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.
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 7% 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.
While these two Japanese SUVs might 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.