Seven-seater plug-in cars

Seven-seat plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars with a decent range are thin on the ground. Here are our four recommendations

Graham Hope
Oct 22, 2020

While more and more manufacturers are embracing electrification, there’s one area of the market where the options available remain surprisingly limited - seven-seaters. If you want to carry the maximum amount of people with the minimum amount of impact on the environment, the choice of models is relatively small.

Many drivers want to show their green credentials by running a seven-seater with a decent electric range - how far the car will travel on a single charge, that is - but at present there is only one plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option available that fits the bill.

Conventional hybrids such as the Toyota Prius+ and the Lexus RX L - which have much smaller battery packs - constantly alternate between petrol and electric power, so can’t really offer any significant electric-only range, while big PHEV SUVs from the likes of Land Rover come with five seats only, because of the space the hybrid tech takes up.

Of course, you could just dispense with conventional fuel completely and run a fully electric seven-seater. As technology advances, the range of electric cars is getting greater and greater - some can now cover in excess of 200 miles per charge - and it is these we have considered here.

With more electric cars likely to arrive on the market in the next couple of years, you may wonder why there is a need for PHEVs at all - with their typical range of up to 30 miles on a full charge before the battery runs out and the petrol or diesel engine kicks in.

But their relative affordability compared to fully electric options - and the fact that some people are not yet ready to make the jump to pure EVs (electric vehicles) - should ensure that PHEVs still have a significant role to play.

Best seven-seater plug-in cars

1. Volvo XC90 T8

Best for those who must have a plug-in hybrid

The number of plug-in hybrid SUVs on the market is increasing, with the recent arrival of models from the likes of Audi (the Q7 60 TFSIe) and BMW (the X5 xDrive 45e). But the only seven-seater available remains the Volvo XC90 T8.

The XC90 has been around for a few years now, and has gained a great reputation courtesy of its stylish looks and in particular, a really classy cabin, with a minimalist look and a fine array of tech controlled by a portrait oriented 9.3-inch touchscreen media system that works rather like a tablet.

The T8 sits at the top of the XC90 range, with power delivered to the front wheels from a 303hp 2.0-litre petrol engine, and to the rear wheels from an electric motor which produces the equivalent of 87hp.

The resulting 390hp produces a very fast, but comfortable, SUV, which can accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, and can do up to 30 miles on electric power only and well over 500 using both power sources. Be aware that while the XC90 can be powered using the petrol engine alone once the batteries are depleted, this is likely to be highly inefficient, as the car is lugging around the weight of the electric motor and batteries with little electric assistance.

With quoted fuel economy figures ranging from around 83mpg to 100mpg - assuming a full battery to begin with and depending on how the car is equipped - the XC90 would appear to be an extremely fuel-efficient option given its size.

But these figures need qualifying, because the reality is that they can only be achieved in certain circumstances - specifically if you do mainly urban driving and keep the battery fully charged. The quickest way to charge is via a Type 2 AC charger, provided your XC90 has a Type 2 cable (this costs extra and doesn’t come as standard with the car).

In terms of space, the XC90 has plenty to offer. With all seven seats in use, the boot capacity is 262 litres, which is slightly down on what the non-hybrid versions offer, but still a very usable space for a seven-seater (remember that hybrid tech takes up more room than the equivalent gear in conventionally engined cars).

Furthermore, the rearmost seats would be considered adequate by most adults, with excellent legroom. They’re easy enough to access, too, thanks to sliding middle row seats and big doors.

The XC90 isn’t a cheap car - prices for new models start from £64,645 – but used models available on BuyaCar can be found for much less than that, starting from just £27,558.

2. Tesla Model X

Best for those with deep pockets who want a fully electric SUV

California-based Tesla has really shaken up the car market in recent years, with a range of innovative all-electric models and a figurehead, co-founder Elon Musk, who has an undeniable talent for attracting publicity.

The Model X is Tesla’s most startling car to date, an SUV that features remarkable ‘falcon-wing’ doors that open upwards rather than out to create a dramatic spectacle when in use.

There’s a practical side to this theatre, too, as they don’t protrude as far as doors that open in conventional fashion - making it easier to get in and out in tight spaces - and also provide decent access to the rear seats.

The Tesla comes with either five, six or seven seats, so it’s important you check the specific number fitted to any potential purchase you're considering. The seven-seater is configured in a 2-3-2 formation - two in the front row, three in the middle row and two in the back, but the rearmost two don’t offer a huge amount of space and are best suited for children.

Aside from the doors, the Model X’s other headline act is the ferocious acceleration it offers. Two versions are available and both are extremely fast - the Long Range does 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds, while the Performance is even quicker, performing the same sprint in an incredibly fast 2.6 seconds.

Claimed range per charge is 314 miles and 301 miles respectively, and the car can be charged via Tesla’s Supercharger fast charging network. Downsides are few, although the design isn’t to everyone’s taste and there have been reports of variable build quality.

And then there’s the price; a new Model X Performance costs from £97,980, and used versions hold their value well, meaning that used car prices are high, too. Opt for PCP finance, however, and monthly payments may be less than you expect, as the car is likely to still be very valuable when you hand it back at the end of the contract.


3. Tesla Model S

Best for those who only occasionally need seven seats

While the Model S can also carry seven, it is a very different proposition to the Model X above. It’s a conventionally designed four-door, five-seat saloon that comes with the option of fitting two rear-facing ‘jump seats’ in the boot.

While it’s an ingenious way to increase the capacity of the car, in truth the seats are only really suitable for occasional use for children. For some drivers, though, that will be enough, giving the option to carry extra passengers from time to time.

As is the case with the Model X, a Long Range version and a Performance version are on offer. The former promises a 379-mile range and 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds, while the latter delivers 367 miles and 0-60 in a frankly crazy 2.3 seconds. You can imagine what that kind of acceleration must feel like for those in the extra rear-facing seats.

There are other highlights, too. As with all Teslas, the cabin looks particularly cutting-edge and is dominated by a huge 17-inch portrait oriented touchscreen media system which helps provide a real sense of occasion. Advanced self-driving technology is also available.

Again, though, all this tech does not come cheaply, with new Long Range cars starting at £77,980 and Performance models at £92,980. These kind of prices make used cars highly attractive and they tend not to hang around too long before being snapped up. However, because the Model S has been on sale for longer than the Model X, more options are available with a lower starting price.

4. Mercedes EQV

Best for those who are prioritising practicality

While there’s a certain showmanship on offer from the two Teslas, the Mercedes approaches things very differently. It is to all intent and purposes an electric minibus that offers much more in the way of space for its occupants.

You won’t have seen one on the road yet in the UK, as order books only opened in mid 2020 and first deliveries are expected in late 2020. But it could become a popular choice with shuttle and taxi companies determined to deliver an environmentally friendly service that avoids emission-based tax penalties.

The look of the EQV may well be familiar, because essentially it is an electric version of the van-based V-Class people carrier, and the good news is that it will deliver the same great practicality.

Depending on how you choose to kit out the EQV, six, seven or eight seats are available, and the versatility is increased by the fact that in six or seven-seat guise those in the middle row can be swiveled around to face those in the back to make conversations easier.

The EQV is powered by a 90kWh battery pack that delivers the equivalent of 201hp and provides a range of 213 miles. Charging from 10% to 80% at a fast charging station should take around 45 minutes.

Three trim levels are being offered: Sport, Sport Premium and Sport Premium Plus. Even the most basic Sport models are well equipped, with highlights including electric sliding doors and a 10-inch media system screen. Sport Premium adds a 360-degree parking camera - useful on such a big vehicle - while Sport Premium Plus has a high-end Burmester sound system.

If you like the idea of the EQV, prices start from £70,665, but it will be a while until more affordable used models filter onto the market.


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