Best hybrid estate cars 2020
For years, manufacturers prioritised hybrid saloon cars. The executive-car market – and the desire for rock-bottom company car tax – has long favoured the three-box bodyshape. But what if you want everything these premium models offer, but with more practicality?
There are plenty of hybrid models in the SUV sector these days, but there are lots of buyers who'd rather shy away from the high-riding, gas-guzzling image of these cars. Estates are often just as big and spacious, with enough room for all the family and their associated kit.
Hybrid cars – which combine an internal-combustion engine with a battery and electric motors – have made great strides in recent years, with improved fuel economy making your money go further between the pumps than ever before.
There are three types of hybrid estate. The first is the ‘mild’ hybrid, which usually uses a 48-volt electrical system to improve performance and lower running costs by lessening stress on the engine when accelerating or pulling away from a standstill. More and more cars are using this technology, but as they make little difference to the way the car drives, we’ll steer clear of listing them here.
The next is the ‘full’ hybrid. Cars like the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports use a a small battery that’s charged either by the engine or via regenerative braking, offering a fairly short electric-only driving range. The benefit here can be significantly reduced running costs – especially if you spend a lot of your time in stop-start traffic or driving around town.
Meanwhile, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) tend to have much larger batteries capable of fulfilling modest commutes without relying on petrol or diesel at all. Most of the cars in this list – including the Skoda Superb iV Estate and the Volvo V90 Recharge – are plug-in hybrid models. These also make use of regenerative braking and (occasionally) harvest electrical energy from the engine too, although they're at their most efficient and cost effective when charged via a cable. In the absence of any electric estate cars to choose from, plug-in hybrids are the next best thing.
Interested to find out more? Below we've put together a list of the best hybrid estate cars you can buy…
Audi A6 55 TFSI e Avant
Audi launched its hybrid A6 saloon in 2019, along with a plethora of other plug-in hybrid models including electrified versions of the A7, Q5 and A8. Now, the manufacturer has announced the A6 55 TFSI e Avant – an estate version of the plug-in hybrid A6 saloon.
It uses the same basic setup, with a 2.0-litre petrol engine paired to an electric motor and 14.1kWh battery. Total power output is 362bhp, with Audi claiming CO2 emissions of between 44 and 48g/km and a pure-electric range of just under 32 miles.
While the boot is obviously bigger and more practical than that of the hybrid A6 saloon’s, it’s smaller than you’ll find in the normal petrol or diesel A6 Avant. That’s because the batteries take up so much space; the standard car’s 565-litre load bay shrinks to 405 litres, while folding the seats flat results in a total volume of 1,535 litres.
BMW 330e Touring
BMW is adding a Touring estate version (as well as the option of xDrive four-wheel drive) to its 330e plug-in hybrid line-up this summer. We haven't driven the Touring yet, but based on BMW's track record, and our impressions of the four-door saloon version, it should be a winner.
Potential buyers can expect a familiar blend of driver-pleasing handling, slick infotainment and super-low running costs – as well as an electric-only driving range of 34 miles. Boot space is compromised slightly, although the 1,420-litre load bay should be big enough for most families.
Mercedes E 300 de Estate
Mercedes' E-Class plug-in hybrid is offered with either a petrol or diesel engine in four-door saloon form, but for the more practical estate, it's diesel-electric power only.
Like the saloon, its boot capacity suffers somewhat due to a large box-shaped intrusion housing the hybrid system's batteries, but in all other respects this is a very fine car, offering excellent passenger comfort, smooth and strong power delivery in either electric or hybrid mode and that timelessly classy Merc image.
Skoda Superb Estate iV
Skodas have long been renowned for offering great value for money, and the latest plug-in hybrid Superb Estate certainly does well in the 'bang for your buck' department.
You get the voluminous passenger and luggage space that all Superb models are renowned for, along with generous standard equipment and the ultra-low running costs brought by the VW Group's 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol-electric drivetrain. It's a fantastic all-rounder and one we’d recommend in an instant.
Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
If you don’t have the ability to plug your car in overnight, then a conventional hybrid model like the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Hybrid estate might be the perfect alternative to a PHEV.
Priced from just over £25,000, the Corolla will comfortably surpass 60mpg on the motorway and – depending on which engine you go for – provide close to 600 litres of boot space.
Inside, it has been finished to a high standard, and it’s easy to find a good driving position as the steering wheel can be adjusted back and forth as well as up and down.
Volvo V60 Recharge
The Volvo V60 is available with a choice of plug-in hybrid powertrains. The standard T6 will offer more than enough for most, but for those after something even faster and a little bit sporty, the T8 Polestar Engineered boasts almost 400bhp, as well as manually adjustable Ohlins dampers.
With a 10.4kWh battery, the V60 hybrid offers a zero-emissions range of around 30 miles on a single charge. For drivers who need a reasonably sized runabout most of the time with scope for the odd longer journey, the V60 is hard to fault.
Officially it’ll return 135mpg, although you’ll need to charge it regularly to get anything close to that figure. CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km also make it very clean on paper, which is a bonus if you’re an eco-conscious buyer. The styling also helps to make it an attractive vehicle, although you do pay a premium for it: you can’t get a V60 plug-in hybrid for less than £45,000.
Volvo V90 Recharge
If the V60 above isn’t quite large enough for your needs, then there’s always the V90 Recharge plug-in hybrid instead. This larger estate comes with 728 litres of boot space, rising to 1,562 litres with the rear seats folded down; more than enough for carrying large items around, although the V90 isn’t quite a class leader in this department.
It has the same 10.4kWh battery as the V60, although it returns a little less electric range owing to its extra weight. The official fuel-economy figure is 112-141mpg, but after you’ve exhausted the electric-only range you’re more likely to see somewhere in the region of 30-35mpg from the 2.0-litre engine. Again it’s an excellent package from the Swedish manufacturer, provided you’ve got at least £55,000 to spend.
Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate
The Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate seems like the ultimate all-rounder: 34 miles of electric range will be enough for most daily commutes, while 483 litres of boot space will serve most families well enough, even on longer trips away. The 1.4-litre petrol engine is extremely smooth, too, so the Passat GTE should be a relaxing car to own.
Prices start from under £40,000, while fleet operators and user-choosers are likely to be drawn in by the prospect of CO2 emissions in the region of 33-35g/km – leading to very low company-car tax. As an overall package, there are few better options.