Currently reading: Top 10 best hybrid SUVs 2023
We pick the very best hybrid SUVs on the road, with compact, family and luxury models all making the cut

Could the plug-in hybrid be about to experience a boost in popularity? For a while these ‘best of both worlds’ machines were seen as the next big thing, but the UK Government’s decision to cancel all financial grants for these pricey models saw sales slump as buyers looked to either petrol or diesel models, or still-subsidised EVs. PHEVs were dealt a further blow when the EU announced a wholesale ban on all ICE cars from 2030. 

And yet there’s a growing sense that these petrol-electric models could be back in the frame for sales success. Why? Well, for starters there’s increasing consumer disquiet about the 2030 legislation, a mood that could force the powers-that-be to perform a swift U-turn. Moreover, quite a few observers have noticed that the proposed rules are a little vague, suggesting only that a vehicle can travel ‘a significant distance’ in zero-emissions-at-the-tailpipe EV mode. How far is that then? Who knows. But with many PHEVs comfortably able to travel more than 40 miles on a charge, which is far in excess of most drivers daily needs, there could be a reprieve on the cards.

For many, that will be a very good thing, because for most people most of the time the PHEV makes a lot of sense. For commuting and most running around there’s a very usable range, while any trips further afield can be made without having to rely on an EV charging network that’s still in its infancy. And while these petrol-electric models are still expensive to buy, they continue to attract preferential Benefit-in-Kind taxation rates for company car drivers, which usually makes them a far more wallet-friendly alternative to traditional motors. In fact, it's in the context of the corporate car park that these bi-fuel models make the most sense as the will all help their users save a packet when it comes to tax.

Finally, plug-in powertrains do make a lot of sense when they’re installed in SUV models, where the bulk of the battery and extra electric motors can usually be accommodated without any loss in space and practicality. And because these off-road flavoured machines continue to be hugely popular with buyers, there’s a wide choice of contenders, from relatively affordable compact crossovers to high priced and higher performance luxury machines.

So without further ado, here are our top 10 hybrid SUVs of 2023 so far.

1. BMW X5 xDrive50e

A refreshed version of the BMW X5 has just landed in showrooms, but as before the star attraction of the plug-in version is its creamy smooth 3.0-litre straight-six, which works in tandem with an electric motor to give both a startling turn of speed and surprisingly running costs. Given its head, this combination musters an impressive 485bhp, while the electric motor has enough urge to make the car feel brisk enough while mooching around. Speaking of which, thanks an enlarged 25.7kWh battery the X5 can travel on pure electricity for up to 66 miles, which is both nifty and allows the car to qualify for the UK government's 8% BIK tax bracket.

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Elsewhere, increase in kerbweight aside (this BMW causes the scales to creak under strain of 2495kg), the 50e should like any other X5. And while we've yet to drive the updated version, it's essentially the old car underneath. That means it’ll be an enjoyable steer by the standards of most hybrid SUVs, or even non petrol-electric one’s for that matter. That muscular six-cylinder turbo petrol plays very nicely with the electric motor for smooth and strong acceleration, while the handling is surprisingly nimble for one so vast. 

Inside, quality is good enough to shade pretty much anything else on this list, and practicality is strong despite the fact that the packaging of the PHEV drive battery robs the car of its third-row seats, and a little of its cargo capacity. 

Factor in hushed refinement and a cushioned ride, and the X5 is our hybrid hot tip.


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2. Volvo XC90 Recharge T8

Age has not dimmed the XC90’s appeal, and if anything the super-sized Swede is getting better as it nears its tenth birthday. Unlike many in this class, the Volvo PHEV is a genuinely usable seven-seater, while its interior is stylish and inviting. Like its German rival above, the XC90 has benefitted from a recent battery upgrade, which allows it to travel just over 40 miles on electric power alone and so fall into the 8% BIK bracket.

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It’s not as dynamic to drive as the BMW, while its 2.0-litre petrol (super and turbocharged no less) and electric motor combo (badged T8 Recharge) lacks the sophistication and breeding of a six-cylinder. Yet with a whisker under 400bhp it's effective enough, slingshotting the XC90 from standstill to 62mph in a scant 5.4 seconds - there plenty of sports cars that are slower. Yet the Volvo is at its best when taking its steady, its cool Scandinavian vibes, quiet cabin and supple ride creating a chilled out driving experience that’s guarantee to lower your heart rate and stress levelsVolvo xc90 top 10

3. 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 struggle to get their heads (and wallets) around their £45,000-plus prices, but a BIK rating of 8% means it makes much more sense as a company car choice as it significantly undercuts similarly priced rivals with a lower EV range. It's worth noting, too, that while the RAV4 can charge at a rate of 6.6kW, the Suzuki is limited to 3.3kW.

Toyota rav4 top 10

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4. Hyundai Santa Fe

Not only is the Hyundai Santa Fe an Autocar award winner, it’s available with one of the widest array of powertrains, including pure ICE, hybrid and plug-in options. Of the three, it’s the latter that best suits the character of a car that’s as likely to be attacking the school run as it mooching along motorways.

With a combined output of 261bhp there’s just enough energy for brisk acceleration, while the accurate and assured handling is matched to a decent dose of comfort - few cars are as relaxing to drive. If there’s an issue then it’s the fact the Korean machine is limited to an EV range of just 31 miles, meaning it falls into a higher 12% BiK banding. However, given the Santa Fe undercuts some of the premium models in this list on price, you won’t be stung by as much as you think when it comes to paying tax.

More importantly, you’ll still be saving over an equivalent petrol or diesel, while the Santa Fe’s smart and spacious interior is proof positive that the brand’s premium aspirations aren’t misplaced. It’s also extremely well-equipped for the cash and has all the space a growing family could need, even if the third row seats are best reserved for kids. Other highlights include the excellent build quality and the lure, for private buyers at least, of a lengthy five-year warranty.

Hyundai santa fe top 10

5. 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.

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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, its 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.

Volvo xc60 top 10

6. Range Rover Sport P440e

Now in its third generation, the most dynamic of all Range Rovers is, unsurprisingly, the best yet. At the heart of the car’s appeal is the brand’s latest plug-in hybrid drivetrain that combines a lusty turbocharged Ingenium 3.0-litre straight-six with a gearbox-mounted electric motor and very generous 38.2kWh battery. The result is an impressive electric only range of 70 miles, enough that many owners are ever likely to stir the ICE unit in most driving situations. Of course, it also qualifies for an attractively low 8% company car tax rate, meaning it's a no brainer if you're a company director who wants to save cash while also creating the right impression in the corporate car park.

In terms of cosseting luxury there’s not a car on this list that can match the Range Rover, its spacious and opulent interior dripping in rich materials and the sort of slick tech that adds plenty of showroom appeal. On the move it’s nearly as quiet and comfy as its big brother, but the addition of four-wheel steering and active anti-roll adds an extra dimension of agility and driver engagement. It’s not cheap, but the best things in life rarely are.

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Range rover sport top 10

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, because the Merc is rated at just 8%.

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.

Mercedes benz gle top 10

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8. 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, while it’s lower price will help offset its higher company car banding.

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.

Peugeot 3008 top 10

9. 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.

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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.

Kia sorento top 10

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10. 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, even if its 12% rating falls short of some newer models with larger batteries and greater EV autonomy.

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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.

Ford kuga top 10

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James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

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harf 4 July 2023

Oh dear, PHEVs - where to start? Two main issues for me

 1. should always, always, have had their emissions based on a combination of battery full and battery empty. Stop manufacturers taking the p!ss by managing to package a big battery with a turbo V8 and this be considered an eco car. Whereas a smaller, lighter car can't fit a big enough battery to be able to achieve the required EV only range. Utter nonsense

 2. neighbour has a Mercedes C350e, 7 years old and 35k mileage and worth £13.5k trade in if working. A failure of the high voltage battery has left her with no choice but to pay a £9k (!) replacement cost otherwise the car won't move and has no value. So we're going to start writing off cars when they're worth £9k are we?

 For someone who typically owns cars 7-12yrs old I'll be avoiding PHEVs for as long as possible. The paltry fuel savings are completely offset by battery replacement costs or insurance to cover you against it happening

The Apprentice 4 July 2023
The Toyota is the only one with a sufficiently efficient hybrid system that as the article states can still do 45mpg even with a flat battery making odd long runs not super expensive. All the others will be in the 25 to 35mpg area when flat so its the only truly 'universal' vehicle in practice.
And so what actually 12 April 2021

these are all PHEVs, is that the only type of Hybrid? 

They can easily cheat their emissions tests in the real world. These are heavy cars often not being charged by the user.

Why not include a FHEV or 2 to mix it up?