Top 3 Plug-In Hybrid Mid-Sized SUVs
In our plug-in hybrid mid-sized SUVs top 3, we look at the Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid, the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid and the Citroen C5 Aircross.
Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid
The benefits of Vauxhall's takeover by the French PSA conglomerate back in 2017 keep coming. As part of that Gallic group, the Griffin brand gets access to a slice of the industry's most sophisticated electrified engineering tech, part of which features on the mid-sized Grandland X Hybrid SUV plug-in model we're going to look at here. There's a price to pay for the convenience of this but it's an undeniably interesting package for a family buyer wanting a degree of EV tech but not quite ready to take the plunge into full-battery motoring.
There are a couple of Grandland X Hybrid models on offer and both use a Peugeot-derived 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox. This powerplant features in 225hp form in the front-driven Grandland X Hybrid. Or in 300hp guise in the AWD Grandland X Hybrid4, the latter variant featuring two electric motors (a 108bhp unit on the front axle and a 111bhp motor on the rear axle - hence the nominal AWD capability). In both cases, the way that petrol progress is seamlessly integrated with electrified power is very impressive - and the whole package feels as quick as those output figures might suggest (rest to 62mph in the Hybrid4 takes just 5.9s en route to a 146mph maximum - or an 84mph all-electric maximum). That kind of rapidity isn't always a given with plug-ins of this sort, thanks to their not insubstantial weight.
The bulk of this particular contender (around 1.8-tonnes) is evident in the slightly firmer way it rides across more terrible tarmac tears, an issue the engineers have tried to address with softer suspension settings. Which in turn results in an extra degree of body roll through the bends should you try and chuck this car about in the kind of manner a typical owner never would. You get four driving modes, with the one you'll be using most of the time being the 'Hybrid' setting that chooses the best mix of electric and petrol propulsion to suit the driving style whilst optimising efficiency. The alternative settings are either 'Sport' (where the car combines the power of the electric and petrol motors to offer livelier performance). And 'All-Wheel Drive'. There's also 'Electric' (where the car uses only the battery-powered electric motor, resulting in an ultra-quiet and smooth drive with zero exhaust emissions, offering a WLTP range of up to 35 miles).
There's very little to visually give away the fact that this variant is a hybrid. So, as with other Grandland X models, this one is nearly 4.5m long, nearly 1.9m wide and nearly 1.65m high, which makes it a touch bigger than the mid-sized SUV Qashqai-class norm - and, Vauxhall hopes, a touch more distinctive. The Grandland is certainly good looking enough to stand its corner on the school run. Above the front skid plate, the bold grille proudly displays the Vauxhall Griffin badge, chrome winglets embracing the brand logo and flowing outwards to the slim, double-wing LED headlamps. Muscular, sculpted wheel arches and protective cladding on the lower body deliver the required dose of 'SUV-ness' and an optional two-tone finish, with the roof in contrasting black, adds an extra touch of personalisation.
Inside, the instrument panel and centre console with touchscreen are clearly laid out and horizontally aligned to the driver. There's an 8-inch centre-dash infotainment system. Essential hybrid-specific information can be easily accessed via the 'EV' button, or via the indicator stalks for the on-board computer. The rear seats lack the extra versatility you'll find in a comparable Citroen C5 Aircross and only fold 60:40. Which brings us to the boot, which isn't especially big, not helped by the higher floor necessary to make room for the plug-in system's bulky battery. Luggage capacity is rated at 390-litres (that's 124-litres down on a conventional Grandland X), and with the rear bench folded, there's 1,528-litres of space (134-litres down).
We can see the attraction of the plug-in hybrid SUV, we really can. But with all of the models of this sort currently available, you have to be prepared to pay a big premium for the extra tech. And accept practicality compromises in return. In this regard, the Grandland X Hybrid is no different from its market rivals. Or from the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid and Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid models that share its engineering.
As with those French cousins, with upper-spec 4WD versions of this car, the primary issue lies in pricing that isn't too far off what you'd pay for a plug-in SUV of this kind with a premium badge - and that's a hard problem for a volume-branded product to overcome. But shop for a front-driven model at the bottom of the range with the kind of attractive finance deal your Vauxhall dealer will probably be able to offer and the picture will look very different. Then, it'll be simply a question of making sure you regularly plug the thing in. If you can work all of that out and you cover only short distance family mileage, then visits to petrol stations might become pleasingly irregular. And a fresh dimension in family mobility could open up to you.
Peugeot 3008 Hybrid
Peugeot wants to be a key player in the plug-in hybrid part of the mid-sized SUV segment with this car, the 3008 Hybrid. It looks smart, certainly makes the efficiency numbers and will work well as a package for a family buyer wanting a degree of EV tech but not quite ready to take the plunge into full-battery motoring. But though the plug-in technology on offer here is pretty cutting-edge, it's also pretty heavy and pricey.
This isn't the first time we've seen a Hybrid 3008 model. The first generation design was available in electrified form too, but that was a self-charging set-up mated to a diesel engine. This time round, a 1.6-litre petrol turbo powerplant mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox has been blended with more advanced plug-in hybrid technology that allows for 36 miles of WLTP-rated all-electric driving range. This powertrain features in two flavours: in 225hp form in the front-driven 3008 Hybrid. Or in 300hp guise in the AWD 3008 Hybrid4, the latter variant featuring two electric motors (a 108bhp unit on the front axle and a 111bhp motor on the rear axle - hence the nominal AWD capability). In both cases, the way that petrol progress is seamlessly integrated with electrified power is very impressive - and the whole package feels as quick as those output figures might suggest (rest to 62mph in the Hybrid4 takes just 5.9s en route to a 146mph maximum - or an 84mph all-electric maximum).
So it ought to feel pretty quick. Well it does to a point. But things are rather blunted, as is usual with this class of car, by a somewhat prodigious kerb weight. The plug-in powertrain adds a substantial 360kgs over the weight of a 2.0 diesel 3008, or around half a tonne over a base petrol version. That's an awful lot of extra bulk to carry around and even with 520Nm of pulling power on tap, you feel that from behind the wheel, especially if you try and chuck this car about in the kind of manner a typical owner never would. You get four driving modes, with the one you'll be using most of the time being the 'Hybrid' setting that chooses the best mix of electric and petrol propulsion to suit the driving style whilst optimising efficiency. The alternative settings are either 'Sport' (where the car combines the power of the electric and petrol motors to offer livelier performance). And 'All-Wheel Drive'.
As usual with plug-in models, visual differentiations from standard variants are few. In this case, that means special dichroic badging on the boot and front wings, an extra filler flap and a cyan light that shines from the interior mirror when the car is in all-electric motion. Otherwise, this is like any other second generation 3008, which means it's very sleekly styled but, at 4.4-metres long, remains one of the more compact crossovers in the mid-sized SUV segment.
Inside, the cabin as usual in this model is dominated by digital screens for the instrument cluster and the centre stack, embellished in this case by some extra hybrid-related displays and associated switchgear. As ever with a modern Peugeot, there's an 'i-Cockpit' dash design you'll have to get used to that leaves you looking over the (smaller) steering wheel at the instrument binnacle, rather than conventionally through it. Because this design was created from the outset to accommodate battery power, there's no compromise in rear seat accommodation and a couple of adults will be quite comfortable. But boot space is compromised considerably by the battery placement (down to 395-litres from 520-litre normally), though you do get an extra 25-litre area for storing the cables. The seats-folded capacity is 1,357-litres (down from 1,482-litres). And the fuel tank size is 10-litres smaller too.
You can certainly see why someone might be drawn to this 3008 Hybrid. It's a far more complete product than the first generation diesel/electric version ever was. And the stats are tempting - for the front-driven version, up to 222.3mpg, up to 41g/km of CO2 and 36 miles of all-electric range. It arguably looks smarter and more fashionable than its identically-engineered Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid and Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid PSA Group cousins too.
But this car, like those models, is somewhat hobbled by its pricing. You've really got to want plug-in tech to pay a £3,000 premium over diesel power. And that's for the front-driven version. Nudging up towards and above £45,000, the 4WD 300hp Hybrid4 version really does price itself out of contention, unless you happen to view the Peugeot brand from a premium perspective. If you're attracted by a 3008 Hybrid, stick with a base front-driven 'Allure' model, then get a decent deal on one, translate that into affordable finance and finally this product starts to make some sort of sense. Sophisticated sense. Which of course was always the original intention.
Citroen C5 Aircross
The PSA conglomerate is busy electrifying all its mid-sized SUVs, so the Citroen C5 Aircross gets that tech too. Like its group stablemates, it can be recharged from a home wallbox in under 2 hours and it offers a decent full-electric driving range - here WLTP-certified at 34 miles. Like all C5 Aircross variants, this one majors on comfort, courtesy of the brand's 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushion' set-up. Citroen may be rather late to this party but at least it's trying to bring something new.
This electrified variant comes with a powerful and adaptable powertrain which sees a PureTech 180 Stop & Start petrol engine and an 80kW electric motor combining with a specially designed e-EAT8 automatic gearbox, to offer the equivalent of up to 225hp. At the wheel, you get three driving modes, with the one you'll be using most of the time being the 'Hybrid' setting that chooses the best mix of electric and petrol propulsion to suit the driving style whilst optimising efficiency. The alternative settings are either 'Sport' (where the car combines the power of the electric and petrol motors to offer livelier performance). And 'Electric' (where the car uses only the battery-powered electric motor, resulting in an ultra-quiet and smooth drive with zero exhaust emissions, offering a WLTP range of up to 34miles.
Otherwise, things are very much as they would be in any other C5 Aircross. This car's key differentiating point is the way it glides over bumps. That ability comes courtesy of its Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension system. This two-stage set-up features a couple of hydraulic stops on each side of the car, one for compression, the other for rebound. For major uneven ground impacts, the hydraulic stops work with the springs and shock absorbers to avoid jerky movements and unpleasant bouncing. Thicker softer seat padding also embellishes the impression of comfort. And double-laminated front windows and engine bay soundproofing play their part in reducing cabin noise.
There's very little to visually give away the fact that this variant is a hybrid, apart from 'Hybrid' badging on the front wings and the tailgate. If you want to be more overt about this car's electrified remit, you can specify an 'Anodised' Blue colour pack as an option. If you're not especially familiar with the C5 Aircross, you need to know that it shares the same EMP2 platform as the PSA Group's other mid-sized SUVs, the Peugeot 3008 and the DS 7 Crossback (both of which can also be had with the same plug-in engineering). This Citroen is 4.5m long and 1.84m wide with a 2.73m wheelbase, so is a touch bigger than cheaper cars in this class like Nissan's Qasqai and SEAT's Ateca. The brand's signature 'Air Bumps' make an appearance just above the lower side sills, but they're toned down here, just as they are in the brand's C4 Cactus hatch.
Inside, that lengthy wheelbase translates into a cabin that feels significantly larger than that of most models in this class. Few competitors can match this C5 Aircross model's luggage capacity either, the extent of which depends on the position of the sliding second row bench. Noise touches include an active air quality system that uses an air-purifying carbon filter. Up-front, Citroen fans will note a retro touch in the form of the rolling speedometer, similar to that used on the old 1980's-era Citroen BX, incorporated as part of the instrumentation's 12.3-inch digital display.
We're always happy to see a product that tries to bring something a little different to its market segment, which is why we rather like this C5 Aircross in its more standard forms. If you can find the significant price premium necessary to get this plug-in Hybrid version, then there's also plenty to like here too.
The electrified stats are very class-competitive amongst Crossovers of this type, but you could argue they'd be replicated by equivalent versions of the Peugeot 3008 and the DS 7 Crossback which feature the same engineering. The 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushion' set-up of this Citroen though, gives this particular SUV something a little different - you really can feel an improvement in the way it eases over tarmac undulations. It's worth a test drive then - as a possible starting point to your electrified future.