5 family hybrids you don’t have to plug in

Hybrid cars come in a variety of shapes of sizes, but the most important difference is that some need to be plugged in to charge their battery while others will do it on the move.

Both full hybrids (the ones that don’t require plugging in) and plug-in hybrids have their advantages, but perhaps two young children and a dog is enough for the moment without having to remember to charge the car every night.

Sure, plug-in hybrid cars have a zero emissions range more than 10 times greater than their plug-less counterparts, but they’re generally quite a bit more expensive to buy in the first place and, crucially for families, cargo space is eaten into by their much larger battery packs.

With that in mind, here are five family hybrid that return excellent fuel economy, have plenty of space, and don’t need to be plugged in.

Click on the image of each car for all the specs and details.

1

Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

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The Subaru isn’t the only SUV on this page but it is the most serious. More ground clearance than a BMW X5 and all-wheel drive mean that while very heavy terrain is still best left to a mammoth Range Rover Hybrid, the Crosstrek is more than comfortable off the beaten track.

Despite the sloping profile cargo space is decent, too, with more that 50 cubic feet for luggage with the rear seats folded flat. A roof-rack is also standard on the hybrid Crosstrek, leaving the option of a roof-box.

City fuel economy of 29mpg is a significant improvement on the standard car, but both models return 33mpg on the highway. Given that, at $25,995, Subaru charges a $4,000 premium for the hybrid model, it means you’ll really have to want one.

2

Ford C-Max Hybrid

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Ford will sell you a plug-in version of the $28,455 C-Max Hybrid if you feel that its 21-mile electric range suits your routine, but for most the standard car’s combined 43mpg is enough. Besides, you’ll pay around $4,500 for the plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi.

Heaps of passenger space and excellent fuel economy hide the the C-Max’s secret weapon, however, which is that it’s good to drive and rides beautifully. Given that in a hybrid people-carrier these criteria are generally assigned low importance, Ford deserves recognition for this.

Common criticisms are that the car’s infotainment system is frustratingly unintuitive and rear cargo space is compromised by the battery, but the C-Max Hybrid generally gets the important things right.

3

Lexus RX 450h

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Lexus currently has the hybrid luxury SUV segment to itself. Yes, Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen all make similar cars, but they’re much more expensive and much less economical (and not much faster).

Total power output just shy of 300hp means the all-wheel drive RX 450h dispatches the sprint to 60mph in 7.8 seconds, but it’s the silky smooth drive and refined cabin that make it a hit with owners. The combination of luxury, fuel economy, and performance make it hard to beat.

The headline figures are a combined 30mpg and, including a recent increase, a price tag of $47,445.

4

Toyota Prius v

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Rock-solid residual values, bullet-proof reliability, impossibly high fuel economy – everything that makes the original Toyota Prius so popular makes the Prius v equally attractive, with the addition of more cargo space.

Unfortunately, you’ll also get the Prius’ drab interior and soulless handling, but that’s not the point. Owners regularly seeing more than 40mpg and more that 32 cubic feet of cargo space – not to mention rear and passenger seats that fold flat -are the reasons to buy this car.

At $26,750 the Prius v is unrivalled in terms of versatility, although the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid runs it close (if you can stomach the poorer fuel economy).

5

Mercedes-Benz E400 HYBRID

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Not your typical family car, but big enough to seat five and the most comfortable vehicle on this list.

With a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a 27hp electric motor this E-Class is cut from a different cloth to the other cars here. For a start it’s more concerned with performance than fuel economy – much like the Infiniti Q50S Hybrid we recently tested – but it still offers a reasonable return for the power on offer.  Combined fuel economy is 27mpg.

Similar cars include the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 and the slightly more economical Lexus GS 450h. The Mercedes costs $56,700.

Posted by Richard Lane

Richard is a London-based automotive journalist specialising in future mobility and sustainable design. Having fallen for cars because of the virtues of a particular German flat-six, it's what we'll all be driving next that now interests Richard most. Dream garage: Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior and a Detroit Electric SP:01.

  1. Because plugging in for a twenty minute quick charge to avert climate change and get us off foreign oil is such a hassle..

    Seriously, Prius used to be the cool green car but now we just laugh at them in the Bay Area with so many better and cheaper EVs on the road that also come with HOV tags and $10,000 in combined rebates and tax credits.

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