Best hybrid SUVs 2018

All the benefits of a big car, without the big fuel bills (sometimes): here are the best hybrid SUVs available in 2018

BuyaCar team
Oct 24, 2018

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

That technology is still used to make extremely economical cars, but it's also being added to tall and spacious sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) in order to improve fuel economy and cut carbon dioxide emissions. In theory, this means you can have the extra space and capability of a large car with the efficiency of a smaller one.

When used with a petrol engine, some hybrid SUVs can match the fuel economy of a diesel version. Most efficient of all are plug-in hybrids, which have a larger battery that can be charged up. They can then power the car using electricity alone, typically for between 20 and 25 miles. These can be extremely efficient on short journeys but fuel economy may be little different to a conventional car.

One major benefit of hybrid SUVs is that the reduced CO2 emissions can result in huge company car tax savings, which can be lower than for a conventional family saloon car. Most plug-in hybrids are in the lowest company car tax band, although a new method of calculating emissions, largely introduced during the second half of this year, has moved some models into higher groups. We've used the new emissions figures below where available.

Used cars with emissions ratings that were calculated under the old tests remain in the same bands, often making them cheaper to tax than new cars.


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


Best hybrid SUVs 2018

Volvo XC60

Best hybrid SUV for safety

Volvo's family-friendly XC60 SUV offers more than just frugal fuel economy. A 2-litre petrol engine and electric motor combine to generate 407 horsepower, which is enough to accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds - just 0.2 seconds slower 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. Adding a few longer journeys will see fuel economy fall closer to 50mpg.

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.
Volvo XC60 buying guide

Official fuel economy 122.8mpg CO2 52g/km


Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

Best hybrid SUV for style

Latest Mini Countryman Cooper S E deals from £28,432
Finance from £382 per month
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.

It's powered by a hybrid system that pairs a three-cylinder engine with an electric motor. On a 15-mile commute you'll barely need use the petrol engine - if at all, but hard acceleration will bring it to life, where it combiens wit the electric motor for fairly swift acceleration from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds.

Efficiency is less impressive when the battery runs out, as real-world fuel economy is only around the 35mpg mark, making it expensive for long motorway trips. Older cars, badged Cooper S E, were in the lowest company car tax bracket but the most recent cars, renamed Mini countryman Plug-in Hybrid, have gone through the new emissions tests, which has increased the official Co2 figure to at least 56g/km, moving the car up a band.
Mini Countryman buying guide

Official fuel economy 113mpg CO2 56g/km


Kia Niro Hybrid

Best hybrid SUV for raising expectations

Latest Kia Niro deals from £16,995
Finance from £231 per month

Kia's Niro is available as a plug-in hybrid as well as a standard hybrid model, which is much cheaper, but still brings low company car tax rates and delivers excellent fuel economy in town and city driving.

On faster roads and over longer distances, fuel economy of around 50mpg is comparable to a diesel crossover. The Niro uses an advanced dual-clutch gearbox, which changes gear quickly, delivering smooth - if not lightning quick - acceleration. Combined with a reasonable amount of interior space, a high level of standard equipment and Kia's seven-year warranty, the Niro makes an excellent case as a family car.

As prices of used plug-in Niros continue to drop (the cheapest currently available on BuyaCar costs £20,524 or £275 per month with finance), these cars are becoming more attractive, as they qualify for the lowest rate of company car tax and can handle a commute of 20 miles on electric power alone.
Kia Niro buying guide

Official fuel economy (hybrid) 76.3mpg CO2 86g/km


Lexus NX 300h

Best hybrid SUV for reliability

Latest Lexus NX deals from £22,149
Finance from £311 per month

Despite the extra complexity of having two power sources underneath the bonnet, the Lexus NX was ranked the most reliable new car to own in this year's Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, above all conventional petrol and diesel cars, with very few owners reporting any sort of issue.

The petrol-hybrid system makes the car extremely quiet and it comes extremely well-equipped, but doesn't offer the same efficiency as more recent hybrid models. This means that company car tax and fuel economy are no better than a standard diesel SUV. In fact, owners say that mpg in real-world conditions is worse than from a diesel, with less than 40mpg common in normal driving. It's also not as smooth as you might expect at slow speeds, where potholes and speed bumps create noticeable jolts.
Lexus NX buying guide

Official fuel economy 48.7mpg CO2 133g/km


Audi Q7 e-tron

Best hybrid SUV for comfort

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). Having a diesel engine means that fuel economy isn't disastrous on longer journeys, but powering this large and heavy SUV isn't a frugal exercise: without electrical assistance, you can expect 36mpg.

It 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.

The Q7 is not currently available to order from new, after the introduction of new emissions tests, which have increased the official CO2 figures for some hybrids, reducing their tax benefits. However, there are some used Q7 e-tron models available, which are still classed in the lowest company car tax band.
Audi Q7 buying guide

Official fuel economy 156.9mpg  CO2 48g/km


Volvo XC90 T8

Best hybrid SUV for seven seats

Large SUVs tend to be available with seven seats, but this is often removed from plug-in hybrid versions - such as the Audi Q7 e-tron and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - because the batteries required take up the space needed by the extra seats.

That's not the case with this Volvo, which has an electric range of around 20 miles as well as three rows of seats. It's just as spacious as other XC90s, and even the rear two spaces offer a reasonable amount of legroom. Once you've used the car's electrical power and the petrol engine takes over, fuel economy takes a dip, and the 30mpg that you can expect is a firm incentive to keep the car charged as much as possible.

Until this autumn the XC90 T8's official CO2 emissions put it in the lowest company car tax bracket, but a new testing method has increased the figure of more recent models to at least 59g/km CO2.
Volvo XC90 buying guide

Official fuel economy 108.6mpg  CO2 59g/km


Range Rover Sport

Best hybrid SUV for on- and off-road excellence

A £5,000 annual company car tax saving over a standard diesel model is the headline figure that's likely to make you consider this plug-in hybrid version of the Range Rover Sport, which exactly matches the car's price premium over a diesel Range Rover Sport.

The electric-only range of around 25 miles is roughly in line with competitors and its performance (when petrol engine and motor combine) is swift, if lagging behind Porsche's Cayenne hybrid model. However, a familiar problem looms when the electrical energy runs out and the burden of powering the 2.5 ton car falls entirely on the petrol engine: fuel economy plummets to around 30mpg.

It may not be a problem if you're not paying your fuel bills, but doesn't really make this car a green choice. The extra batteries also means that there's no seven-seat option either.
Range Rover Sport buying guide

Official fuel economy 91.1mpg CO2 71g/km


Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2.0 GX3H

Best hybrid SUV for low company car tax

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 removed for current plug-in hybrid cars.

But the Outlander PHEV is still a relatively unique offering: an affordable SUV - particularly on the used market - which is still classed in the lowest company car tax band despite the introduction of a new testing method.

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.
Mitsubishi Outlander buying guide

Official fuel economy 139mpg  CO2 46g/km


Toyota C-HR Hybrid

Best hybrid SUV for low budgets

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 is closer to 60mpg in real-world driving.

The crossover - offering the dimensions of a hatchback with a higher driving position - is little more expensive than a standard petrol-powered Nissan Qashqai 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.
Toyota C-HR buying guide

Official fuel economy 74.3mpg  CO2 86g/km


Range Rover

Best hybrid SUV for luxury 

Seen by many as the ultimate in luxury SUVs, the Range Rover has added a plug-in hybrid variant to its line-up. This combines a petrol engine that produces a substantial 300 horsepower, with an electric motor that adds a further 116hp. The combined 404hp, when you give the accelerator a firm prod, will really make this green Range Rover go. It can accelerate from 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 137mph.

The economy figures are most unlike a car that's this large and imposing, but the disparity between these and your real-world experience can be enormous. It can manage between 20 to 25 miles of electric-only driving but when the batteries are exhausted, the petrol engine has to work hard to keep the hefty SUV moving, despite its power. This cuts fuel economy to 25mpg and means that anyone who regularly travels long distances will be better off with a diesel.

However, the company car tax benefits are considerable. The plug-in Range River might not be in the very lowest tax band but its CO2 emissions are considerably lower than the 200g/km emitted by the most efficient diesel. This can amount to a saving of £5,500 per year for a 40 per cent taxpayer. 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.
Range Rover buying guide

Official fuel economy 91.1mpg CO2 72g/km

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