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 3, 2017

Hybrid power started off as way of making the greenest cars. When Toyota’s Prius was first launched in 1997, it quickly made a name for itself as a favourite of eco-friendly Hollywood stars.

By combining a battery and motor with a petrol engine, the Prius could offer much better fuel economy, without the downside of having to stop regularly to charge the car up.

The technology is still used by Toyota - and now several competitors - to make ultra-efficient cars, but it’s now also being used 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.

No matter that these emissions levels are tested in a laboratory and bear little relation to real-world driving, the effect is to slash an owner’s company car tax bill by several thousands of pounds, which can 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 because you need so much power to get such a heavy car moving and keep it going. This can have you searching for a petrol station every time you get beyond third gear.

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.

Find deals on hybrid SUVs


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

See the most efficient petrol cars you can buy


The best hybrid SUVs

Audi Q7 e-tron

Best hybrid SUV for comfort

Our pick Audi Q7 3.0 TDI e-tron quattro  Manufacturer price £66,010 See latest deals
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 a claimed 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.

Search for all new and used Audi Q7 deals



Toyota C-HR Hybrid

Best hybrid SUV for low budgets

Our pick Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid Icon Auto  Manufacturer price £23,685 See latest deals
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.

Search for new and used Toyota C-HR deals



BMW X5 iPerformance

Best hybrid SUV for driving fun

Our pick BMW X5 xDrive 40e SE iPerformance  Manufacturer price £55,810 See latest deals
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.

Find new and used BMW X5 deals



Lexus RX 450h

Best hybrid SUV for reliability

Our pick Lexus RX 450h SE  Manufacturer price £48,645 See latest deals
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.

Search for new and used Lexus RX deals



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) See latest deals
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.

Find new and used Mitsubishi Outlander deals


Latest best cars & vans

  1. Most efficient petrol cars

  2. Most reliable cars 2017

  3. Best car colours

What our customers say