Best plug-in hybrid

A petrol engine for long journeys and an electric motor for short ones: these are the best plug-in hybrids

Murray Scullion
Jun 21, 2018

Believe it or not, hybrid cars rolled onto the scene more than 21 years ago. The first car to bring hybrids to the masses was the Toyota Prius, which used a combination of traditional petrol power and an electric motor to propel it along.

Lately, there’s been a growing trend among manufacturers to use plug-in hybrid systems. These more advanced type of hybrids use a larger battery, which can be be recharged by the owner, which allows the car to travel several miles on pure electricity.

Theoretically, plug-in hybrids offer the benefits of an electric vehicle (low emissions) and the benefits of petrol/diesel powered cars (long range). However, in real-life situations they are best suited to people who do a large proportion of their driving in short bursts that can be done on electricity alone, and who have access to charging.

Plug-ins are increasing in popularity too - thanks to their low official emissions ratings. These rating help bring down the cost of company car tax.

Keep reading if you’d like to know more about hybrids, scroll down to see some of the best on the market, or press the button below to search for plug-in hybrids for sale.

Best plug-in hybrid cars

Hybrid cars: need to know

  • PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) These cars, as the name suggests, can be plugged in, to recharge the battery. They can usually travel on electricity alone - if only for a few miles (typically 5-30). Examples: Toyota Prius Plug In, Hyundai Ioniq Plug In, Volkswagen Golf GTE
  • Petrol / diesel hybrid The most traditional type of hybrid. They use a combination of petrol or diesel engine and battery power to lower emissions and improve economy over conventional cars. Examples: Toyota Prius, Lexus RX 450h, Hyundai Ioniq
  • Mild hybrid Hybrids like the ones above can use electric motor to power the car on its own. A Mild hybrid motor is only able to assist the engine. Different manufacturers’ systems work in different ways, but generally it uses electricity to aid acceleration. Examples: Suzuki Swift SHVS, Suzuki Ignis SHVS, Audi A8 MHEV


The best plug-in hybrid cars

Toyota Prius

Best plug-in hybrid for city driving

Our pick Toyota Prius Plug-In Business Edition Manufacturer price from £29,195
Official fuel economy 283mpg CO2 28g/km

If you live in a big city, you’ve probably seen swarms of these being used by companies like Uber to ferry people around in. There’s a reason why Uber drivers love them (other than the low emissions and high mpg associated with all hybrids), and that’s because the Prius is simply put, one of the easiest hybrids out there to drive.

Driving one requires no new skills, and it’s an all together un-fussy proposition for people looking to make the switch to a hybrid car. The latest version is very striking to look at as well, although that can be good or bad, depending on your own personal preference.

Hyundai Ioniq

Best plug-in hybrid for value

Our pick Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid Premium SE Manufacturer price from £26,795
Official fuel economy 256mpg CO2 26g/km

Hyundai’s Ioniq gets an honorable mention in this list for taking on the Toyota Prius at its own game, and beating it in many respects.

The Ioniq has the same basic layout of the Prius, with a petrol engine and electric motor. But it uses a different type of gearbox, which makes the driving experience quieter and smoother than the Prius. The Ioniq might not be as nice inside, but it is a good chunk cheaper. Nearly £3,000 less than the Prius in fact.

Volvo XC90 T8

Best plug-in hybrid for seven seats

Our pick Volvo XC90 R-Design Pro T8 Twin Engine Manufacturer price from £56,850
Official fuel economy 134.5mpg CO2 49g/km

Volvo’s been on a bit of a roll lately, picking up awards throughout the world for its latest work. The XC90 is the largest car in the Volvo range, and comes in seven seat configuration with all of the latest safety tech and semi-autonomous driving technology.

It also uses three driving modes that allow you to switch between electric, petrol, or a combination of the two. It won’t go far in pure electric mode (around 12-24 miles) but using both sources of power it can either be economical or punchy. In full on acceleration mode it’ll dispatch 0-62mph in a hot-hatch bating 5.6 seconds.

Range Rover PHEV

Best plug-in hybrid for luxury

Our pick Range Rover P4000e Vogue SE Manufacturer price from £93,465
Official fuel economy 101mpg CO2 64g/km

There’s not much out there this side of a Rolls-Royce that will out-luxury a Range Rover - and now it’s available with a plug-in hybrid variation too.

It’s powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine making 300hp, which is used in conjunction with a 116hp electric motor. This certainly makes it powerful enough to haul the Range Rover’s plushly upholstered interior around, and it’ll get from 0-60mph in 6.4second. There’s a theoretical electric-only range of 31 miles too - certainly enough to get from Chelsea to wherever else in central London someone in a Range Rover might want to go.

Volkswagen Golf GTE

Best plug-in hybrid for a green hot-hatch

Our pick Volkswagen Golf 1.4TSI GTE DSG Manufacturer price from £30,445
Official fuel economy 153.9mpg CO2 440g/km

The Volkswagen Golf GTE has carved itself a little niche within the plug-in hybrid sector. It’s one of the only sporty plug-in hatchbacks on the market - and while it’s not as hot as the Golf GTI, it’s more than tepid.

It has a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a fast-shifting DSG automatic gearbox, and even a GTE button that makes the ride stiffer and the exhaust note louder - all hallmarks of a good hot-hatch. But the GTE has some un-hot-hatchy trademarks too - primarily the emissions, which are low at 40g/km, and its ability to drive 30 miles or so using just electricity.

BMW i8

Best plug in hybrid for speed

Our pick BMW i8 Coupe Manufacturer price from £112,735
Official fuel economy 134.5mpg CO2 49g/km

It’s definitely striking. And it causes as much hubbub on a high street as a spaceship. It also looks, and sounds a bit like one. But it’s a proper hybrid plug-in too.

It claims to do 134.5mpg (but expect more like 40mpg) plus low CO2 levels of 49g/km. It’ll even do around 34 miles on pure electricity if you’re light-footed enough. At more than £110k, it’s not the cheapest on this list, but it is the fastest. A three cylinder turbo petrol engine makes 228hp, which is then combined with a 141hp of electric motor, which propels the i8 to 62mph in 4.4 seconds.

BMW 330e

Best plug in hybrid for middle-management types

Our pick BMW 330e M Sport  Manufacturer price from £36,680
Official fuel economy 148.7mpg CO2 44g/km

The 330e is, unsurprisingly, part of the excellent 3-Series range. It’s one of the pricier entry points, in a market which predominantly features diesels.

But tides are turning and people are looking for cleaner alternatives - and the 330e is one of the best out there. Obviously you won’t get close to the claimed 148.7mpg, but, it should easily be able to achieve around 50mpg in real-world motoring. Plus, being a 3-Series, it drives well, and is plenty of fun to enthusiastically drive down a country lane. Plus it’ll do around 25-miles on electric power alone - great for nipping around town in complete silence.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate

Best plug in hybrid for practicality

Our pick Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate Manufacturer price £39,030
Official fuel economy 156.9mpg CO2 39g/km

The Volkswagen Passat GTE competes against the diesels in a similar manner to the 330e above. It’s a busy market, and it’s up against very economical cars.

And the Passat GTE handles it with aplomb. It’s as well-sorted and as dependable as the regular Passat, but it boasts low CO2 figures of 39g/km. In estate form, the boot is 483-litres big, which is sizeable. However, the batteries do steal some boot space, as regular non-hybrid Passat Estates boots are 650 litres by comparison.

BMW i3

Best plug in hybrid for impressing the neighbours

Our pick BMW i3 94Ah Range Extender Manufacturer price from £34,075
Official fuel economy 470.8 CO2 19g/kg

BMW’s i3 is also available as ‘just’ an electric car, but the version we’re looking at here is the range extender model. As the name would suggests, the range extender aids the range of the electric power, and works differently to the other hybrids on this list.

To combat the perils of electric car range, the i3 comes with a 650cc engine. This doesn’t power the wheels directly, but charges up the electric battery when you’re running low. The i3 is much more of an electric car than others on this list, and feels bang-up-to-date, despite first being released all the way back in 2014.

Audi A3 e-Tron

Best plug in hybrid for grown up interiors

Our pick Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron Manufacturer price from £36,465
Official fuel economy 166.2mpg CO2 38g/kg

The Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron offers low-running costs associated with hybrids with the usual refinements you’d expect from an Audi.

You’ll get up to 29 miles on electric power alone, which will be enough for quite a lot of business users' commute. This car is mostly aimed at the business user - and they will find lots to like. Or most importantly, they’ll struggle to find anything different in here at all when compared to a petrol or diesel powered A3. There aren’t any huge show-off pieces alerting others to the fact you drive a hybrid - something many will appreciate. It’s powered by electric motors and a 1.4-litre petrol engine, and it has a six-speed automatic gearbox too. Very Audi indeed.

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