Hybrid SUVs are suddenly big business for all kinds of European car makers. Combining the fashionable sheen of an added-utility SUV bodystyle with a low-emissions electrified powertrain, they are practical, desirable family cars, some of which have become increasingly affordable - and, thanks to their plug-in powertrains, also WLTP-emissions-efficient enough to be run cheaply as company cars. Some of them even offer a bit of high-performance appeal, ticking just about every box going.
Hybrid powertrains combine the silent, emission-free driving of an EV with a traditional fuel tank that eliminates range anxiety. If you’re not quite ready to make the switch to an all-electric car, then, they may well be the perfect compromise. The government may not give you a grant to buy one any more, but the differences to your wallet may very well still make a plug-in hybrid worth the investment even if you're a private buyer.
They make particular financial sense in an SUV, where the equivalent diesel or petrol model can cost significantly more as a company car. Taller, larger SUVs have more room than hatchbacks, too, so the complex hybrid systems often don’t eat into cabin or boot space.
We’ve driven every hybrid SUV on sale in the UK today and have picked our favourites from the compact, family and luxury segments.
1. BMW X5 xDrive45e
The new BMW X5 plug-in hybrid has gained two extra cylinders yet somehow become more economical (on the official WLTP economy cycle at least) and more benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax-efficient at the same time. This feat has been achieved primarily thanks to a significant increase in battery capacity: the car now has 24kWh of the stuff, up from just 9.2kWh in the previous-generation X5 xDrive40e, and having a claimed electric range of 40 miles or more therefore is also one of very few PHEV options currently on sale that qualifies for the UK government's 8% BIK tax bracket.
Happily, what you're also getting here is an enjoyable steer by the standards of most hybrid SUVs. BMW's six-cylinder turbo petrol combines very nicely with the electric motor and makes plenty of power and torque, and cabin quality is good enough to shade the Volvo and pretty much anything else on this list. If you need plug-in hybrid power, the X5 xDrive45e is wonderful company.
2. Toyota RAV4 PHEV/Suzuki Across PHEV
While these two Japanese SUVs wear different badges on their noses, they are effectively one and the same thing. Both the RAV4 PHEV and Suzuki Across PHEV are based around Toyota's 2.5-litre plug-in hybrid powertrain, they share the same TNGA platform, the same spacious interiors, and both promise an impressive electric-only range - courtesy of their shared 18.1kWh battery.
It’s rare that you find a plug-in hybrid capable of matching its manufacturer's claim, but these cars do just that. During our road test of the Suzuki Across, we were able to travel 48 miles on electricity before its hybrid powertrain sparked back into life - a seriously impressive feat. Provided you’ve got access to a home charger, it’s entirely likely that you’d barely ever use the petrol motor.
Do so, though, and you’ll find that it’s both impressively potent in terms of its straight-line punch, and surprisingly frugal, too. Even with the drive battery drained, it can still easily return an economy figure that reaches into the mid-40s. That it handles in a really assured, confident fashion and rides calmly are further strings to its bow.
Some might baulk at their £45,000-plus prices, but a BIK rating of 8% should appeal to company car drivers. It’s worth noting, too, that while the RAV4 can charge at a rate of 6.6kW, the Suzuki is limited to 3.3kW.
3. Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e
Britain's blue-chip 4x4 specialist wasn't one of the first to the plug-in SUV niche, but it has recently launched a pair of compact SUV PHEVs. The Discovery Sport P300e is perhaps a shade less visually desirable than its Evoque PHEV relation, but it makes up for that with plenty of interior space and 4x4 capability. Even though, unlike other versions of the car, the P300e isn't available with seven seats, it retains its sliding second row.
The car combines an all-new three-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine and smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox up front with a powerful electric motor on the rear axle and a 15kWh drive battery. Claimed electric range is painfully close to the magic 40-mile marker (some versions of the car may yet exceed it); but even at just below it, with a real-world 30 miles possible on electric power, this plug-in Disco will go further than plenty of its rivals without rousing its pistons. Unlike a lot of PHEVs, it'll also do DC rapid charging when you're out and about at up to 32kW, which should come in very handy.
The car has a convincing aura of luxury, riding very comfortably indeed, remaining refined at all times and performing with plenty of torque and impressive smoothness. The edge of its appeal may be blunted for some by its 'range-extended' fuel economy, though, which is around 33mpg.
4. Volvo XC60 T6
Like the rest of the Volvo plug-in range, the handsome XC60 has been treated to some choice upgrades to its electrical hardware. The biggest change is the adoption of a larger 18.8kWh battery, which takes the car’s EV range capability to just short of 50 miles according to WLTP figures. Not only does that make this sybaritic SUV an even more relaxing companion, it drops it into a far more wallet-friendly 8% BiK band for business users.
As before there’s a flagship T8 version that serves-up petrol-electric combined might of 395bhp, but it weighs in with a price tag that’s uncomfortably close to £70,000. Better is the T6, which musters a still very respectable 345bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds, which is plenty for a near two-tonne SUV, especially one that prioritises cruising comfort over the high-jinx cornering antics that rivals such as the BMW X3 target. Better still, it’s motor and battery are identical to the more powerful version, so you get the same refined and effortless urge when you're travelling on electricity alone.
5. Peugeot 3008 Hybrid
A recent facelift has added some extra showroom appeal to Peugeot’s eye-catching compact crossover, which now features a more distinctive front end and a host of equipment upgrades. Under the skin it remains largely unchanged, which means you get a decent blend of comfort and refinement, plus enough poise when pressing on.
As before, there’s a pair of plug-in hybrids to choose from - a 222bhp front-wheel drive mode with a single electric motor, and twin motor 296bhp all-wheel drive option. It’s the former that makes the most sense, its sub £40,000 price tag in well-equipped Allure Premium guise offsetting the fact its claimed EV range is as little as 33 miles, landing it in the 12% BiK tax bracket - although that’s no different to almost all its immediate rivals.
On the move the ICE and electric motors are well integrated, ensuring smooth progress, plus it delivers a decent turn of speed. Take it easy and you can enjoy the 3008’s smartly designed and reasonably spacious interior that looks and feels more premium than you’d expect, even if the small steering wheel and high set instrument cluster of the brand’s trademark i-Cockpit layout take a little getting used to.
6. Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid
Now in its third-generation form, the popular Ford Kuga has finally discovered electrification. The range-topping plug-in hybrid version jumps straight into the upper echelons of this hybrid SUV chart for several reasons but none is more important than the car's BIK-tax-defining, lab-test-certified electric range, which, at just in excess of 30 miles, will make it cheaper to run for a fleet driver than plenty of its rivals.
The Kuga follows up that advantage in familiar ways. It's typically poised and sporty-feeling in its ride and handling, steering sweetly by class standards and maintaining good body control at all times, with a fairly taut but comfortable ride. The car's 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine, combined with its electric motor, doesn't give it commanding performance, with the car's transmission appearing to sap some of what's available. Even so, 0-62mph in less than 10sec is at least competitive for a car like this, and drivability is fine. Refinement is also surprisingly good.
Practicality is competitive for a compact SUV, and pricing for retail buyers is realistic. All up, as sensible and recommendable a Kuga as ever there was one.
7. Mercedes-Benz GLE 350de 4Matic
One of Mercedes' latest diesel-electric plug-in hybrids, the GLE 350de comes with a prohibitive-looking £65k price, but it's worthy of the attention of well-heeled company car drivers thanks to its large drive battery and class-leading WLTP electric-only range of 61 miles. That will deliver more competitive monthly BIK costs than you might think.
The car impressed us when running in electric and hybrid modes, with good powertrain responsiveness and drivability and excellent refinement. Its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder 'range-extending' diesel engine struggles a little bit to motivate what is a heavy car when the battery's flat; but with a real-world range that genuinely extends very close to the advertised claim, you might find that you don't use the combustion engine too often.
Ride comfort and isolation are very good, showing less evidence of the added weight of the car's electrified powertrain than its handling, which is a little bit soft and remote.
Meanwhile, for those with the added capability of a classic SUV in mind, the GLE 350de should also appeal as a tow car: it's rated to tow up to 2.7 tonnes on a braked trailer, which is much more than many electrified rivals.
8. Kia Sorento PHEV
The Sorento PHEV is one of a small handful of seven-seat plug-in hybrids on the market and, being a Kia, it doesn’t come with an exorbitant price. For a company car driver with a family in tow, this could be a done deal.
It makes use of a 1.6-turbocharged petrol engine and a beefier electric motor than you get in the underwhelming Sorento Hybrid, as well as a larger, 13.8kWh battery pack. Kia claims that it can travel up to 35 miles on electrons alone, which slots it nicely into the 12% BIK band. Performance is good in both electric and hybrid running modes, and while it’s hardly a vehicle to inspire a more spirited style of driving, it does at least handle with plenty of confidence - even if it wallows a bit on lumpier stretches of road.
Standard equipment is really strong, even in lower-end models, and the cabin is genuinely vast. Material quality might not be on quite the same level as that of some European rivals, but for sheer utility appeal, the Sorento is tough to beat. Not many seven-seat SUVs can comfortably accommodate adult passengers in their third rows, after all.
9. Volvo XC90 Recharge T8
Genuinely usable seven-seat cabins are few and far between, and ones with plug-in hybrid powertrains even more so. Volvo’s largest SUV manages both, with a fantastic blend of spaciousness, styling, cabin ambience and engine efficiency, beyond what you’d expect from a vehicle of its size.
It can travel just over 40 miles on electric power alone so falls into the 8% BIK bracket, meaning it's as tax-efficient as plug-in versions of the BMW X5 or Mercedes GLE. All that and it still has plenty of surprisingly classic 'big Volvo' ownership appeal.
10. BMW X3 xDrive30e
BMW has generally done very well in applying itself to the challenge of plug-in hybrid propulsion, and the presence of the X5 PHEV at the top of this chart is testament to that. The equivalent version of the X3 isn't quite such a fantasic advert for BMW, though.
It uses the same 2.0-litre petrol engine and 12kWh battery at the 330e saloon, but because it's bigger and heavier than that car, it doesn't apply them quite as well. Outright performance is good, although not outstanding, but electric range is a bit disappointing, at a real-world 20 miles or so, and electric-only performance is a little bit meek.
Part of the problem here is your own expectation. The X3's low-rise crossover profile and its reputation as a BMW for driver reward lead you to expect dynamic qualities that this X3 can't really deliver upon. It remains a competitive PHEV offering in some ways, but it's also one that loses out on boot space in its adaption for plug-in power.