Best plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars 2022

A petrol engine for long journeys and an electric motor for short ones if you charge the car: these are the best plug-in hybrids

BuyaCar team
Jun 9, 2022

Want to move towards an electric car but not ready to say goodbye to the security of petrol or diesel power just yet? You're not the only one. While it's true a car with a small petrol engine is much kinder to the environment than it used to be, switching to a hybrid or even an electric car will undoubtedly reduce your carbon footprint further still.

Plug-in hybrid technology is becomingly increasingly common across the board, with a majority of manufacturers producing plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants of current models, or even introducing new ranges dedicated to hybrid and electric tech - think Hyundai's Ioniq.

A plug-in hybrid car saves fuel by making use of a large battery and an electric motor. In most cases, plug-in hybrids can travel up to around 30 miles on electric power alone before the petrol engine takes over and runs just like a normal car. This means plug-in hybrids are best suited to a very specific set of needs.

If you rarely travel more than 30 miles in a day, and you have the capacity to charge the car's battery overnight, you would be able to rely entirely on electric power and your fuel tank would be redundant. Likewise, if you regularly need to drive into central London, the ability to switch to electric power means you will be exempt from the ULEZ charge.

However, if you're typically travelling much further than those 30 miles, chances are a plug-in hybrid isn't for you. The fact you're also carrying around a large and heavy battery pack has a massive impact on fuel efficiency, and you'll very quickly find that you're actually spending more on fuel than you would be driving a standard petrol car. 

Our explainer articles will help you decide which type of hybrid car is best for you, but if you're set on a plug-in hybrid, these options below are the best that are currently on offer.

Best PHEVs 2022

1. Hyundai Ioniq

Best plug-in hybrid for value

Our pick Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi PHEV
Used deals Limited stock
Fuel economy
CO2 26g/km

The Hyundai Ioniq's strength is that it's just a normal car. The 341-litre boot is close to the size of an average family hatchback, adults will be comfortable in the back seats, and the design doesn't scream "eco-warrior".

It has an all-electric range of around 32 miles but the engine usually kicks in under acceleration and up hills, no matter how much the battery is charged, as the car's software calculates the most efficient way to provide swift performance and smooth performance. Just make sure you don't get confused between the plug-in Ioniq and the similar-looking self-charging hybrid and electric versions.


2. Toyota Prius

Best plug-in hybrid for fuel economy

Our pick Toyota Prius Plug-in
Used deals Limited stock
Fuel economy
CO2 28g/km

For ultimate fuel economy from a plug-in hybrid car, it's hard to beat the Toyota Prius Plug-in, which is ultra-frugal in town and surprisingly economical on longer journeys, when electric assistance is limited: 65mpg from a motorway journey is not unusual.

It's extremely quiet and comfortable and its electric range is similar to the Ioniq but the Prius Plug-in is let down by its small 191-litre boot. This could, however, save you money - by limiting the amount that you can buy on shopping trips!


3. BMW i3

Best plug-in hybrid for impressing the neighbours

Our pick BMW i3 REx
Used deals Limited stock
Fuel economy
CO2 19g/km

New BMW i3s are only available as electric cars, but in the i3's first few years on sale the company also offered a 'Range Extender' (REx) version, which included a small petrol engine.

It works a little differently from most other hybrids because the 650cc motorbike engine is primarily used to charge up the battery when it gets low. This means that the car runs on electric power for around 90 miles, at which point you'll hear the thrum of the motor starting up. The extra charge provided can keep you going for another 90 miles or so, at which point you either need to recharge the battery or fill up the small fuel tank. This means only the electric motor drives the wheels - the petrol motor doesn't, instead it charges the battery, like an in-car generator.

Fortunately, the engine doesn't affect the i3's spacious and airy interior, which maximises the benefits of the compact underpinnings of an electric car.


4. Kia Niro

Best plug-in hybrid for frugal crossover driving

Our pick Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV
Used deals Limited stock
Fuel economy
CO2 31g/km

The Kia Niro shares many of its mechanical parts - and hybrid system - with the Hyundai Ioniq. Previously, it was an appealing prospect to company car drivers as it sat in the lowest Benefit in Kind tax bracket, however this has since changed and only electric cars attract the lowest rates.

It's also a popular shape, as it's a crossover car: a Ford Focus-sized hatchback that's raised up, and comes with leather seats, a JBL sound system, and front and rear parking sensors as standard.

The car's height has forced engineers to make the ride firmer than the Hyundai Ioniq or Toyota Prius Plug-in at the top of the list, so you can expect less settled journeys on bumpy roads. 


5. Mini Countryman

Best plug-in hybrid for nimble practicality

Our pick Mini Cooper 1.5 PHEV
Used deals from £16,500 Fuel economy 157mpg
CO2 40g/km

The Mini Countryman promises the image and driving appeal of the brand's smaller cars, with the practicality of a larger car, for families who need more room. On the whole, it's a success, even though you'll have to accept a few jolts over potholes, as a firm ride helps to create a sporty and responsive feel in corners.

This large Mini should appeal to the head, with an efficient plug-in hybrid system, and a 30-or-so-mile electric-only range does make sense for many users.

Be aware that earlier models were slightly less efficient, meaning they may fall into more expensive tax brackets, particularly for company car drivers.


6. Volvo XC90

Best plug-in hybrid for seven seats

Our pick Volvo XC90 T8
Used deals from £30,000 Fuel economy 101mpg
CO2 63g/km

The XC90 is the largest car in the Volvo range and comes in a seven-seat configuration with all of the latest safety tech and semi-autonomous driving technology.

It also uses three driving modes that allow you to switch between electric, petrol, or a combination of the two. Early models won’t go far in pure electric mode (barely 20 miles) but newer versions promise around 40 miles, and using both sources of power it can either be economical or punchy. The latest models, tested to new emissions standards, don't quite make it into the lowest tax bracket, though.


7. Volkswagen Passat Estate

Best plug-in hybrid for practicality

Our pick Volkswagen Passat Estate 1.4 TSI GTE
Used deals from £18,500 Official fuel economy 235mpg
CO2 27g/km

The Volkswagen Passat GTE competes against the diesels in a similar manner to the more expensive BMW 330e. It’s a busy market, and it’s up against very economical cars.

And the Passat GTE handles it with aplomb. It’s as well-sorted and as dependable as the regular Passat, but it boasts low CO2 figures of 27/km. In estate form, the boot measures 483 litres, which is sizeable. However, the batteries do steal some boot space, as regular non-hybrid Passat Estates boots are 650 litres by comparison. The latest model uses the efficient 1.5 TSI EVO petrol engine, while older models used a similarly powered 1.4-litre unit.


8. Range Rover

Best plug-in hybrid for luxury

Our pick Range Rover P400e
Used deals from £64,000 Fuel economy 85mpg
CO2 75g/km

There’s not much out there this side of a Rolls-Royce that will out-luxury a Range Rover - and now it’s available with a plug-in hybrid variation too.

It’s powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine making 300hp, which is used in conjunction with a 141hp electric motor. This certainly makes it powerful enough to haul the Range Rover’s plushly upholstered interior around, and it’ll get from 0-62mph in 6.4s. There’s a theoretical electric-only range of 25 miles too - certainly enough to get from Chelsea to wherever else in central London someone in a Range Rover might want to go.


9. Porsche Panamera

Best plug-in hybrid for speed

Our pick Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Used deals Limited stock
Fuel economy
CO2 61g/km

The Panamera is built for crossing continents in comfort, but that doesn't mean it's not fast. There is a range of hybrid options in the Panamera range, the fastest of which can race to 62mph in 3.2 seconds, and on to a top speed of 196mph where allowed.

Under the bonnet is a 571hp 4.0-litre V8 engine and a 136hp electric motor, which by itself can reach speeds of up to 87mph and travel up to 31 miles without digging into the power reserves of the petrol engine.

Other models of the plug-in Panamera come with more efficient, but still rapid, 3.0-litre V6 engines.


10. Audi A3

Best plug-in hybrid for grown-up interiors

Our pick Audi A3 40 TFSI e
Used deals Limited stock
Fuel economy 
CO2 30g/km

The Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e offers the low-running costs associated with hybrids, but it still delivers the usual refinements you’d expect from an Audi.

It's capable of covering up to 41 miles on electric power alone, which will be enough for many who rarely commute outside of their local area. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the A3 TFSI e in the eyes of many drivers is the fact you'll find very few differences between it and a petrol or diesel-powered A3. Where a Toyota Prius or BMW i3 can feel a bit alien, the A3 feels like home from the moment you sit down for the first time.

It’s powered by an electric motor and a 1.4-litre petrol engine, and it has a six-speed automatic gearbox too. The A3 TFSI e and Volkswagen Golf TSI eHybrid share many of the same mechanical parts, however the Golf promises slightly better figures of 306mpg and 21g/km. There is currently no Audi equivalent to the fast-paced Golf GTE.


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