Best plug-in hybrids 2020
The plug-in hybrid market has grown exponentially in recent years. Here are our top 10 electrified favourites.
If you're in the market for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), you're spoiled for choice these days. An increasing number of car makers are wheeling out plug-in hybrid cars with firms such as BMW, Volvo, Porsche, Honda and Mercedes all expanding their electrified line-ups to compete alongside hybrid pioneers such as Toyota and Mitsubishi.
The sheer variety of vehicles that now offer plug-in hybrid ability means, there are PHEV options to suit buyers across the large and mid-size car markets. It also means that buyers have a tougher than ever time choosing the best plug-in hybrid car for them. On this page we aim to help by explaining the market and delivering our verdicts on the best plug-in hybrids you can buy.
So which plug-in hybrids do we recommend? With so many now on offer, we can bring you a top 10 of the best options, just scroll down to see our favourites.
Top 10 best plug-in hybrids to buy now
- Mercedes E 300 e and E 300 de
- Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in
- Skoda Superb iV
- BMW 530e
- Volvo XC60 Recharge
- Ford Kuga PHEV
- Audi Q5 TFSI e
- BMW X5 xDrive45e
- Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
- Kia Niro PHEV
1. Mercedes E 300 e and E 300 de
- Prices: £47,530-£54,675
- Engines: 2.0-litre petrol, diesel
- Trims: SE, AMG Line, AMG Line Premium
- EV range: 32 miles
- CO2: 34-41g/km
- Tax bracket: 10%
There’s plenty of choice in the Mercedes E-Class: there are saloon or estate versions to pick from, and then either the E 300 e or E 300 de, offering petrol and diesel power respectively combined with electrification for superb economy.
Both cars use the same hybrid system, so there’s around 30 miles of all-electric range from the 13.5kWh battery, which takes an hour and 45 minutes to charge.
The diesel option will be attractive to many buyers, since it brings better fuel economy. This really suits the PHEV ethos, because the best way to drive these cars is to do short trips on EV power, and use the combustion engine for longer journeys.
The 2.0-litre diesel is superb on the motorway, because it’s quiet and delivers strong performance. The petrol version is smoother, but not quite as economical.
Everything else that’s great about the E-Class remains in the PHEVs, including the luxurious interior, strong in-car tech, comfortable ride and superb refinement. A small sacrifice in boot space for this level of efficiency is well worth it.
2. Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in
- Prices: £30,250-£32,250
- Engine: 1.6 GDi
- Trims: Premium, Premium SE
- EV range: 32 miles
- CO2: 26g/km
- Tax bracket: 10%
Plug-in hybrids are all about efficiency, and the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV delivers on that promise. There’s a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with an electric motor here for an all-electric range of 32 miles and claimed fuel economy of 257mpg. As with all of these PHEVs, you’ll need to keep the 8.9kWh battery topped up to get close to this, and it takes two hours and 15 minutes to charge the Ioniq from a home wallbox.
Our time in the real world with an Ioniq PHEV revealed that it’s very efficient even when the battery is running low, though, so you don’t have to worry about fuel economy falling off a cliff when the engine cuts in.
The Ioniq is as practical as many family hatchbacks, with room for five and an acceptable 341-litre boot, plus it’s well equipped. Premium spec (our pick) features all the equipment you’d want, with phone connectivity, nav and good safety kit.
The Ioniq Plug-In’s comfort, tech and practicality are appealing, but it’s the efficiency that will win over buyers looking for ultra-low running costs.
3. Skoda Superb iV
- Prices: £31,970-£41,525
- Engine: 1.4 TSI iV
- Trims: SE Technology, SE L, Sportline Plus, Laurin & Klement
- EV range: 34 miles
- CO2: 30-42g/km
- Tax bracket: 10%
The Skoda Superb lives up to its name in many ways. As a petrol or diesel model, it’s refined, comfortable, good to drive and incredibly spacious. That goes for the new iV plug-in too, which retains all that’s good about the car and adds the ability to drive on all-electric power for around 34 miles. That’s thanks to its 13kWh battery, which takes around three and a half hours to charge.
Boosting the flexibility, it’s available as a hatchback and an estate, and we’ve picked out the hatch here, because it’s very nearly as spacious, but saves a bit of cash. The SE L model has the tech you need, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, so this version is our choice because it’s better value than higher-spec cars.
Skoda has opted to include adaptive dampers on all plug-in Superbs, which is excellent news because the ride in Comfort mode is excellent. There’s a bit of body roll, but it makes up for this by cushioning any bumps sweetly. If you’re on a twistier road and need more control – and you might, because there’s a good deal of performance on offer – then Sport mode helps.
With a combined 215bhp on tap, 0-62mph takes just 7.7 seconds. However, the plug-in model’s 1.4-litre TSI engine is very quiet, and the electric motor delivers added punch to improve refinement further.
The Superb iV is a great example of a PHEV that enhances what the already- impressive base car offers. However, as with all the cars on this list, take the huge economy claims with a pinch of salt and remember to plug in religiously.
4. BMW 530e
- Prices: £46,820-£52,120
- Engine: 2.0-litre
- Trims: SE, M Sport, SE xDrive, M Sport xDrive
- EV range: 35 miles
- CO2: 32-45g/km
- Tax bracket: 10%
The BMW 530e takes the normal 5 Series saloon and adds an electric motor and a 12kWh battery. It means you end up with a great plug-in hybrid that retains the brilliance of the executive saloon. The more advanced drivetrain is seamlessly integrated into the 530e, bringing smooth, quiet electric running into the mix.
The claimed electric range of 35 miles is fair, while the 530e takes around three and a half hours to charge from a wallbox.
Despite the extra mass from the battery and electric motor, the 530e is as comfortable as a standard 5 Series, and while it has a little less agility, the BMW’s steering and chassis still mean it’s great to drive. There’s plenty of room in the cabin, performance is superb and the infotainment set-up is one of the best around.
Sadly there’s no ‘Touring’ estate version, so it’s saloon only, and the four-door loses 120 litres of boot space compared with the regular car, with 410 litres in total.
As with many of the cars on this list, the BMW’s powertrain can be set to hold its level of charge or even to charge the battery using the petrol engine (although this seriously drains economy), as well as drive in electric-only mode. This means that you can tailor when and where the car uses its electric power, saving it for city driving, for example.
5. Volvo XC60 Recharge
- Prices: £50,570-£63,145
- Engines: T6, T8
- Trims: Inscription, Inscription Expression, Inscription Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Polestar Engineered
- EV range: 23-33 miles
- CO2: 54-69g/km
- Tax bracket: 13-16%
If you want a premium SUV that can get you to work and back on EV power alone, then the XC60 is a fine choice. There are two versions available, but the T6 is so new that we’ve not tried it yet – so although our recommendation is based on the T8 that we have driven, we reckon the T6 looks like it could be even better, because it’s a little cheaper, while also offering slightly more electric range and lower running costs.
The XC60 uses an 11.6kWh battery that can be charged at home in three hours and 15 minutes. It feeds an electric motor that drives the rear wheels, while the petrol engine drives the fronts. But as with all of the best PHEVs, there’s no noticeable transition as the power shifts around.
The gearbox is smooth, keeping refinement at the heart of what makes the XC60 great. This is boosted by the luxurious and upmarket interior that’s very nearly as good as that of the much more expensive XC90, with all the tech to match.
Its 468-litre boot means practicality is a plus point, too, so the XC60 delivers strongly on its brief – and with a total of 385bhp, the T8 will hit 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds. However, as with all new Volvos, the plug-ins are limited to 112mph for safety reasons, complimenting the excellent safety tech available in this family SUV.
6. Ford Kuga PHEV
- Prices: £33,085-£37,785
- Engine: 2.5 EcoBoost
- Trims: Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X, Vignale
- EV range: 35 miles
- CO2: 32g/km
- Tax bracket: 10%
The new Ford Kuga immediately impressed when it arrived earlier this year. SUVs such as this are hugely popular in the UK, and many buyers want them as family cars. Now Ford’s offering comes with the added bonus of plug-in tech to help reduce running costs.
The Kuga PHEV’s 14.4kWh battery takes around three and a half hours to charge and offers a 35-mile range, which is plenty. There’s a 2.5-litre petrol engine and a CVT automatic gearbox to complete the powertrain, and while the latter detracts from the driving experience, it does at least mean the Kuga is easy and smooth to drive, the systems managing the two power sources effectively.
It’s not quite as agile as a normal Kuga, but the PHEV retains the comfortable ride, sweet steering and spacious cabin – and there’s the added benefit of near-silent running when in EV mode.
Titanium is the entry-level trim, but it still makes most sense. The lower list price will keep tax bills down, yet there’s still lots of standard kit, including LED headlights, climate control and smartphone connectivity with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which work well on the large touchscreen display on the dash.
The 581-litre boot is big enough and, combined with the roomy rear seats, it should be a flexible family SUV, helped by its plug-in powertrain.
7. Audi Q5 TFSI e
- Prices: £50,410-£66,345
- Engines: 50 TFSI e, 55 TFSI e
- Trims: S Line, Black Edition, S Line Competition, Vorsprung, Vorsprung Competition
- EV range: 26 miles
- CO2: 55-61g/km
- Tax bracket: 14-15%
Audi is pushing ahead with its new range of plug-in hybrids under TFSI e branding, and we reckon the pick of the current range is the Q5 PHEV. Running one on the Auto Express test fleet showed us just how well it works when you’re able to keep the 14.1kWh battery charged (a full top-up takes around two hours from a wallbox).
The electric motor means it’s impressively quiet around town, letting you enjoy the Audi’s luxurious interior. Quality is superb and the kit included is just as impressive; the dual screens on the dash, including the Virtual Cockpit panel, provide quick access to commonly used functions and mean that even after a few years on sale, the Q5’s cabin still looks cutting edge.
Performance is strong, thanks to the electric motor’s instant hit of torque to assist the petrol engine, because even the lower-powered 50 TFSI e has nearly 300bhp; the 55 TFSI e boasts 362bhp and is rapid, taking 5.3 seconds to go from 0-62mph. However, the less powerful, cheaper version is our pick, because it’s better value and offers the same electric range of 26 miles.
The TFSI e powertrains are a great addition to the Q5 range that have kept it feeling fresh. A high-quality interior and impressive tech qualify it for a spot on this list.
8. BMW X5 xDrive45e
- Prices: £64,745-£68,245
- Engine: 3.0-litre straight six
- Trims: xLine, M Sport
- EV range: 54 miles
- CO2: 28-31g/km
- Tax bracket: 6%
BMW’s large premium plug-in SUV is one of the most comfortable cars of its type. The supple suspension allows enough movement to keep it relaxed no matter what kind of road you’re on, yet not so much that body roll is an issue. A great driving position and comfy seats both help, so along with the PHEV’s ultra-quiet running at low speeds it’s a very luxurious and refined car.
The X5 xDrive45e delivers its brief just as well as other X5s, if not better – and the other ace up its sleeve is its 54-mile claimed all-electric range. This makes it one of the most versatile PHEVs on sale, because it’ll reliably be able to cover 30 miles on EV power, even in the depths of winter. In the summer months it should be possible to eke out 50 miles, which for those with a short commute could be two days of driving without having to charge.
This also means it sits in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind company car tax bracket on the list, at just six per cent.
It takes a bit longer to top up with electricity, at seven hours from a wallbox, but an overnight charge is still an easy possibility. The 24kWh battery and electric motor are well integrated, and power delivery is smooth, aiding the sweet six-cylinder turbo petrol engine. Performance is brisk, but it’s the comfort, range and refinement, plus the practicality here, that are so appealing.
9. Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
- Price: £68,513
- Engine: 3.0-litre V6
- Trims: N/A
- EV range: 22 miles
- CO2: 89g/km
- Tax bracket: 20%
If you’re a keen driver but want the practicality, efficiency and image of a large SUV, then the Cayenne E-Hybrid is a great choice. There’s a faster Turbo S E-Hybrid, but the standard car makes more sense, since it’s fast, great to drive and around £55k less.
The Cayenne combines long-range cruising comfort, superb agility for an SUV, sharp steering and a luxurious interior. The reason it isn’t further up this list, though, is because it’s still expensive – you’ll have to add quite a few key options to match its rivals – and because its 14.1kWh battery only delivers a range of 22 miles. Newer premium plug-ins offer more EV-only driving ability.
10. Kia Niro PHEV
- Prices: £30,265-£31,945
- Engine: 1.6 GDi
- Trims: 2, 3
- EV range: 30 miles
- CO2: 31g/km
- Tax bracket: 10%
The Kia Niro is available as a fully electric model, which is one of the best EVs around, thanks to its range (nearly 300 miles) and strong efficiency. This plug-in model isn’t quite as convincing, but it does offer a lot of the same benefits as the EV, with a 1.6-litre petrol engine for those longer trips.
The 8.9kWh battery is smaller than many on this list, yet it still delivers 30 miles of all-electric range, and the small capacity means it’s quick to charge up, taking just two hours and 45 minutes using a home wallbox.
The Niro isn’t the most exciting car to drive, but it’s easy to get on with, practical enough for the family, and scores highly for infotainment. Its set-up is very modern-looking, comes with everything you need (including smartphone connectivity) and in our trim pick, the 3 model, there’s a huge 10.25-inch screen with connected services. It’s not too much more expensive than the entry-level 2, so it’s our choice.
Should you buy a plug-in hybrid?
Plug-in hybrids are proving popular for a number of reasons. As technology improves and more car makers join the fray, the price you pay for a plug-in vehicle is gradually coming down. Then there are the tax implications, with many plug-ins offering far lower VED road tax and benefit-in-kind rates for company car users thanks to their low emissions.
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.
Since then, we've had plug-in hybrids as diverse as the futuristic BMW i3 supermini, to conventional family models like the Volvo V60 Plug-in, sporty hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf GTE and even supercars like the Porsche 918 Spyder.
Today, there are a number of SUVs and family cars with plug-in ability, and some even keep their 7 seat interior layouts. So there should be a plug-in hybrid to suit all needs while also delivering low running costs - as long as you charge them up, of course.
Next, read our list of the best small hybrid cars to buy
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