Best hybrid SUVs

All the benefits of a big car, without the big fuel bills (sometimes): here are the best hybrid SUVs

BuyaCar team
May 29, 2018

The first hybrid cars, such as Toyota’s Prius, combined a battery and motor with a petrol engine for ultra-efficient driving.

The technology is still used by Toyota - and several competitors - to make extremely economical cars, but it's also employed to dramatically cut carbon dioxide emissions from large sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), which offer a high driving position and usually a large amount of interior space.

The technology can slash an owner’s company car tax bill by several thousands of pounds, which may bring the charge for a big SUV lower than that of a conventional family saloon car.

When used with a petrol engine, hybrid SUVs also offer an alternative to the economy of diesels. Conventional petrol-powered SUVs are notoriously thirsty of the power needed to move such a heavy car.

Hybrid versions - particularly plug-in hybrids, which have a larger battery that you charge up - can be much more economical if you mainly use them for short journeys. On longer trips, fuel economy may be little different to a conventional car.


Hybrid SUVs: need to know

  • Petrol hybrid uses a combination of a petrol engine with a battery and electric motor
  • Diesel hybrid Uses a battery and motor with a diesel engine, so may be liable for future diesel charges, despite its green hybrid badge
  • Plug-in hybrid fitted with a larger battery that can be charged up, allowing the vehicle to travel for several miles on electric power alone


The best hybrid SUVs

Volvo XC60

Best hybrid SUV for safety

Our pick Volvo XC60 R-Design Pro T8 Twin Engine Manufacturer price £56,850 
Official fuel economy 134.5mpg CO2 49g/km

Volvo's plug-in hybrid range includes the seven-seat XC90 T8, and now the mid-sized XC60, which offers more than just frugal fuel economy

A 2-litre petrol engine and electric motor combine to generate 407hp, which is enough to accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds - just 0.2 seconds than a Porsche 718 Boxster.

But sensibly is how most buyers will drive the XC60, making it more likely that they'll achieve the 28-mile electric-only range. The official 134.5mpg is most achievable if your typical journey is 30 miles, where you'll need very little engine use.

The Scandi-design styling adds significantly to the XC60’s appeal, along with that Volvo standby, the latest safety features, including a semi-autonomous piloted driving feature.

Audi Q7 e-tron

Best hybrid SUV for comfort

Our pick Audi Q7 3.0 TDI e-tron quattro  Manufacturer price £66,010
Official fuel economy 156.9mpg  CO2 48g/km

The plug-in hybrid version of Audi’s biggest SUV has diesel-electric power for tax-busting emissions of 48g/km CO2 and an official fuel economy figure of 156.9mpg.

Opt for the model with air suspension and you’ll glide over bumps in virtual silence- for around 20 miles at least, which is typically the point at which the diesel engine is needed to boost power before the batteries run out (the car’s official electric range is an optimistic 34 miles). When you’re running on power from the engine, fuel economy is no better than 36mpg, so this is a car that suits short journeys.

It also suits smaller families best, as the extra hybrid equipment has forced Audi to remove the third row of seats that’s offered in the rest of the Q7 range, making this a car that seats five rather than seven.

Toyota C-HR Hybrid

Best hybrid SUV for low budgets

Our pick Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid Icon Auto  Manufacturer price £23,685
Official fuel economy 74.3mpg  CO2 86g/km

After years of making forgettable cars that looked distinctly average, Toyota has produced the C-HR, which is distinctive at the very least, thanks to its bulging bodywork and curved roof. Underneath that design is hybrid technology borrowed from the Prius, pairing a petrol engine with an electric motor for an official fuel economy figure of 74.3mpg, which will be more like 60mpg in real-world driving.

The crossover - offering the dimensions of a hatchback with a higher driving position - starts at £23,595 before any Toyota C-HR discounts and is more comfortable than sporty with the heavy hybrid battery fitted. It’s best when you make smooth and calm progress: unless you’re very gentle on the accelerator, the engine revs noisily when you’re building up speed.

Mini Countryman

Best hybrid SUV for British iconography

Our pick Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4  Manufacturer price £31,585 
Official fuel economy 134.5mpg CO2 49g/km

The latest Countryman has taken the famous Mini name and shape, and while not quite supersized, it’s certainly undergone an upsizing, to create a proper small crossover SUV.

The Cooper S E Countryman All4 – like the BMW i8 – is powered by a hybrid system that pairs a three-cylinder engine with an electric motor, producing a total output of 224PS that results in a 6.8-second 0-62mph time. Official fuel consumption is 134.5mpg, but that figure comes from a formula rather than how people actually drive, so expect a considerably lower real-world figure – especially as three-cylinder engines are getting a reputation for not being able to match lab figures. On the plus side, the CO2 emissions are tax exempt and it has a 25-mile all-electric range.

The Countryman also has all the regular Mini personalisation options that will make it so attractive, along with a few elements specific to this hybrid.

Range Rover

Best hybrid SUV for luxury 

Our pick Range Rover P400e Vogue SE Manufacturer price £93,465
Official fuel economy 101mpg C02 64g/km

Seen by many as the ultimate in luxury SUVs, the Range Rover has added a plug-in hybrid variant to its line-up. Powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s latest 2.0-litre petrol engine, producing 300PS, in combination with a 116PS electric motor, the powertrain puts out a not-inconsiderable 404PS in total – which should be enough for anyone, especially as the 0-60mph time is 6.4 seconds and top speed is 137mph.

The economy figures are most unRangey-like, with 101mpg (although this is attained in laboratory conditions, so the real-world consumption will be considerably lower) and tax-exempt CO2 of 64g/km. There’s also a theoretical electric-only range of 31 miles, which is perfect for in-town, zero-emissions driving.

And, of course, you’ll get all the luxury you can expect from a Range Rover – plushly upholstered leather seats, lots of useful storage options (including an optional fridge), ambient lighting, the latest connectivity technology and two 10-inch touchscreens.

BMW X5 iPerformance

Best hybrid SUV for driving fun

Our pick BMW X5 xDrive 40e SE iPerformance  Manufacturer price £55,810
Official fuel economy 85.6mpg  CO2 77g/km

Fast and responsive, the BMW X5 feels among the sportiest of all big hybrid SUVs. BMW uses the iPerformance badge on its hybrid cars, highlighting the boost to acceleration that an electric motor can bring, It also draws attention away from the uncomfortable reality that this plug-in SUV emits 77g/km CO2, which puts it two company car tax bands higher than the Volvo XC90 T8 and Audi Q7 e-tron, costing you around £1,500 more each year in tax.

That’s not the only disappointment either: the electric range is poor, so you’ll be lucky to go more than ten miles before the thirsty petrol engine kicks in. There’s only space for five seats, and the X5 can jolt as the car shifts from one power source to another.

Mercedes GLE 500 e

Best hybrid SUV for build quality 

Our pick Mercedes GLE 500 e 4Matic AMG Line Manufacturer price £66,640
Official fuel economy 76.4mpg CO2 84g/km

The GLE 500 e, as a Mercedes-Benz, is every bit and comfortable and luxurious as you’d expect, but with that greener tinge that a plug-in hybrid offers buyers.

Powered by a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 333PS and 116PS from the electric motor, it falls below the taxable threshold for cars, emitting 84 g/km of CO2 and returning a fuel consumption figure of 76.4 mpg on the combined cycle. In addition, the GLE 500 e has a fully electric range of 18 miles, for those in-town journeys. Some clever powertrain management features include being able to use the navigation system to exploit routes where the energy recovery is maximised.

The GLE 500 e has four driving modes, including a Hybrid system that automatically selects the most sensible operating mode with combustion engine and/or electric motor to optimise overall energy balance, while an E-Save mode preserves the current state of battery charge so it can be used later in the journey.

Lexus RX 450h

Best hybrid SUV for reliability

Our pick Lexus RX 450h SE  Manufacturer price £48,645 
Official fuel economy 54.3mpg  CO2 120g/km

Despite the extra complexity of having two power sources underneath the bonnet, the Lexus RX was ranked the most reliable car in Britain by last year’s Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.

Before that accolade alone sends you rushing to place a deposit, then it’s worth noting that the RX in the survey was the previous-generation car, replaced by a brand new version in 2015, which was too new to appear in the survey.

Even so, there are strong indications that the current RX will be just as reliable as the older car, as it uses an updated version of the same hybrid system. CO2 emissions of 120g/km seem high compared with plug-in hybrid SUVs, but is impressive when you consider that the non-hybrid RX emits 189g/km CO2, increasing its company car tax liability by 13 percentage points.

Kia Niro

Best hybrid SUV for raising expectations

Our pick 1.6 GDi 6DCT 3 Manufacturer price £24,355
Official fuel economy 74.3mpg CO2 88g/km

Kia has recently been on a streak of launching some interesting cars, including its first dedicated hybrid, the Niro.

A parallel hybrid that produces 140PS, thanks to a 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor, the Niro has been designed from the ground up as a crossover SUV. Performance is decent, without being outstanding – as are fuel economy (74.3mpg) and CO2 emissions of 88g/km which are still free of tax. The one advantage that the Niro has over similar hybrids is that it uses a dual-clutch gearbox, as opposed to the continuous variable transmission (CVT), which is a much more user-friendly option and creates a smoother-feeling drive.

In common with Kia’s recent output, the Niro is a well-designed car that doesn’t look out of place on modern urban roads and Kia’s policy of equipping its models – even in base trim levels – well means that owners won’t be short of the moddest of mod cons.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2.0 GX3H

Best hybrid SUV for low company car tax

Our pick Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 4h  Manufacturer price £36,899 (with govt. grant)
Official fuel economy 166mpg  CO2 41g/km

Mitsubishi took a gamble on the Outlander PHEV, introducing it in 2013 when it was the only plug-in hybrid SUV that you could buy.

Thanks to its eligibility for a £5,000 government grant that reduced its price, and low CO2 emissions that led to rock-bottom company car tax, it went on to sell thousands, becoming the best-selling plug-in car in Britain.

Since then its appeal has faded as competition has cropped up: the Outlander is still a comfortable SUV, but lacks the stability in corners (where it leans noticeably) and the interior quality of most rivals. The grant has also been cut, so you’ll only receive £2,500 towards a new car.

But the Outlander PHEV is still a relatively unique offering: an SUV, with a price - for the very cheapest model - starting at little more than £31,000, which falls into the lowest company car tax band.

Business users could save thousands of pounds - more if they mainly make short journeys and maximise the Outlander PHEV’s electric range of around 25 miles. On longer motorway journeys, when the car’s petrol engine is in use, it’s considerably thirstier than a diesel SUV.

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