17.8.2016Best plug-in hybrid cars 2016
Plug-in hybrid vehicles have seen a rapid increase in popularity as they offer many of the benefits of a pure-electric car, but without the range and charging limitations. PHEV owners can make savings in fuel costs thanks to higher MPG figures, VED rates as all PHEVs are in zero-cost Band A, and company car tax BIK rates are amongst the lowest available - all of which make cost reductions close to those levels of an electric car. However, there isn't the essential need to charge it every 70-100 miles as there is with an EV since there is always a conventional engine available to take over.
Despite this, PHEVs do have an electric-only range, typically between 15 and 30 miles. The more the owner uses this and recharges the car's battery via a plug rather than with the engine, the greater the financial benefits. Although the relatively short electric range - considering a typical EV will reach at least 60 miles and more often closer to 100 before its battery is drained - there are a great many trips that will can be covered by this distance. The school run, shops, and commute often fall within the scope of a PHEV's electric range, and regular charging means many owners will go for months before they need to top up the fuel tank.
Below Next Green Car has picked the best PHEVs currently available in the UK, with a wide selection of models available.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
We start with the UK's best-selling plug-in car - Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV - all the more impressive considering the second placed Nissan Leaf has been on sale for twice the amount of time. Part of its success is that the Mitsubishi has one of the best electric ranges at 32 miles.
A recent refresh for the range has seen the Outlander PHEV become far more refined inside and out, while the petrol-electric drivetrain remains one of the most effective on the market, helped by the ability to select multiple different levels of brake energy recuperation. It drives well, is competitively priced, well equipped, and has the ability to go almost anywhere thanks to its all-wheel drive system. With the ability to seat seven or be specified as a van, the Mitsubishi is one of the most flexible vehicles around, while the ability to use rapid charging points is uncommon for PHEVs and allows drivers to make greater use of the car's battery.
VW Golf GTE
It is a tough decision to pick between the VW and Audi's A3 e-tron since they are largely the same car underneath - however the Golf GTE wins out because it is a more engaging drive. With the GTE, Volkswagen has added an electric element to the GT range which includes the famous GTI and practical GTD.
With the PHEV GTE though, VW has made one of the most complete cars around, with all the practical elements that makes the Golf so good, combined with a petrol-electric drivetrain that blends power and efficiency. The Golf GTE will drive round on electric power for about 30 miles, but when the driver wishes, they can press the GTE button and turn the Golf into a true hot-hatch. Handling is sharp but supple enough for every day use, while the instant pick-up of the electric motor is equally useful for nipping out of junctions as it is for rushing along a B-road. The Golf, as one of the most complete cars on the market, is only made better because of its electric powertrain.
Volvo V60 Twin Engine
This traditional Volvo estate is a little different, not only because it was the first compact executive car to come with a PHEV option, but also because it is fitted with a diesel engine. This diesel-electric mix is unusual because - apart from CO2 emissions - petrol engines tend to be cleaner to run.
However, the V60 Twin Engine is a solution for those reviews that say something like 'the PHEV is good, but for those that driver long distances, a diesel will still be the better choice'. In the shape of the V60, you have the best of both options - a long-range capable diesel engine that still returns around 60 MPG even when the battery isn't charged, yet can operate for around 30 miles on electric only range. It's the ideal inner-city/motorway car. The rear is almost as spacious as its non-electrified variants, meaning the load area is ample for most of life's needs, while the driving experience is typically Volvo - that is to say comfortable and refined. Previously this model would not have been listed here as it is too expensive for what it offers, but Volvo has recently released an entry-level option (which is far from sparsely equipped) which bring the price down dramatically and makes it one of the best value cars around.
Mercedes Benz C 350 e
The Mercedes C Class is a refined, comfortable and excellent executive car in its own right - mixing it with the models from BMW, Audi, and Jaguar. Fitted with a petrol-electric powertrain though, the Mercedes C 350 e is able to offer very low emissions and high MPG figures.
The electric only range isn't the greatest around at around 20 miles, but there are a number of clever systems to help make the most of it - including a sat-nav that will let the car decide when is the best time to use battery charge for maximum efficiency. A beautiful interior is complemented by a stylish exterior, and although the load space of the saloon is impacted upon quite significantly because of the battery, there is an estate available that suffers far less from this problem.
BMW i3 REX
The BMW i3 REX is possibly the ultimate example of PHEV since it is a range extended vehicle. This means that a compact petrol engine never drives the wheels, but acts only as an on-board generator for the electric battery. It is the motor that powers the car, making the BMW half EV/half PHEV.
Because of this, the i3 REX's economy figures are much closer to those of an EV than those of a petrol car - all the while offering zero-tailpipe emission miles since it can be charged externally too. A new larger capacity battery only enhances the i3 offering, and drivers can expect the traditional engaging BMW driving experience. Rapid acceleration and nimble handling make the i3 fun to drive as well as a frugal machine. The futuristic looks aren't to everyone's taste, but the interior is nice and minimalist, while the technology under the bonnet should convince all drivers to give it a try.
Best plug-in hybrid cars 2016
There are so many excellent PHEVs available at the moment that there are a number of models that could have easily have made the above list. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and from a number of manufacturers too, deserve a listing - including the Audi A3 e-tron already mentioned. The VW Group also has the new VW Passat GTE available which, like the Golf GTE, takes an excellent car and makes it even better thanks to the petrol-electric drivetrain.
BMW has a wealth of PHEV options too, with an entire sub-brand called iPerformance created to house them all. The X5 40e SUV and 740e luxury saloon are both at the top end of the car spectrum - with only the i8 sportscar sitting above them. There are more humble BMW PHEVs though in the shape of the 330e compact executive saloon and 225xe MPV.
Joining the VW Group and BMW as a leading advocate of electrified ranges is Volvo which, following on from the V60, has released the XC90 Twin Engine. Again, this uses a petrol-engined XC90 - in itself one of the class-leading SUVs around - and improves it with a PHEV option. Soon to arrive too are the Volvos S90 and V90 executive saloon and estates respectively, while Mercedes is also ramping up its PHEV line-up by filling in the gap between the C Class and S Class plug-in saloons with the forthcoming E Class PHEV models.
For those who want to see what other PHEVs are available to buy, use NGC's PHEV Search for a complete list. It's worth taking a look at our buying guide too which explains in greater detail the positives and negatives of EV ownership and what to look out for, to make sure a plug-in car is the best choice for you.