Volvo XC90 driving

10 best used plug-in hybrid cars

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are the ideal choice if you’re not quite ready to buy a fully electric vehicle or if you’re looking for a way to save money on petrol.

The thinking behind PHEVs is that drivers can count on the best of both worlds. The car uses a petrol or diesel engine combined with battery-powered electric motors that can be charged through a plug. The electric motors help to push the car along which saves you money on petrol. You can also enjoy the tax benefits and improved fuel economy that comes with owning a PHEV without giving up the reliability of a fuel tank.

If you think a conventional hybrid car might better suit your lifestyle instead of a PHEV, we've created a separate list of our favourite used hybrid cars here.

1. BMW 330e

The BMW 330e  is a sound choice for a well-rounded family saloon as it has plenty of space and BMW excels when it comes to the interior build quality and an easy to use infotainment system.

The German carmaker says the batteries alone can power the car for 25 miles. But in hybrids, drivers can let the car use a combination of the engine and batteries to go much further before they need a top up. If you do that, BMW claims you can cover 140 miles per gallon (mpg) of fuel used, which means you’ll be saving money on fuel, considering the average modern car will do 40 mpg. 

Though the numbers look good on paper, the real-world figures are often slightly lower which is worth bearing in mind.

Read our BMW 3 series review

2. Audi A3 e-tron

The Audi A3 e-tron boasts an 8.8kWh battery which is large for its hatchback size, granting a total of 30 miles in electric-only mode. Combine it with a full tank of petrol and Audi claims you can squeeze around 166mpg.

It’s not the cheapest option but Audi makes stylish yet functional interiors with high-quality materials.

Being a hybrid, it also features a generous list of equipment that comes as standard, meaning you won’t have to pay extra for the nice-to-haves. You do however lose about 100L of boot space which are taken up by the batteries, meaning you can only carry a few suitcases at the same time in the boot, but most PHEVs come with that compromise.

Read our Audi A3 review

3. Kia Niro

This is a sensible choice if you’re looking for value for money and if you’re in the market for crossover, which sits somewhere between a small SUV and a saloon. Kia says you can drive the car using the batteries alone for 36 miles which is a good number when compared to similarly priced cars. Keep in mind that number is worth taking with a pinch of salt, as manufacturers test the cars under perfect conditions which are rare in the real world

It’s not the most exciting car to drive, but you can count on an interior that’s spacious and comfortable. 

You also get good value for money when it comes to standard equipment. The Niro comes with plenty of modern technology, such as standard-fit lane keep assist which will automatically steer the car to keep you in your lane if you start to veer off.

4. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has plenty of space inside for the driver and four passengers, and even with the extra electrical equipment eating up space in the boot, it’s still a practical option.

The Outlander can drive for just over 20 miles on an electric charge which makes it highly cost efficient for a car of this size. If your daily commute or school run is in that ball-park, you’ll barely have to use the fuel tank, provided you can charge at home. Just keep in mind an SUV is heavier than other cars so once the batteries run out you’ll be carrying all that weight and it will consume significantly more fuel.

Read our Mitsubishi Outlander review

5. Toyota Prius

There’s a good reason why so many private hire firms use the Toyota Prius around towns. It’s a great choice to save as much money as possible if you don’t plan to take it on fast roads very often.

Because so many firms use them, it won’t be hard to find an older model at a low price. The interior is basic and functional while it’ll feel quite easy to drive around town and will achieve impressive mileage. 

Reliability is the Prius’ other strong point, while improvements to comfort and drivability on the 2015 models onwards shouldn’t be overlooked.

6. BMW i3 REx

The BMW i3 is a brilliant vehicle around town because of how smoothly and refined it feels to hover around in.

It might not be marketed as plug-in hybrid in the same way as the other options on the list because it is first and foremost an electric car, but the BMW i3  certainly rivals most traditional PHEV hatchbacks. REx stands for Range Extender because this car features a small engine and fuel tank that can produce electricity to power your batteries. You can’t drive using that small engine alone - BMW have only included it to give drivers the peace of mind of knowing that even if their batteries run out, they can still rely on the small engine to get them to the next charger.

Read our BMW i3 review

7. Volkswagen Passat GTE (2018)

If you’re looking for plenty of space and practicality without the extra weight of a large SUV, the Volkswagen Passat GTE could well be the one for you. 

It’s an excellent all-rounder family car with a comfortable ride and great interior build quality. It’s also well equipped when it comes to driver convenience and its infotainment system.

The Passat GTE rated highly in the crash safety tests, meaning it’smore likely to protect the driver in the event of a crash, which is an important reassurance.

Being a hybrid, the electric motors will assist the petrol engine to deliver plenty of speed for a car of this size, meaning you won’t struggle to get up to motorway speeds. At lower speeds, you can use the batteries alone to power the car for around 50 miles according to Volkswagen, which is a good way to save money on fuel.

Read our Volkswagen Passat review

8. Volvo XC90

Perhaps the most premium choice from the list, this high-end plug-in SUV shouldn't be overlooked if you’re willing to part ways with upwards of £24,000 for a used model.

It has a well-integrated system that seamlessly carries you along using both petrol and electric with a combined power of 400bhp. An undeniably Scandinavian cabin will please most drivers and passengers alike for its minimalistic yet stylish look. The 81bhp electric motor has a 25-mile range which is decent considering the sheer size and comfort of this large car. 

As always, Volvo will provide peace of mind when it comes to safety and reliability. This model is also capable of four-wheel driving for extra stability if needed on a muddy field or snowy roads.

Read our Volvo XC90

9. BMW 7 series plug-in

For full luxury without it feeling like a large SUV, you can’t go wrong with this saloon. Much like the Volvo you probably won't be able to tell if you’re being powered by petrol or electric except from a standing start, where the electric motors will kick in for a quieter, smoother acceleration. 

Being a high-end model, the 7 series is superbly comfortable inside, while also being easy to drive, considering it’s a large car. It compares well in terms of electric-only range at 29 miles but that's to be expected with the hefty price tag. The good thing about a luxury PHEV saloon is that it’s a great way to save money on fuel for a car that would otherwise be fairly expensive to run.

Read our BMW 7 series review