Best 4x4 hybrids

Fancy economy-boosting hybrid tech and four-wheel drive for all-weather grip? Here are the best four-wheel drive hybrids and plug-in hybrids

Sam Naylor
Jun 8, 2021

New cars are changing at an astounding pace, with electric and electrified hybrid models becoming more popular every day. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars are hugely popular as they can offer strong performance and impressive claimed fuel economy and there are all sorts of models to choose from - many of which have four-wheel drive.

Four-wheel drive is useful for harsh weather - which can make road surfaces particularly slippery - or off-roading, as you have the best chance of keeping the car moving if all four wheels are driving the car forward.

If your main reason for looking at four-wheel drive cars is to deal with snow, however, it's worth bearing in mind that winter tyres can help you get moving and enable you to stop the car safely, while four-wheel drive only helps you to get moving. For maximum grip, though, fitting winter tyres to a four-wheel drive car is a good option in the colder months.

Hybrid cars are a great place to find four-wheel drive. On a normal petrol or diesel car, you need to add extra driveshafts and differentials - which add cost and weight - to get the engine to drive both sets of wheels. Yet with a hybrid car, you simply need to add an electric motor onto the pair of wheels that isn’t driven by the engine.

Here we’ll talk about hybrids and plug-in hybrids - and it’s worth remembering that these are quite different. A hybrid, also known as a traditional or conventional hybrid car, is a model that has assistance from a small electric motor and the battery pack that powers it. This is charged up by the petrol or diesel engine under the bonnet, which also does most of the driving.

Hybrids often can’t drive for more than a mile or so on electric power alone, but the extra assistance means that these cars can be very fuel-efficient as the conventional engine is not doing all of the work.

Plug-in hybrids have larger batteries so many can drive for around 30 miles on electric power alone, which means they’re great for commuting - if you make sure to charge the batteries regularly. As the name implies, you can plug in and charge up the battery without using the engine, which means you can drive to work on electricity from your home supply (which is much cheaper than petrol or diesel).

Here we’ll look at a variety of hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars with four-wheel drive, from family cars that happen to have four-wheel drive to more complex off-roaders that use hybrid power and offer far greater all-terrain ability.

Best hybrids with four-wheel drive

Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid

Best 4x4 hybrid for short family trips

Our pick Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2.5 VVTI Hybrid
Used deals from £21,000
Monthly finance from £283*

The Toyota RAV4 makes a huge amount of sense for drivers who tend to do shorter trips rather than a lot of motorway miles, but need lots of room inside for a family. There’s plenty of space in the RAV4 and a big boot, and its four-wheel drive system means it’s good in slippery conditions.

Yet the hybrid setup means that it’s really efficient where an ordinary petrol or diesel would be poor. The electric motor and battery pack don’t need to be plugged in, as the on-board petrol engine charges it automatically, but they deliver strong fuel economy in stop-start traffic.

The RAV4 is also comfortable, good to drive and has plenty of equipment including sat-nav, heated seats and cruise control. Make sure you go for the newer model with the flat nose and squared-off wheel arches (pictured above), as it’s much better than previous versions in terms of comfort and usability.

TOYOTA RAV4 BUYERS' GUIDE

Lexus NX

Best 4x4 hybrid for reliability

Our pick Lexus NX 300h Premier
Used deals from £20,800
Monthly finance from £380*

A luxury car that’s also bound to be highly reliable is a rare thing, which is why Lexus’s range of hybrid models is a great option for used buyers. The NX is available with four-wheel drive, and its 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor make for a very dependable combination.

The NX is comfortable, has a high-quality interior and enough room to work as a family car. Not everyone will love the highly angular styling but it certainly stands out, and while the media system in the car is a bit hard to get used to, it has plenty of features including sat-nav.

The NX is really quiet and smooth around town, and the hybrid setup means it’s more economical than an equivalent four-wheel drive petrol SUV. It’s not a plug-in, so you don’t have to charge it - but, as a result, it won't travel on far on electric power alone. So, it makes sense for drivers who don’t have access to home charging but still want a luxury SUV with four-wheel drive and some kind of electric assistance.

LEXUS NX BUYERS' GUIDE

Volvo XC90 T8

Best 4x4 hybrid for luxury

Our pick Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription Pro
Used deals from £51,995
Monthly finance from £761*

Luxury cars are expensive to buy new but can lose value quickly - this is bad news for new buyers, but great news if you're looking to get a nearly new or used model. It means that cars like the Volvo XC90 - a properly upmarket and expensive car when new - are as affordable as a typical family hatchback after only a few years.

The T8 model is a plug-in hybrid and it’s a great choice for all kinds of reasons. Its electric motor and battery pack mean you can charge up at home and drive to work without even using the petrol motor under the bonnet, provided your commute isn't particularly long, yet if you want to do a longer trip then you can use petrol power to get you where you need to go conveniently.

The T8 model is the fastest in the range, as both the petrol engine and electric motor are very powerful, and as it’s four-wheel drive it’s a decent off-roader too. Most models have large alloy wheels that won’t be great for off-road use but for most people that won’t be an issue - they’re fine for muddy tracks or festival car parks.

VOLVO XC90 BUYERS' GUIDE

Range Rover Evoque

Best 4x4 hybrid for SUV style

Our pick Range Rover Evoque P300e S
Used deals from £42,999
Monthly finance from £515*

The Range Rover Evoque is one of the most stylish SUVs around, and the fact that it’s available as a four-wheel drive hybrid will be good news to many 4x4 lovers. The latest Evoque is the best yet, in fact, with a great driving experience and lots of modern high-tech equipment.

The fact that plug-in hybrids make a great choice for company car buyers - due to the tax savings - is good news for used buyers too, because there are more on the market and therefore better choice out there, and prices stay competitive as well.

The Evoque isn’t just a pretty face, as it’s genuinely capable as an off-roader despite being good to drive on-road, with comfortable suspension and a roomy cabin that feels upmarket and well-made. Plug in and you can drive up to around 40 miles on electric power alone, which is more than the average for plug-in hybrids.

RANGE ROVER EVOQUE BUYERS' GUIDE

Mercedes GLC

Best 4x4 hybrid for longer trips

Our pick Mercedes GLC 300de 4MATIC AMG Line
Used deals from £43,250
Monthly finance from £561*

Most plug-in hybrid cars use a combination of an electric motor and a petrol engine, which is the best combination for most people. However, if you do a lot of motorway miles yet also want the flexibility of using an electric motor when in town or on shorter trips, then a diesel plug-in could be a great choice.

The Mercedes GLC 300de is one of very few diesel-electric hybrids and it’s available with four-wheel drive, so it fits perfectly if you're after a frugal off-roader with four-wheel drive. The GLC is an upmarket SUV, like some others in this list such as the Range Rover Evoque.

It’s roomy and great for families, and while it’s so new that prices are still relatively high, it ticks a lot of boxes; it’s comfortable, has lots of standard equipment, is well-made and efficient. The diesel engine is quiet, the automatic gearbox is smooth and while it’s not all that easy to see out of, parking sensors and cameras make it easier to live with.

MERCEDES GLC BUYERS' GUIDE

Mitsubishi Outlander

Best 4x4 hybrid for value for money

Our pick Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GX3h
Used deals from £11,900
Monthly finance from £224*

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (which stands for 'Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle') was one of the first plug-ins to arrive in the UK, and it sold really well thanks to company car tax regulations. This means there are plenty for sale used, and at very attractive prices.

Okay, the Outlander is dull to drive, not all that efficient with the engine running - simply make sure the charge at home regularly to reduce the impact of this - has a drab interior and could be more comfortable. But when it’s half the price of some of the other SUVs on this list, and has more room inside, it still makes a great value choice.

It’s able to drive on electric power alone if you plug in and charge up, so there’s the potential for huge fuel savings, and the boot is big. It even has some off-road ability should you need it, plus it has the all-important SUV styling and high driving position that many motorists look for.

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV BUYERS' GUIDE

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

Best 4x4 hybrid for family life

Our pick BMW 225xe M Sport
Used deals from £20,490
Monthly finance from £294*

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is often forgotten about when considering the BMW range, as it shares a name with the normal 2 Series, which is an attractive but not very practical coupe model. The Active Tourer - or Gran Tourer for the seven-seater model - is an MPV, which means it’s a people carrier primarily designed for families.

The 225xe model uses a plug-in hybrid system with four-wheel drive, and while it has no real off-road ability, this helps to improve traction on slippery surfaces. There’s plenty of room inside the Active Tourer, with lots of rear head and legroom and a big boot.

It’s also good to drive, with plenty of performance from the combined petrol engine and electric motor, and as it’s a plug-in hybrid, you can potentially save lots of money if you have a short commute and make sure to charge every evening - and possibly at work, too - so you can get to work and back on electric power alone. It also has a well-made and pleasant cabin. It’s more affordable than an SUV with similar interior space, too.

BMW 2 SERIES ACTIVE TOURER BUYERS' GUIDE

Honda CR-V

Best 4x4 hybrid for clever technology

Our pick Honda CR-V 2.0 i-MMD 4WD SE
Used deals from £28,250
Monthly finance from £399*

The latest version of the Honda CR-V comes with some very clever technology under the skin for its four-wheel drive hybrid system. It’s not a plug-in hybrid, so it’s a bit like the Lexus NX in that you don’t have to charge it up - you just put in petrol and go.

However, the engine doesn’t actually drive the wheels most of the time. The car has a special gearbox that can switch to using only the electric motor for greater efficiency, and the engine simply charges up the battery as you go. Put your foot down and the engine can engage and drive the wheels for maximum performance, too.

All this means the CR-V is smooth and quiet on the move, as well as being efficient. It’s also roomy inside, has a big boot, lots of tech and a well-made cabin with some neat modern-looking touches. It’s bound to be reliable thanks to Honda's strong reputation for building long-lasting cars and while there aren’t loads on the market yet, it’s still fairly new so more should be going up for sale all the time.

HONDA CR-V BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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