Currently reading: Top 10 best plug-in hybrid hatchbacks 2022
Our favourite plug-in hybrids from the more affordable end of the spectrum

CO2-based taxation rules and growing environmental concerns make the idea of running a large, diesel-powered saloon or estate as a company car a pretty unattractive one in 2022 for the vast majority of people.

As these rules get ever stricter, a similar shift is starting to occur further down the food chain too. The small-capacity petrol and diesel hatchbacks that might have once appealed as an entry-level company car are starting to become increasingly expensive ownership propositions. From a financial point of view, it's unlikely to be too long until the prospect of running a mid-spec, oil-burning Volkswagen Golf for work is about as seemingly nonsensical as running a six-cylinder BMW might be today.

Thankfully, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are more widely available, and cheaper, than ever before. This more affordable end of the market is largely dominated by the Volkswagen Group brands, but there’s a growing number of alternatives, too.

1. Volkswagen Golf GTE

When it came to the job of being a refined, easy-driving plug-in hybrid, the previous Golf GTE was a pretty slick operator. What it lacked, though, was some of the dynamic pep that was essential for it to be taken seriously as an eco-friendly alternative to the excellent Mk7 Golf GTI.

This new Mk8 version retains a healthy amount of what made the last Golf GTE a good PHEV but brings an additional smattering of athleticism and engagement to the table too. Grip levels are good, its steering accurate and responsive, and body control usefully tight. Make no mistake: it’s still not quite as focused as its purely petrol-powered stablemate, but by PHEV standards, the new GTE has enough talent about it to keep keener drivers interested. 

It now has a 13kWh battery too, as opposed to the 8.8kWh one that appeared in the last version. This means its claimed electric range is up to 38 miles on the WLTP cycle, although you’d be hard-pressed to achieve that in the real world. Still, that figure combined with a CO2 rating of 26g/km means the GTE slots into the 12% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax band.

Admittedly, with a price of just over £37,000, the GTE is one of the pricier cars on this list. A cheaper Golf eHybrid is available with just 201bhp, but the price difference is small enough that the GTE is the better buy. That said, bear in mind that the lower-powered car has a claimed electric range of over 40 miles so qualifies for 8% BIK, which adds up to quite a saving on your monthly tax. (Lower-rate earners will save around £50 per month compared with the GTE. You pays your money and all that.)

The Golf shares its powertrain with some of the other cars here, but it also manages to form the most cohesive package because it’s one of the more entertaining plug-in hybrids without becoming unduly harsh in its ride quality.


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Volkswagen golf gte 2020 uk first drive review hero front

2. Skoda Octavia iV

If the Golf GTE is our pick for a plug-in hatchback that offers at least some driver engagement, the Skoda Octavia is the down-to-earth choice. With prices starting from £31,000, it’s quite a lot cheaper than the Golf, but also a lot roomier. If you need even more practicality, for around £1000 more, there’s an ultra-practical estate. 

The normal Octavia iV comes with the same 201bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain as the Golf eHybrid and that suits the Skoda’s laid-back chassis just fine. There is an iV version of the Octavia vRS, but that is neither the Octavia nor the vRS at its best.

Stick with the standard one and it’ll be the kind of car you’d think nothing of covering big miles in, from where you’d be enjoying a superb interior. As usual with plug-in hybrids, the 43-mile electric will be hard to replicate in the real world, but at least it will bag company car drivers a tidy 8% BIK rate, in the lower-powered car at least. The vRS is rated at 12%.

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Skoda octavia hatch lt

3. Peugeot 308 Hybrid 180

Tempted by the DS 4, but put off by its high price? Peugeot is putting the same plug-in hybrid powertrain in the new 308, but is offering it with a lower-power output and cheaper entry price. The Hybrid 180 version starts from £33,000, undercutting the Golf eHybrid. 

Our experience of the car has been positive: the 308 ably balances ride and handling, and the hybrid powertrain is quite refined. The infotainment system leaves something to be desired, though, and rear-seat space is cramped. Nonetheless, this car acts as a welcome reminder that the compact family hatch template is still hard to beat when it comes to melding practicality, value and dynamic sparkle to the man or woman on the street.

We have also tried the 308 Hybrid 225 and found the same qualities reflected. However, while the additional power is nice to have, it does inflate the price to a point where the 308 struggles to justify itself. Either way, the Peugeot claims to crack the important 40-mile threshold for EV range, meaning it qualifies for a BIK rate of just 8%.

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Peugeot 308 hybrid

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4. Vauxhall Astra Hybrid-e

In many ways, the Astra and Peugeot 308 are interchangeable in this list, not least because under the skin they're largely the same car. The Vauxhall's sharp-edged 'Vizor' design treatment arguably gives it the edge in showroom appeal, but the French car's fractionally more fluid ride and handling help it finish a place ahead in this list.

Like the 308, the Astra gets a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine that's mated to an electric motor and drives the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, although currently you can buy only the 178bhp version. It's relatively smooth and refined, plus the electronics do a decent job of seamlessly shuffling between the two power sources. The Vauxhall also handles with crisp precision thanks to its accurate steering and good body control, but it doesn't flow down the road with quite the panache of its Gallic cousin. 

Elsewhere, you get similar strengths and weaknesses as the 308, so the Astra rides quietly and cuts through the air cleanly, but the rear seats are a little cramped by class standards. It also claims a similar EV range (43 miles) from its 12.4kWh battery and slots into the wallet-friendly 8% BIK banding.

1 Vauxhall astra gs line front action

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5. Audi A3 40 TFSI e

If you’ve already read reviews of the hybrid Golf, Octavia or Leon, there will be no great surprises with the A3. Built on the same MQB platform and featuring the same 1.4-litre engine, dual-clutch gearbox and 13kWh battery pack, it has much of the same strengths and foibles as its platform siblings.

It’s available as a 40 TFSIe with 201bhp, or as a 45 TFSIe with 242bhp. We tried the 40 and found it more than adequate, so we’d bank the premium demanded by the 45 or invest it in some optional equipment. 

The A3 suffers from the same unsettled ride as the other Volkswagen Group hybrids, but justifies its price premium with its cabin, which features both superior materials and ergonomics. However, with a premiun price and an EV range the wrong side of 40 miles, the Audi will leave your pay packet lighter each month than most here.

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Audi a3 40 tfsi e

6. DS 4 E-Tense 225

So far, the plug-in hybrid hatchback market has been dominated by Volkswagen Group brands. While the other manufacturers were napping, they stuck their 1.4-litre hybrid powertrain in practically every car that would take it and made strides to capture the lucrative company car market. However, Stellantis is on the case too.

We’ve seen the combo of a 1.6-litre four-cylinder, a battery pack and an eight-speed auto before in SUVs and crossovers such as the DS 7 Crossback and the Vauxhall Grandland X, as well as the Peugeot 508 saloon and estate. And now it has come to a premium hatchback in the form of the DS 4. 

We’ve yet to spend more than a few hours with one, but a drive in the UK of a left-hand-drive car augurs well. The harshness we experienced in earlier versions of this powertrain appears to have been banished, DS’s style seems to be maturing, and the 4 offers a smooth ride. You’ll need at least £37,000, though, which is more than an Audi A3. The DS is more powerful than the A3 40 TFSI e and does offer a bit more standard equipment, so if you want to avoid the German brands, the 4 is one to consider. 

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01 Ds ds4 e tense 225 rt 2022 hero track 0

7. Cupra Formentor

The Cupra Formentor is a crossover rather than a true hatchback, but with its hunkered-down driving position, rakish looks and surprisingly engaging handling, we’ll allow it a pass into this category.

Like its VW Group brethren, it’s available with 201bhp or 242bhp, but as with the Golf, the faster version is worth having. When the full 295lb ft hits the front wheels, it can be a raucous experience, but it’s somehow fitting. The ride is remarkably compliant and our photographers had no issues carting their considerable gear around in our long-term test Formentor.

While the brand's Ateca and Leon still feel like go faster Seats, the Formentor finally allows the Cupra brand to express itself and mark it out as an entity in its own right. The fact that this distinctive-looking machine is arguably its best offering therefore seems fitting.

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Cupra formentor hybrid

8. Seat Leon e-Hybrid

You probably know what we’re going to say here: the Seat Leon e-Hybrid shares most of its mechanical components with the Golf, Octavia, A3 and Formentor. However, it’s the least cohesive of them all. 

That’s not to say it’s a bad plug-in hybrid - not by any stretch. It just lacks a real standout feature, be it performance, comfort, space or a low price. It’s a good all-rounder, though. One thing it’s got in its favour is that it’s also available as an estate. But then so is the Octavia, which offers way more space.

Performance from the Leon’s 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine is strong, and it combines seamlessly with its electric counterpart to provide smooth, controlled acceleration in a mixture of environments. It does sound a bit vocal at times, though, which isn’t something we experienced in the Golf.

Nevertheless, ride quality is decent enough to escape heavy criticism, and its interior is usefully spacious - if a little dull looking. And while it doesn’t handle with the vim or vigour of the best hatchbacks, it nonetheless changes direction in a precise, controlled fashion that’s underwritten by good grip levels.

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As well as the Seat Leon, there is also the Cupra Leon e-Hybrid. On paper, it sounds like it should give the Leon the performance and handling panache it’s missing, but in practice it’s too confused about what it wants to be. If it’s a hot hatchback, then it’s not engaging or agile enough, and if it’s just a quick PHEV, then it’s closer to the mark but still dynamically unsettled to the point that it’s not relaxed enough in daily driving.

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1 Seat leon ehybrid fr 2020 uk firstdrive hero front

9. Kia Xceed PHEV

Kia used to offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain in the Ceed Sportswagon, the estate version of the Ceed hatchback. Sadly, that is no more, and if you want a hybrid Ceed, you’ve no choice but to go for the Ceed on stilts, the Xceed. Recently revised (although the facelift is of the 'blink and you'll miss it' variety), the not-quite-a-crossover model is a surprisingly appealing proposition.

Because it’s based on the range-topping 3 specification, the level of standard equipment is very generous, with everything from heated seats and part-leather upholstery, to satellite navigation and a comprehensive suite of active safety systems included right out of the box. It rides and handles very tidily indeed – better than the Ceed hatchback in fact, flowing down the road with similar poise but greater comfort. 

That said, its electrified powertrain isn’t the most impressive system we’ve encountered. It juggles both power sources sufficiently smoothly, but its electric motor isn’t particularly punchy at low speeds and its normally aspirated petrol engine is prone to feeling strained under higher throttle loads.

Still, its 35-mile range is competitive for the class and puts it in the 12% BIK band. Were it not for the slightly disappointing performance afforded by its powertrain, it’s easy to see this Kia climbing even further up this list.

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Kia xceed pheve 2022001 trakcing front

10. Mercedes-Benz A250e

Clearly, the three German premium manufacturers have differing views on electrified hatchbacks. Audi got there very early with the A3 E-tron and is now into its second generation of plug-in A3, but a plug-in BMW 1 Series is nowhere to be seen. Mercedes-Benz took a bit more time, but came up with the A250e in the end.

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It's quite an impressive short-range electric car. Its electric motor feels quite powerful, punching fairly hard at town speeds and keeping it up out of town well enough that you needn't rouse the pistons if you don't want to. There are lots of options for adjusting battery regeneration settings to your preference, too.

More's the pity, then, that the combustion engine is so noisy when it starts - and particularly when it revs. In other respects, too, this should have been a more rounded, better-riding and more drivable car. It's efficient and fairly comfortable, but ride isolation isn't as good as it should be, and drivability suffers as a result of the car's unpredictable 'auto regen' software, which seeks to regulate the car's tendency either to coast or to harvest power automatically on a trailing throttle but is seldom easy to predict.

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1 Mercedes benz a250e 2020 rt hero front 0

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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