger battery packs, plug-in hybrids can run on pure electric power for longer than conventional hybrid cars – with some models offering over 50 miles of range, although many will cover 20-30 miles using the battery alone. This makes them ideal for drivers who cover lower mileages or spend the majority of their time in cities and urban environments.
Plug-in hybrids are proving popular for a number of reasons. As technology improves and more manufacturers are offering plug-in hybrids as part of car lineups, the price you pay for a plug-in vehicle is gradually coming down. Then there are the tax implications, with many plug-ins offering lower first year VED road tax rates than their combustion counterparts. Benefit-in-Kind rates for company car users are also lower, thanks to low emissions, but full EVs are where the big savings are to be made. .
A close second to the low running costs is the fact that this hybrid kit doesn't require you to compromise on the way you use your car. The key is to remember to plug the car into a charging point wherever possible to maximise the amount of electric running you do, but if you can’t charge, the car just reverts to its internal-combustion engine. If you think of your car like a smartphone, and get into the habit of plugging it in overnight to charge, then you'll soon see the lower costs that electric driving can bring. However, failing to keep the battery charged will probably see economy drop to potentially worse levels than an equivalent non-hybrid model.
If you’re thinking of making the switch to electric, read our list of the best electric cars to buy.