Best cars & vans

Top 10 best hybrid SUVs to buy

From mild to plug-in hybrid, we reveal the best hybrid SUVs you can buy

There was a time when SUVs were mostly powered by diesel with its strong fuel economy and muscular performance proving a good fit for big, heavy 4x4s. Times change, however, and the march of technology combined with tightening emissions regulations means there are now more viable options on the SUV table, including hybrid models.   

With the best hybrid SUVs you don’t have to make any real sacrifice in regards to capability, either. The electric motors do a fine job of replicating a diesel’s low-end torque but with lower emissions, while fuel economy tends to be much improved compared to pure petrol SUV options.

Not so long ago, if you wanted to drive a hybrid SUV, Toyota and Lexus were the only real options, thanks to them sharing the same pioneering Toyota-developed technology. Nowadays there’s a far wider range of hybrid and plug-in hybrid SUVs in UK dealers, as manufacturers respond to increasing demand and the need to reduce emissions.

The greater choice of hybrid powertrains means there should be a hybrid SUV or crossover that’s right for you, and we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 favourite models on the market today below.

Our selection includes everything from super-luxurious – and expensive – plug-in hybrids like the Range Rover P440e to more affordable, supermini-based small SUVs like the Renault Captur. There should be something to suit all requirements and every car that makes the list is a top class option. 

10. Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV 

We had to wait a long time for the Alfa Romeo Tonale and when the Hybrid model launched we were a little disappointed. Things improved massively however when we drove the plug-in hybrid model

49 miles of fully-electric range will be very useful for most, as are the low CO2 emissions of 29g/km.

That efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of performance. The Tonale’s 276bhp comes from a mix of the 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 15.5kWh battery. 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.2 seconds and the four-wheel drive system gives the Tonale plenty of grip. 

What’s more, the small Alfa Romeo SUV is extremely well equipped with a wireless smartphone charging pad, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, 18-inch diamond-cut alloys, dual zone air conditioning and a whole host of safety features.

9. Range Rover PHEV

The new Range Rover sits on the company’s new MLA-Flex platform, allowing for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-electric power. We’re yet to see the Range Rover EV but hybrid and PHEV are an excellent starting point to the fifth-generation car. 

The strong lineup of engines includes a P400 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology for a punchy 394bhp, two six-cylinder diesels with the same hybrid system and two plug-in hybrid petrol with up to 70 miles of all-electric range. 

The refined nature of all-electric running suits the calm demeanour of the Range Rover, but the mild-hybrids are useful too with the entry-level D300 still offering up 36.7mpg on a combined cycle.

8. Toyota RAV4 

The Toyota RAV4 has been around for over 25 years in one form or another, but the latest version stands out with much funkier styling than its predecessors. The design is not as ‘out there’ as the smaller C-HR with its sporty coupe-style roofline, but compared to the RAV4 of old, it’s a much more appealing package for anyone who wants to make a style statement.

Now only available as a hybrid, the RAV4 shares much of its tech with the more humdrum Prius. In this case you get a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor combo that together offer just short of 220bhp, as well as the option of four-wheel drive. You also get a CVT automatic gearbox, which sounds characteristically strained under vigorous acceleration, which for some buyers will spoil the experience. The ride and driving experience are otherwise quite pleasant.

If you want a mid-size SUV hybrid that doesn’t need plugging-in, there’s still not really anything else out there to tempt you from the RAV4. It’s not a cheap car though, and at around £30k you’ll need to be keen on the powertrain to pick a RAV4 over a diesel Skoda Kodiaq, which is cheaper and not much less economical.

7. Toyota C-HR 

While small crossovers continue to prove exceptionally popular, few have the style and head-turning ability of the Toyota C-HR. Completely modern visually from any angle, the striking little SUV won’t be to everyone’s taste, but beneath the bold body is a capable family car.

Using established tech from Toyota’s hybrid pioneer, the Prius, the 122bhp C-HR is predictably refined. While not necessarily a car for keen drivers, the small footprint and impressive economy make it a great everyday option, and the perfect first step into hybrid ownership. A 2.0-litre, 184bhp version is also available but unsurprisingly it’s less efficient and pumps out more CO2 than the less-powerful 1.8-litre version.

With its coupe-styling, the C-HR does lose out on practicality compared to the Kia Niro, but there’s plenty of passenger space throughout its futuristic and upmarket cabin.

6. Kia Niro

The old first-generation Kia Niro featured on our list of the best hybrid cars thanks to its frugality, practicality and general capability when you’re behind the wheel. It’s a similar story with the second iteration. 

Its new K3 platform still has to cater to hybrid, plug-in hybrid and in the shape of the Niro EV, fully-electric power. The Niro isn’t compromised by this however, it’s still a versatile family car with excellent powertrains across the board. 

The Niro Hybrid can offer 59.8mpg on a combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 107g/km - both better than what you’d find on the old car. The PHEV can apparently reach 279.7mpg, but emits just 23g/km of CO2. It can also cover over 40 miles on EV-only power - meaning it sits in the eight per cent tax rate for company car users.

5. BMW X5 xDrive50e 

A replacement might coming soon, but the current X5 xDrive45e fits the template of the big hybrid SUV perfectly. It combines a smooth 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine with a 24kWh battery – that’s nearly as big as the pack you’ll find in the MINI Electric. It means you’ll be able to cover up to 54 miles on electric power, a benchmark for all plug-in models. A full charge does take seven hours, though.

Having such a large battery means some buyers will barely ever use the engine, but the two power sources are well integrated, adding to the X5’s air of luxury. The six-cylinder engine is refined and quiet at speed, but still delivers strong performance in tandem with the electric motor – BMW says 0-62mph takes 5.6 seconds. Given its size, the X5 isn’t the most agile PHEV on sale, but the steering is sharp and the ride is smooth when you take it easy.

4. Renault Captur 

The second-generation Renault Captur follows the same simple yet effective formula of its predecessor - a sensible, low-cost SUV with a generous helping of on-board tech that’s built on the same platform as the best-selling Clio. This formula works so well that we named the Captur our Small SUV of the Year in 2021.

The Captur comes with the option of either a self-charging or plug-in hybrid setup - with the latter providing up to 30 miles of range on pure-electric power. While this is a small car in SUV terms, practicality is impressive, with adjustable seats providing extra space for passengers and a boot that offers between 422 and 536 litres - depending on the placement of the rear bench seat.

While it isn’t a particularly exciting performer, the Captur is comfortable over bumps and is easy to park and manoeuvre, which go even further towards making it a nice and easy car to live with. Pricing starts from just over £22,000, so it shouldn’t break the bank, either.

3. Toyota Yaris Cross 

We think the current Yaris is a fantastic supermini so it’s no surprise that the SUV it spawned, the Yaris Cross, is also a great option. Like the Yaris it uses a 114bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol hybrid, mated to a CVT automatic transmission. 

It might be a bit heavier than the Yaris, but the Yaris Cross can still comfortably offer up 66mpg and if you’re careful you should see it hit 70mpg. Unsurprisingly it’s not quick, but it feels solid enough from behind the wheel and refinement is good for a car of this size. 

Equipment levels are impressive enough. The cheapest Icon model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and steering assist.

2. BMW X1 xDrive30e 

BMW’s X1 has long been one of the best-driving small SUVs you can buy and the latest generation lives up to those expectations. The two plug-in hybrid models - xDrive25e and xDrive30e deliver plenty of performance to go with their efficiency too. 

The 241bhp xDrive25e is no slouch, with a hot hatch-rivalling 6.8-second 0-62mph time and the xDrive30e is even quicker thanks to its 321bhp, taking just 5.6 seconds to cover the same sprint. 

As is the case with the official economy figures for most plug-in hybrids, we’re sceptical of BMW’s claims of over 300mpg for the X1 plug-in in real world use, but 15-20g/km of CO2 coming out of the back end and the ability to travel up to 55 miles on battery power alone are useful figures for company car buyers. 

Mild-hybrid technology is even available on the diesel-powered 215bhp xDrive23d model - making it more efficient than even the entry-level sDrive18d despite having more power.

1. Lexus NX450h

As we’ve said, Toyota has been a pioneer of hybrid technology so it’s no surprise to see its luxury sub-brand Lexus top this list with the plug-in hybrid NX450h. The new second-generation NX builds on the original with a premium interior that’s ergonomic and practical but its powertrain is the real highlight. 

The 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol-electric plug-in hybrid is the same as you’ll find in the Toyota RAV4, but Lexus has worked on making the NX even more refined. The hybrid system is particularly clever because once the 18.1kWh battery is depleted (more than 40 miles of EV-only running is possible) it reverts to acting like a normal hybrid so you still have some sort of electrical assistance. 

The NX is also much more refined and comfortable than its Toyota cousin, riding better without sacrificing body control, despite sharing the same TNGA-K platform. A frugal self-charging 350h is offered and despite it being the cheaper option it still features strong equipment levels.

The best hybrid SUVs to buy now

  1. Lexus NX450h
  2. BMW X1 xDrive30e 
  3. Toyota Yaris Cross
  4. Renault Captur
  5. BMW X5 xDrive 50e
  6. Kia Niro
  7. Toyota C-HR
  8. Toyota RAV4
  9. Range Rover PHEV
  10. Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV

Now read our list of the best plug-in hybrids...

Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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