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Best Plug-In Hybrids for 2021
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.
Although much of the eco-friendly spotlight has been on all-electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles may be a more practical option for many. Plug-in hybrids, also known as PHEVs, are the most fuel-efficient type of hybrid, thanks to a high-capacity battery that can be recharged using an electrical outlet or charging station. It also means they’re typically more expensive.
We’ll help you decide if a PHEV is right for you, and pick the best plug-in hybrid for your lifestyle.
|Toyota Prius Prime||4.67||Daily driver|
|Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid||4.40||Budgeters|
|Subaru Crosstek||4.30||All-wheel drive|
|Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid||4.25||Family hauling|
|Audi Q5 TFSI e||4.13||Luxury styling|
How we chose the best plug-in hybrids
We evaluated nearly two dozen of the available plug-in hybrids on the market and ranked them according to how well they performed in expert and consumer reviews from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds. We also considered mileage, price, capabilities and features. MPG stands for miles per gallon (gasoline only) while MPGe stands for miles per gallon equivalent, the number of miles a PHEV can travel using gasoline and an electric charge. MSRP is short for Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price.
Best plug-in hybrid cars
We broke down our best plug-in hybrids into two categories — sedans and crossovers in one, larger vehicles in the other.
Toyota Prius Prime
- 4.67 out of 5
- $27,600 starting MSRP
- 133 MPGe / 54 MPG
Toyota designed the Prius to be a hybrid from the wheels up, rather than adding a hybrid option to an existing model, as many automakers have. The 2020 Toyota Prius Prime has one of the highest fuel efficiencies of any PHEV and one of the lowest prices among our featured cars. Plus, it also keeps its value — it won Kelley Blue Book’s award for the best hybrid car resale value, still being worth 40% of its original price after five years. It can fully charge in five hours and 30 minutes off a standard 110/120 volt outlet at home, or get a full charge in two hours and 15 minutes from a 240V outlet, like those at public charging stations. The battery is backed by a 10 year, 150,000 mile warranty.
The Prius Prime comes in three trims: LE, XLE and Limited. And if you have kids, you might be glad to know that the 2020 model offers two USB ports for rear passengers and comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, which has emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist and adaptive cruise control. The 2021 Prius comes with a slightly refreshed design and an upgraded Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which adds pedestrian detection and road sign assist.
Hyundai Ioniq Plug‑in Hybrid
- 4.40 out of 5
- $26,500 starting MSRP
- 119 MPGe / 52 MPG combined
Stick with us here: Hyundai has an Ioniq electric vehicle, hybrid and PHEV, plus a new EV platform in the works called the Ioniq 5. The 2020 PHEV, which we focus on here, sits in the middle of the pack in terms of price and mileage. The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq plug-in has a 29-mile electric-only range with more restrained styling than the Prius. It charges in about nine hours off a standard home outlet of 110V/120V or two hours and 15 minutes with a 240V charger. The base trim (SE) has an 8-inch, color media touch screen, smart cruise control and active safety features. The other two trims, the SEL and the Limited, add in power seats and wireless device charging. Hyundai offers a 10 year, 150,000 mile warranty on its hybrid batteries.
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
- 4.30 out of 5
- $35,145 starting MSRP
- 90 MPGe / 35 MPG combined
Subaru offers the option of a hybrid powertrain as the top trim of its popular compact crossover. Like all Subarus, the Crosstrek comes with standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and, despite being a compact, 55.3 cubic feet of space with the rear seats down. The 2020 Crosstrek hybrid stands out as a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — that’s a better rating than the one earned by its sibling non-hybrid Crosstrek.
When plugged into a standard 120V household outlet, the Crosstrek Hybrid fully charges in five hours. A 240V outlet lets it fully charge in two hours. With a fully-charged battery and a full tank of gas, it has a full range of 480 miles, fewer than others on this list but more than some AWD hybrids. The hybrid battery warranty is good for eight years or 100,000 miles. A 2021 hybrid Crosstrek is available without significant changes — new are a redesigned front bumper and grille plus sportier suspension tuning.
Best plug-in hybrid SUV and minivan
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
- 4.25 out of 5
- $39,995 starting MSRP
- 82 MPGe / 30 MPG combined
The only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market, the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica offers a 520 mile range based on a full charge and a full gas tank. That’s not bad for a vehicle that can seat up to eight passengers and comes standard with a V6 engine. The more powerful engine delivers greater power, compensating for the greater weight of the hybrid battery, which is protected by a 10 year, 150,000 mile warranty.
It can take as little as two hours to fully charge the Pacifica PHEV off a 240V outlet and approximately 14 hours to charge from a 120V outlet. Buyers can choose between four trims — but you may need to opt for a higher trim to get many of the Pacifica’s active safety features, such as emergency braking. More safety features are standard on the 2021 Pacifica, which might make it worth a look.
Audi Q5 TFSI e
- 4.13 out of 5
- $51,900 starting MSRP
- 65 MPGe / 27 MPG
A compact SUV, the Audi Q5 won Kelley Blue Book’s award for the best small luxury SUV of 2020. The model offers the plug-in hybrid capability as a powertrain option on each of its three trims (Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige), all of which come with a basic warranty of four years, 50,000 miles. The PHEV model gets 65 MPGe and up to 20 miles on electric power alone, and it’ll take a full charge in six hours from a 3-pin, 120 V domestic electrical socket.
It comes with the features you would expect in a luxury vehicle, such as a 10.1” center touchscreen, active safety features like lane departure warning and the Audi virtual cockpit plus. A 2021 model upgrades the infotainment system and adds additional safety features.
Ways to finance the best plug-in hybrids
Though federal tax credits may help — look up the vehicle you’re interested in here to see if it qualifies — plug-in hybrids tend to be more expensive than traditional all-gasoline-powered cars or even traditional hybrids. When financing a PHEV, you could look to your credit union, bank or an online lender. On LendingTree, you can fill out a single online form and receive up to five potential auto loan offers from lenders at once, depending on your creditworthiness, instead of filling out five different lender applications.
Your best bet is to apply to a few different lenders in order to compare offers and see which is the best one for you. Then, take that preapproved auto loan with you to the dealership. If the dealer can beat it, you’ll know you’re getting your best deal possible.
Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric — how do they differ?
Yes, there is actually a difference between traditional hybrid cars, plug-in hybrids like the ones featured on this list and electric vehicles.
A traditional hybrid has two sources of power: An internal combustion engine, and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery charged through regenerative braking.
A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) retains a traditional gasoline-powered engine, but its battery can be charged through a power outlet or charging station
An EV also plugs in, but lacks a gasoline-powered engine.
Plug-in hybrids and EVs qualify for a federal tax credit, as we’ve mentioned, but some of those tax credits are beginning to expire.