The rugged looks, improved visibility and off-road ability SUVs provide used to mean high running costs, but hybrid technology has seen them get significantly more economical in recent years.
Some manufacturers offer a diesel-electric setup, but most hybrid 4x4s use a petrol engine and an electric motor to provide power. Whichever fuel is used, these systems can work together to provide maximum acceleration when you need it, but can also run independently. This means you can save silent, fuel-free electric drive for the town, while on fast cruises the petrol engine drives the car, recharging the batteries at the same time.
Many of the SUVs on this list are plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), which means you can charge their batteries up at home or at a public charging point. This allows you to complete short journeys without using a drop of fuel and adds great appeal, but be warned that it also tends to push the purchase price up.
Even without plug-in functionality, hybrid 4x4s offer far better economy than their predecessors and they also tend to emit relatively little CO2, meaning you often won’t pay a penny in road tax. Perhaps more significantly, company car drivers’ Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) liabilities are based on CO2 emissions; this means the extra cost of hybrid SUVs over their petrol or diesel counterparts can often be offset against your obligations to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Kia Niro SUV
Some of the models on this list are expensive, premium 4x4s, but the Kia Niro proves hybrid SUVs are within the reach of most car buyers. There’s nothing radical about the way the Niro looks – or drives for that matter – but under the conventional styling lies a competent, spacious family car with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, producing 138bhp between them. Claimed economy is decent at 74.3mpg, while CO2 emissions of 88g/km mean there’s no road tax to pay and a 15% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) liability for company-car drivers. Just make sure you avoid the larger alloy wheels, as these can push up CO2 emissions quite a bit.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SUV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been an enormous success, partly because its batteries can be charged up at home for an electric-only range of up to 32 miles. The Outlander PHEV is a fair bit more expensive than the Niro, but it’s also larger and better equipped. Perhaps most importantly, CO2 emissions of just 42g/km mean there’s no road tax or London Congestion Charge to pay, while company-car drivers get a rock-bottom 7% BiK obligation if they choose the big Mitsubishi. Only a slightly small boot and a disappointing driving experience disappoint, while the claimed 158.9mpg can be hard to match in the real world.
Volvo XC90 SUV
We’re entering premium territory here, but if you have the right credentials (i.e. lots of cash) the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine hybrid should definitely be on your radar. The T8 model has a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a punchy electric motor, producing 376bhp between them. That’s enough poke to get the large XC90 from 0-62mph in just 5.6 seconds, but drive it like a saint and you could see fuel consumption rise to Volvo’s claimed 134.5mpg. CO2 emissions of 49g/km are just low enough to get you a 7% BiK rating, while the T8 XC90 is also exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge. You’ll need at least £60,000 if you want the hybrid setup though – quite a jump over the cheapest XC90.
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