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► We round up the best hybrid family cars
► There’s no reason going hybrid should result in sacrifice
In 2023, the best hybrid cars are permeating all areas of motoring, from sporting models to family cars – just look at the best hybrid SUVs right now – but you get perhaps the finest choice when you go searching for the best hybrid family cars.
The best at a glance
Whether you’re a large family in need of three rows of seats, want to peruse the best luxury hybrid cars or just a smaller family who wants to go hybrid, there are options at all sizes and all prices.
The best hybrid family cars 2023
Best for: All-round practicality in a bigger-on-the-inside package
Pros: Build quality, performance, efficiency
Cons: Not as much space as some here
Our sister site, Parkers, awarded the Honda Civic the Car of the Year gong for 2023, and it’s well deserving of that accolade. Its hybrid system is based around a 2.0-litre petrol and with 181bhp on offer it’s both powerful and efficient. It’s brilliant to drive, too.
The Civic’s interior is well-built, spacious and straightforward, with plenty of room in the back seats for child seats and space in the boot for a big pushchair. It effectively proves that the default family car doesn’t have to be a massive SUV. It’s overall the best hybrid family car you can buy at the moment.
Read our full Honda Civic review
Best for: Moving as many people as possible
Pros: LWB, efficiency, class-leading
Cons: 1.4-litre hybrid may lack power for some
Vans don’t have to be agricultural diesels anymore. In fact, the Multivan – which replaced the Transporter-based Caravelle in VW’s lineup – is more closely related to the brand’s passenger cars, which means it can be fitted with VW’s excellent 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid powertrain.
You get seven seats big enough for adults, and long-wheelbase models have extra luggage space perfectly suited to family odds and ends, and a driving experience that’s nothing like a van – it’s comfortable, refined and efficient.
Read our full VW Multivan review
Best for: Those who want that premium SUV feel
Pros: Luxury, performance, style, premium quality
Cons: Very little
The X5 is one of the finest luxury SUVs you can buy – and one of the best hybrid family cars or SUVs – outright. The xDrive 50e is based around a beefy six-cylinder petrol so it doesn’t feel nearly as asthmatic as many PHEVs do, and it’ll do over 50 miles on electric too.
The X5 is great to drive – comfortable yet satisfyingly nimble for such a big car. The interior’s fantastic, too, though does verge on the gauche depending on what you do with the ambient lighting… and don’t get us started on the optional illuminated grille. Regardless, the X5’s a brilliant SUV – and that’s reflected in the price tag.
Read our full BMW X5 review
Best for: Anyone looking for great dynamics
Pros: Fun to drive, massive space, good value
Cons: The third row of seats could be bigger
The S-Max has always been the MPV that drives like a sports saloon. The latest model still rides and handles far better than a car of this calibre should, and means that despite a slightly recalcitrant 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain it’s still immensely satisfying to drive.
The S-Max is showing its age on the inside but in a way that’s not a bad thing – it has a heavy reliance on physical switchgear, which we always appreciate. The third row of seats isn’t the largest, but it’s useful to have.
Read our full Ford S-Max review
Best for: Those who need a winning combination of space and luxury
Pros: Acres of space, premium interior, the badge – for some
Cons: You have to pick between petrol hybrid or diesel hybrid
If an Astra Estate doesn’t accommodate all the trappings of family life, why not go bigger? The Mercedes E-Class Estate is one of the most cavernous wagons you can buy, and even opt in for one of the hybrid models doesn’t impact boot space too much.
The E-Class is unique in that you can have either a petrol hybrid (which is very good) or a diesel hybrid. The latter offers not only a good electric range but genuine 60mpg economy on a longer run, which is impressive by any measurement. A posh interior and comfortable ride are additional feathers in the Merc’s cap.
Read our full Mercedes E-Class review
Best for: Anyone who wants something different
Pros: Looks great, hatch or estate, good economy
Cons: Avoid the stiff GSe car
It’s definitely been a while since a Vauxhall Astra felt worth recommending but the latest model is such an improvement over its predecessors that it’s deserving of a spot on this list. Available as a hatch or capacious estate, the Astra’s plug-in hybrid powertrain offers around 40 miles on a charge and pretty good economy even with a discharged battery.
It’s good to drive, too, though you don’t need to be too tempted by the pseudo-hot hatch GSe variants which aren’t very comfortable. Stick to the standard models and you’ll enjoy a spacious, solid interior well-suited to family life.
Read our full Vauxhall Astra review
Best for: Those who appreciate a plush interior and interesting exterior styling
Pros: Lexus quality, better infotainment, comfortable ride
Cons: Styling isn’t for everyone
Premium, comfortable, good to drive and since it’s a Lexus you know it’ll be dependable. There’s plenty to recommend the NX, not least its choice of self-charging or plug-in hybrid powertrains. Both are good, but the plug-in really stands out with up to 40 miles of pure electric range – enough for even the most taxing school run without ever touching petrol.
Even the old Lexus bugbear of poor infotainment is no longer an issue – and the NX has some clever family-friendly features, like electronic door latches that won’t allow you to open the door into the path of oncoming traffic.
Read our full Lexus NX review
Best for: Life in the city
Pros: Clever engineering, perfect for the city, efficiency and range
Cons: Might be too small for some
Families come in all shapes and sizes – and some of them don’t need a massive SUV or people-carrier. As small cars go, the Honda Jazz is as practical as it gets thanks to its ‘Magic’ rear seats and tall interior that gives loads of space for passengers. The boot’s a little smaller, but if your family’s outgrown a bulky pushchair it’ll accommodate plenty.
And its clever hybrid system is perfectly suited to the Jazz – around town it acts like a range extender with pure electric drive for nippy performance, but changes to direct drive at faster speeds for better economy. It’s smooth, efficient, has plenty of punch for a small car and works really well.
Read our full Honda Jazz review
Best for: Value
Pros: Amazing value, practicality is good, pretty good engine
Cons: Euro NCAP score will turn off some
The Dacia Jogger is one of the cheapest new cars on sale, period – and this hybrid version is still less than £23,000, making it comfortably one of the cheapest hybrid cars you can buy. That’s an amazingly low price tag for a hybrid seven-seater family car, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from Dacia.
The Jogger’s hybrid drivetrain is a little clunky and some family buyers may be put off by the Euro NCAP score (hint: you probably shouldn’t be), but three rows of adult-sized seats, a pretty powerful engine for a lightweight car and all the equipment you reasonably need for such a low price can’t be ignored.
Read our full Dacia Jogger review
Hyundai Santa Fe
Best for: Space – from cargo to people
Pros: Huge cabin, big boot, interesting looks
Cons: Not that fun to drive
The Hyundai Santa Fe seems incapable of doing anything wrong. It’s big. It’s comfortable. It has seven seats. It comes with a full hybrid powertrain, a plug-in hybrid or even a diesel engine. And of course, being a Hyundai, you know it’ll be dependable and backed up by a five-year warranty.
With all that being said, the big Hyundai isn’t particularly engaging to drive, and though the interior’s well-made and well-equipped it’s a pretty dark and monochrome place to sit. While it is a seven-seater, there are better options if you regularly need to use all three rows, too – seats six and seven are pretty cramped.
Read our full Hyundai Santa Fe review
What’s the hybrid for large families?
All of the hybrid cars on this list are great for medium-sized families, but if you need more room it’s worth looking at a hybrid SUV or a seven-seater hybrid car. Featuring more room for people and more room for luggage too, they combine all the thriftiness of the best hybrid cars with the flexibility and space of large vehicles.
Depending on your budget, it’s also worth looking at the second-hand market too. Check out our guides for the best used hybrid SUVs and the best used seven seater hybrid cars.
Why get a hybrid family car?
Especially in the last few years with diesel becoming a dirty word, there’s been a proliferation of hybrid cars across every market sector. Hybrids aren’t always perfect, and outside of supercars often lack some driver involvement – but how engaging do you really want your family bus to be? Every car on our list here is good to drive, but all suffer the slightly disconnected feeling that comes from two separate power sources being shuffled around independently of the driver.
They have other benefits, though. All the cars on this list offer the potential for low running costs – whether that’s outright great fuel economy in the case of the self-charging hybrids, or the ability to cover some miles on electricity alone in the case of the plug-in hybrids.
Low CO2 emissions and no supplemental diesel charge means petrol hybrids attract appealingly low company car tax, as well as reduced first-year VED.
We’re concentrating this list on the best self-charging hybrid and the best plug-in hybrid family cars. While there are many appealing mild hybrid family cars, these offer only a small benefit compared to a standard petrol or diesel engine – and in most cases, directly replace them in a manufacturer’s range.
Curtis Moldrich is the digital editor of CAR magazine, and has worked on the brand for six years. He’s driven every car in our electric car guides and driven many more hybrid and ICE cars too.