Top 10 best plug-in hybrids 2022
The best plug-in hybrids offer good electric range, low running costs and strong performance
Considering how many plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are now on sale, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve been popular for a long time. However, it is only throughout the last few years that these cars have exploded in popularity – in fact, more plug-in hybrids were registered in 2021 than in the entirety of the last decade. If you want to become part of the growing plug-in hybrid craze or are looking for something with low running costs, read on to see which are the best plug-in hybrids currently on sale.
All plug-in hybrids feature an engine - usually petrol - mated to an electric motor and a decent-sized battery. Most PHEVs allow you to choose how the two power sources are used, with many giving you the option to save the battery power for later in the journey - useful if you’re heading into a built-up area. With both systems working together, plug-in hybrids tend to be quite powerful, so many claim acceleration times that are close to those set by hot hatchbacks and sports cars.
PHEVs tend to be able to travel a good distance on electric power alone (25-50 miles depending on the model). While you might be drawn to a plug-in hybrid by the promise of unbelievable MPG figures, it’s worth noting that getting close to these numbers in real life completely depends on the types of journeys you do and how often you recharge the battery. On longer journeys where you’ve depleted the electric range, you’ll be relying on the engine to get you to your destination.
Because of the way emissions tests are undertaken, PHEVs offer very low quoted CO2 figures, and this makes them ideal for company-car drivers looking to slash their Benefit-in-Kind tax bills. But more and more private buyers are opting for plug-in hybrids too, often as a way to test the waters of electric-car ownership.
The Mercedes A-Class may be the smallest and least expensive car in the brand’s lineup, but it shares many of the same luxuries and features that make the larger models so desirable. The interior of the A-Class is like no other car at this price point, with a sweeping dual-infotainment screen setup and extensive ambient lighting to further add to the car’s premium feel. While the Merc’s 310-litre boot may be on the snug side, buyers have the option of stepping up to the Mercedes CLA which boasts all the same bells and whistles as the A-Class, but in a larger and more practical saloon package.
The plug-in hybrid A250e model should satisfy private buyers and company car drivers alike thanks to an impressive 40-mile pure electric driving range and similarly economical running costs. Despite its heavier weight due to the electric motor, the A250e is hot-hatch-quick, accelerating from 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds.
Skoda is renowned for great value, and you could argue that the Superb is the clearest manifestation of that. It may be one of the brand’s more expensive models but it offers the space and refinement of a BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class for the price of a Vauxhall Insignia. You get a lot of room and a lot of equipment, plus a range of engines ranging from the economical to the surprisingly powerful.
In line with other electrified models in the Skoda range such as the Enyaq SUV, the plug-in hybrid variant of the Superb is labelled with an ‘iV’ badge on the bootlid. Here, you get the same 1.4-litre petrol engine as in the Volkswagen Passat GTE, which benefits from electrical assistance and promises up to 188mpg. The Superb iV offers around 34 miles of electric-only driving range and its tiny CO2 figure means it’ll be a hit with fleet buyers; this explains why Skoda expects the iV to make up a quarter of Superb sales.
The declining popularity of diesel means the 330e could become a very important member of the BMW 3 Series line-up. When the lithium-ion battery is fully charged, you should be able to manage up to 41 miles of electric driving, which few other hybrids can match. Its claimed figures of 138mpg and 39g/km of CO2 might not always be achievable in real driving but the low CO2 rate means company-car tax is much lower than for the 320d or 330i.
In terms of driving, it’s almost identical to the conventional petrol and diesel models, and an ‘XtraBoost’ feature bumps power up from 249bhp to 289bhp for limited periods when the battery is sufficiently charged. As a result, the 330e is one of the fastest-accelerating versions of the 3 Series. The boot has shrunk from 480 to 375 litres to accommodate the battery pack, but it’s still a decent size and the reduction is a small drawback of an otherwise very accomplished car.
The Renault Captur SUV is our top small family car and the E-Tech plug-in hybrid is perhaps the most solid option for company car drivers. Essentially a jacked up version of our favourite supermini, the Renault Clio, the Captur is available with all of that car’s best features such as a Tesla-style portrait touchscreen, a comfortable ride and punchy powertrains. Of course, being an SUV, the Captur also benefits from a higher driving position, while its handy sliding rear bench can increase the boot size from 265 to 375 litres.
Plug-in hybrid models of the Captur are powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine; this is mated to a 9.8kW battery pack which together produce 158bhp. Acceleration from 0-62mph should take around 10 seconds, however the instant torque from the electric motor means the Captur should feel nippy around town. It can also manage around 30 miles of pure-electric driving, so this should keep running costs low on shorter commutes. Renault offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid Capturs, both with ‘E-Tech’ badges, so it’s a little confusing - but the plug-in hybrid’s bigger battery is reflected in its steeper price.
The Mercedes E-Class has long been one of the default options for any discerning executive thanks to its sumptuous ride and luxurious interior. The latest model is perhaps one of the most well-rounded yet with its standard MBUX infotainment system and surprisingly sharp handling. All models come lavishly equipped and the rear seats are spacious enough for chauffeuring business people and family members alike.
Mercedes offers the E-Class in both petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid form for those who want low running costs but aren’t ready to step over to the fully-electric EQE saloon. Both options offer around 30 miles of pure-electric range and boast higher fuel economy than their standard combustion engined counterparts. Low Benefit-in-Kind ratings should definitely make the PHEV E-Class a hit with company car drivers, with the diesel E 300 de best suited to those who cover higher mileages.
The latest Ford Kuga has been around for several years now and although it’s not the most high-tech option, it is still one of the best family SUVs you can buy. While most cars of this class focus on comfort, the Kuga is surprisingly good to drive with a well-balanced chassis and direct steering. All models get Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system and even the entry-level Titanium trim benefits from features like wireless phone charging.
Drivers of the Ford Kuga PHEV can expect around 30 miles of pure electric driving range, with fuel economy figures of up to 202mpg if you keep the battery topped up regularly. Despite producing 222bhp, the Kuga is far from a performance SUV, no thanks to the added weight from the battery. However, a 0-62mph time of around 9 seconds should be fine for most drivers around town.
On electric range alone, the BMW X5 xDrive45e deserves its place in our best plug-in hybrids list. With its large 24kWh battery, the hybrid X5 manages around 50 miles on a single charge, which explains its 235mpg figure. That’s all the more impressive given the 389bhp on tap, and when the two power sources come together you can sprint from 0-62mph in just 5.6 seconds - all in a vehicle that weighs 2.5 tonnes.
We also like the fact that the X5 xDrive45e is priced quite close to the normal petrol and diesel versions. As it’s an X5, you’re treated to a luxurious interior with twin 12-inch screens, plus air suspension and a powered tailgate. Just like many other plug-in hybrids, the boot space suffers because the battery’s mounted underneath the boot floor, but the X5 is such a big car that there’s still plenty of room.
The gap between the SEAT Leon and the Volkswagen Golf on which it’s based has never been narrower, with the latest Leon offering lots of equipment, a sharp interior design and good value. The Leon has long shared its engines with the Golf, and this time around that includes a plug-in hybrid powertrain too. Badged eHybrid, the system is a detuned version of the PHEV option in the new high-performance Cupra Leon, offering 201bhp.
That’s quite a lot of power for a normal family hatchback, and the Leon offers a suitably punchy 7.5-second 0-62mph time. It’ll also drive up to 38 miles without using any petrol and its CO2 rating means it’s a no-brainer for any business users considering the stylish Leon; its BiK rating means company-car drivers will pay about a third as much tax as they would on a diesel model.
A no-nonsense family workhorse, the RAV4 is quick to assert its rugged dependability with its off-road inspired styling and solid-feeling interior. Entry-level ‘Icon’ trim has all the equipment you need such as 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a rear-view camera and an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. With 520 litres of boot space, the RAV4 should have ample room for most families and Toyota’s impressive Driver Power customer satisfaction record should give owners peace of mind.
The Toyota RAV4 PHEV is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine, along with two electric motors which give the SUV four-wheel-drive and a combined 302bhp. Although this may suggest the RAV4 is designed to be driven hard, it is more of a comfortable cruiser. Of course, being gentle on the accelerator will allow you to get closer to the car’s maximum 46-mile electric-only range.
Stylish and comfortable, the Volvo XC60 is a great alternative to the swathes of German luxury SUVs. The interior is suitably Scandinavian with minimalist touches and a premium finish. All models get a Google-powered portrait-style touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard, with a set of digital dials. Leather upholstery also comes as standard along with LED headlights and dual-zone climate control, meaning no example of the XC60 feels anything less than luxurious.
Despite being set up strictly for comfort, the XC60 Recharge boasts a very powerful set of engines. Even the entry-level T6 model produces 340bhp, while the range-topping T8 makes a muscular 449bhp; the latter seems a tad unnecessary, so we’d save money by picking the T6 model. This can still manage over 30 miles on electric power alone and return up-to 282.1mpg, when the battery is fully charged.
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