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 are 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 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.
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 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 which qualifies for the UK government's six-per-cent benefit-in-kind 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.
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.