BMW 330e review

Plug-in BMW 3 Series is an excellent, tax-efficient all-rounder 

 At a glance

New price £40,440 - £51,145
Lease from new From £475 p/mView lease deals
Used price £24,905 - £45,360
Used monthly cost From £622 per month
Fuel Economy 156.9 - 217.3 mpg
Road tax cost £145 - £480
Insurance group 33 - 36How much is it to insure?
26.5 - 36.8
Miles per pound (mpp)


  • Up to 41 miles of battery-only range
  • Lovely steering and balanced handling
  • Great hybrid efficiency and performance


  • Not as nice to drive as a standard petrol 3 Series
  • Lacks the sweet-sounding engine of a 330i
  • Reduced boot space compared with non plug-ins

Is the BMW 330e any good?

It won't exactly be news to you that the BMW 330e is very good indeed. It already accounts for 25% of all 3 Series sales in the UK thanks to the undeniable tax avantages of running the plug-in version on the company. But the good news is that this is not be the only reason for going for a 330e – it is a genuinely excellent all-rounder.

For one, it's very good to drive. Not perfect, but very good. For another, the electric-only driving range is usable to the point that it will cover most owners' commutes. And finally, there's the XtraBoost feature that cranks the combined petrol/electric power output up to 295hp – if only for short bursts at a time.

So, it's a plug-in that's rational and exciting – read on to find out just what it is that makes the 330e so special.

What's it like inside?

If you're familiar with the standard BMW 3 Series, then you won't find many surprises here, and it's business as usual. The boot space has suffered compared with the standard car, as you’ll find the floor is humped. The hump is actually the fuel tank, which has been moved from its usual position under the seats to make room for the batteries – overall effect is that the standard saloon packs away 480 litres of boot space, while the 330e has just 375 litres.

The infotainment systems and digital dials gain hybrid-related display options, but aside from rearranging a few of the buttons on the centre console, this is the only difference in the passenger compartment.

  • Read all about the standard BMW 3 Series' interior here
BMW 330e interior (2021)
 What's it like to drive?

The 330e combines the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine you’ll find in the regular 320i with an electric motor that’s neatly integrated into the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The petrol engine develops 184hp and the electric motor adds another 112hp. Very impressive, even if you can’t just add those two figures together to get the car’s total power output.

So, the 330e’s official power output is 252hp, which rises to 292hp when you activate the XtraBoost function for short periods of time under full acceleration. There's no 'push to pass' boost button, it's just activated by flooring the accelerator in either the S or M transmission settings.

On the road, the results are impressive. Floor it from the lights and the 330e springs forward with real vigour. The 0-62mph time is 5.9 seconds, but it feels faster than that, especially considering how on the motorway it builds speed quicker than a 330d. You only get 10 seconds of XtraBoost, but that's more than enough on UK roads.


One criticism we'd level at the 330e is that it just isn’t that much fun to drive. The four-cylinder engine sounds strained when worked hard and it feels less agile in bends, presumably as a result of accommodating the additional weight of the hybrid batteries.

But it is still a car that devours bends without blinking. It’s just that a little of the fun has gone missing from the process, as exhibited by the slightly light and artificial feel to the steering (again, even in the heaviest Sport setting).

BMW 330e charging port
Range and hybrid driving

The 330e is able to drive up to 41 miles on electric power alone, and there are an increased number of options to make the most of it battery. You can set a guide percentage of power pack life you’d like to retain and the car will do its best to manage this on your behalf.

There is also an automatic setting, which works with the sat-nav guidance to choose the most appropriate points on your route to deploy the electricity. You can manually activate full electric mode up to 87mph and cruise there until the remaining range runs out.

Fuel economy and charging times

The official fuel economy for the 330e is a claimed 138mpg in the WLTP real-world test, with CO2 emissions of 39g/km (that’s 10% less CO2 than the last version). You’ll need to be using the electric power a lot and mostly doing short journeys to get close to those figures, however.

You’ll also need to plug the hybrid part into the mains as many times as possible in between journeys; a full charge takes three hours and 25 minutes using a BMW i Wallbox, or five hours and 40 minutes using a plain old three-pin plug.

BMW 330e (2021) rear view, driving
What models and trims are available?

As with the standard car, quality is right up there, but the interior design has arguably become a little too generic, and despite the size of the screens available, remains rather cluttered. The 330e is available in SE, Sport and M Sport specification, just like the rest of the UK range.

BMW 330e (2021) side view
Should you buy one?

If you want a medium-sized plug-in hybrid family car, then this is the best you can buy right now. And as such, we can heartily recommend the 330e in either Saloon or Touring form – with the latter's additional practicality being an additional selling point for us.

Rivals include the Mercedes-Benz C-Class PHEV (in petrol and diesel forms), the Peugeot 508 PHEV, Volkswagen Passat GTE and Skoda Superb iV, and the. There's no Audi in the list – the A4 TFSIe is yet to be announced. And as an overall package, the 330e beats them all.

But while the 330e does the whole PHEV thing perfectly well, it still isn’t the kind of car that works as well as it should for car enthusiasts. This is well thought-out and even enjoyable tool, rather than the kind of genuinely emotional experience a really outstanding BMW can be.

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What we like

BMW’s plug-in hybrid is blessed with plentiful performance, an extended electric range of more than 40 miles and some other very clever tricks. Its popularity is no accident – you might buy it to save on tax, but you can enjoy yourself at the same time, as it's a BMW through-and-through and drives as it should.

What we don't like

It's all relative, but do bear in mind that if you're opting out of a 330d or 330i, it'll feel marginally less agile in your hands.


Mercedes E-Class hybrid review


"The smooth and quick Mercedes E-Class plug-in hybrids combine luxury with impressive fuel efficiency”

Those who live out of town might only encounter heavy traffic during the latter stages of the daily commute to and from work. It's in these circumstances, where the roads get congested, slow and polluted, that a plug-in hybrid really makes sense, and the Mercedes E 300 e and E 300 de plug-in hybrid’s are compelling options for those who want a decent amount of pure-electric range and low running costs for the daily commute.

The E-Class hybrid range underwent a midlife facelift in 2020, getting a subtly tweaked exterior design that included a new grille and restyled LED headlights. The interior was also given a tech refresh with the latest touchscreen version of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system.

Unlike plug-in hybrid rivals such as the BMW 530e and Volvo S90 T8 Recharge, which can only be had with a petrol engine and electric motor, the E-Class hybrid is available as a petrol or a diesel, badged ‘E 300 e’ and ‘E 300 de’ respectively.

Both versions combine their conventional internal combustion engines with a compact battery and an electric motor that's capable of propelling the car using only pure-electric power, while emitting zero CO2 emissions. Mercedes claims both cars are capable of triple-digit fuel economy figures, low CO2 emissions and over 30 miles of pure-electric range.

In fact, make frequent use of that capability and you could come close to realising Mercedes' fuel-efficiency claims, while emitting less than 50g/km of CO2 – a figure far lower than a petrol or diesel car can deliver. The former is good news for anyone who has to pay for fuel and the latter will be appreciated by company-car drivers who have the cost of Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax to worry about.

Away from what's under the bonnet, the cars conform to the usual E-Class template. That is to say you get an elegant, upmarket-looking car that continues to impress when you take a seat inside, finding yourself surrounded by high-quality materials, attractive finishes and advanced technology. A highlight of the latter is the dual-screen digital dashboard and infotainment system, as well as the smart blue mood lighting unique to the plug-in hybrid.

Every Mercedes E-Class is a smooth, quiet cruiser and the E 300 e and de are no exception. Although the four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines aren't as pleasing to the ear as a six-cylinder might be, it's certainly not obstructive and settles into the background once up to cruising speed. The ride is smooth and wind noise is minimal, so motorway cruising is relaxed.

The E-Class doesn't embarrass itself on winding roads, either – it doesn't have quite the steering precision of a BMW 5 Series or feel quite as agile when you pitch it into a fast corner, nor does it resist body lean as stoically as an Audi A6, but it's responsive, safe and well controlled, so you can take the rural route home in a hurry if you want to. There's no shortage of power, either – the E 300 e petrol engine produces 208bhp and the 121bhp electric motor provides a handy boost, for a total of 316bhp when you need it. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes less than six seconds.

The E 300 de diesel version is no slouch either, taking 5.9 seconds, and might be better suited to those who make frequent long high-speed journeys with an urban portion at either end.

Overall, the E-Class is a fantastic executive saloon that makes plenty of sense for business drivers. Its range and technology impress, as does refinement and the interior, but we'd stick with the AMG Line Edition without adding expensive Premium packs for the best value.

MPG, running costs & CO2
Business drivers stand the best chance of saving money in a Mercedes E 300 e or de

If your daily commute runs to no more than 15 miles each way, both the petrol and diesel versions of the Mercedes E-Class plug-in hybrid can get you to work and back without having to burn any fuel at all. This is courtesy of a claimed all-electric range of over 30 miles, which also helps the E 300 e to return a claimed fuel-economy figure of 176.6mpg, with the E 300 de even more efficient at up to 235.4mpg. The digital dashboard gives suggestions for economical driving, which can actually be curiously engaging to follow, gamifying the driving experience.

However, the testing procedure under which these economy figures were achieved assumes that owners can maximise the use of electric mode for a majority of their driving. If you cannot recharge the battery, or are making longer journeys where the battery becomes depleted, then you will be relying on the engine more often, which will make the official fuel consumption figures impossible to achieve.

During our test of the E 300 e, we spent the majority of our time running in pure-electric mode. One of the most impressive aspects of the car is its realistic electric range estimate, with a mile of range falling for every actual mile travelled - sadly this isn’t the case in every electrified car.

While Mercedes claims 33-35 miles of range with a fully charged battery, most drivers should be able to manage close to 20-25 miles in mixed driving, with around 30 miles possible at slower speeds in town. With the battery depleted, fuel economy is liable to fall to around 35mpg.

When compared to the petrol version, the E 300 de is a slightly different prospect that’s aimed at higher mileage drivers. While the claimed fuel economy of over 200mpg is a little fanciful, regular charging of the battery and careful use of the car’s driving modes returns around 51mpg across a mix of town and motorway driving. When running on pure-electric power, we were able to eke out around 15-20 miles, which is somewhat short of the 32-34 miles claimed by Mercedes. Once the battery was depleted, fuel economy fell to around 43mpg.

Every E-Class hybrid offers different driving modes to either hold onto battery charge (until you reach a town for instance), stay in electric mode, or use a mixture of engine and electric power. All aim to help the driver to maximise fuel economy.

The official CO2 emission figures of both cars are cast in stone regardless of your driving habits, with the E 300 e emitting 37g/km and the E 300 de just 33g/km. This means that company-car users can enjoy a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating, which is far lower than any pure petrol or diesel version of the E-Class; the likes of the E 200 and E 220 d sit close to the top of the BiK ratings.

The 13.5kWh battery can be charged via 7.2kWh wallbox in 1.5 hours. Opt for a three-pin plug socket and you can expect to wait around five hours for charging to complete. Unlike fully electric cars, there’s no fast-charging option.

Other running costs are unlikely to differ from the Mercedes E-Class norm, which is to say expensive servicing but reasonable parts prices and tyres that are a fairly common, sensibly priced size. You can take out a service contract to help manage the cost of routine servicing, and there's a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty, which can be extended at extra cost.

The E-Class hybrid costs more than £40,000 to buy, incurring an additional tax surcharge of £325 a year. After this period, tax falls to the typical reduced rate for hybrids.

Engines, drive & performance
Plug-in hybrid power serves up strong performance, but doesn't bring excitement

The Mercedes E 300 e plug-in hybrid is very similar in concept to its BMW 530e hybrid rival. Both cars use a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a battery pack and an electric motor. The Mercedes is faster, though.

With 208bhp from the petrol engine alone, 121bhp available from the electric motor and a total of 316bhp to call upon when you need it, the E 300 e can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.7 – and sprint is the operative word, with the electric motor capable of delivering all its power instantly. This makes it feel surprisingly urgent when you nudge the throttle, despite its size and weight.

However, the four-cylinder petrol engine can sound somewhat strained if you floor the throttle, with a noise that isn't as smooth or pleasing to the ear as the V6 in the Mercedes-AMG E 53; it just emits a nondescript wall of sound under full acceleration. This fades away when you take it easy, though, and is quieter than the E 220 d's diesel engine when cruising on the motorway. It's a shame, though, that such exciting acceleration doesn't come with an equally appealing soundtrack, and that the petrol engine has to work that much harder once the battery is depleted.

The E 300 e doesn't offer the last word in driving pleasure on a twisty road, either. Instead, the E-Class focuses on comfort and refinement over outright handling prowess. It feels planted and secure in corners but falls short for driver involvement when compared to a BMW 5 Series or Audi A6, even if its steering has a nicer feel.

In terms of overall refinement, the E-Class excels against its rivals and the E 300 e is no exception. It absorbs bumps and potholes with ease, especially if you add the optional air suspension. There's barely any wind noise at motorway speeds, and engine noise only becomes noticeable when overtaking or joining fast-flowing traffic.

During normal driving, the switch between petrol and electric power is barely noticeable, but is perhaps not as smooth as it could be. Once in all-electric mode at lower speeds, there's barely any noise at all, aside from a faint hint of tyre roar and the whirr of the electric motor.

With a combined 302bhp and 700Nm of torque, the diesel powered E 300 de feels as quick as its petrol power sibling, with the benchmark 0-62mph time taking 5.9 seconds. In real-world driving, it offers more shove than the E300 e thanks to the increased pulling power from the 2.0-litre diesel engine.

Switching between electric and diesel power is fairly unobtrusive, with a distant thrum letting you know the engine has started. On occasions in electric mode, the car did hesitate slightly under hard acceleration as it decided whether to fire up the diesel engine.

Much like the petrol-powered version, the E 300 de is smooth and refined on the move, with only the occasional hint of diesel clatter making its way inside the car. The additional pulling power of the diesel engine means there’s always enough power in reserve for getting up to speed or overtaking.

Again, the E 300 de cannot match the dynamics of a diesel 5 Series, but offers a greater level of refinement. It feels planted though, with plenty of grip and accurate turn in. In sharper corners, the additional weight of the diesel engine is noticeable, but the handling is good enough for most drivers.

Interior & comfort
The Mercedes E 300 e has a hi-tech look inside, without feeling cold or unwelcoming

The ability to cruise so quietly on the motorway makes it easier to enjoy the E-Class hybrid’s comfortable and well-designed interior. Both the petrol E 300 e and diesel E 300 de are identical inside, and while the Audi A6 may offer a more futuristic look and improved material quality, many will prefer the more traditional, comfortable feel of the Mercedes.

In terms of overall refinement, the E-Class excels against its rivals and the E 300 e is no exception. It absorbs bumps and potholes with ease, especially if you add the optional air suspension. There's barely any wind noise at motorway speeds, and engine noise only becomes noticeable when overtaking or joining fast-flowing traffic.

The specification of the E-Class plug-in hybrid range is the same as the standard car, with every version getting a pair of 12.3-inch displays mounted in parallel to create the illusion of a seamless display that flows from in front of the driver to the centre console. It incorporates a fully configurable digital instrument cluster that can display a rev counter or an 'efficiency' gauge that can help you eke the most range from the car’s battery.

The left-hand panel hosts the touchscreen infotainment display, which incorporates sat nav with 3D mapping, Bluetooth smartphone connection, DAB radio, and access to Mercedes' online services. These include a concierge service that can provide real-time information about parking spaces and local petrol prices.

As part of the 2020 facelift, the infotainment system has been improved and is easier to navigate. The addition of a responsive touchscreen makes it easier to operate with Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, which is on par with the best in the class. Top versions even feature augmented reality sat nav, which overlays directions on a live video view of the road ahead. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both included, and are far more straightforward to use via the touch interface. The addition of the full-screen digital dials is a nice touch as well, adding a luxury element from the S-Class.

The facelifted E-Class boasts an all-new steering wheel, which features a number of physical buttons. This layout is slightly confusing at first but is easy to get used to.

Every version of the E-Class plug-in hybrid is well-equipped, with the entry-level AMG Line Edition (an exclusive trim for the PHEV models) getting 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated seats, leather-trimmed upholstery, three-zone climate control and an array of standard safety kit.

Plusher AMG Line cars get multibeam LED lights and different interior trim. Stepping up to the AMG Line Premium trim adds to the kit list further still, with a 360-degree camera, augmented reality sat nav and keyless go.

The range-topping AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus is fitted with a panoramic sunroof and gloss black detailing. Inside you get a premium Burmester stereo system and ash wood interior trim but the additional outlay means we think the standard AMG Line car is better value.

Practicality & boot space
The Mercedes E 300 e boasts lots of space for passengers, but batteries reduce boot space
On top of its elegant, high-quality interior and generous list of standard equipment, the Mercedes E-Class has lots of space for passengers to stretch out. It's not short of luggage room, either but does feature a smaller boot than the conventional models.

The latest E-Class was designed with a longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) than its predecessor, and that extra length has gone towards increasing interior space, particularly legroom. The front seats have lots of adjustment as standard, with fully electric memory seats available if you do find the perfect driving position elusive.

In the back, the E-Class nips at the heels of the more expensive Mercedes S-Class when it comes to space. The curvaceous roofline means rear headroom is the one area that could be more generous, but most will find legroom to spare, and only when there's a fifth person in the centre rear seat do passengers rub shoulders.

Interior storage is generous, too, with a large glovebox, storage area beneath the centre armrest and a wireless phone charging pad at the base of the dashboard.

The car’s battery has been fitted under the boot floor, which affects boot space. At 370 litres, the hybrid E-Class loses over 100 litres when compared to a standard petrol or diesel model.

Reliability & safety
The E-Class has strong safety credentials, but Mercedes' reputation for quality varies between owners

The Mercedes E-Class has yet to feature in our annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. However, taking into account all the Mercedes models that did feature, the brand finished in 28th place out of 30 manufacturers in 2020. Ending up towards the bottom of the table was an uninspiring result for a premium brand, but BMW actually finished just one place ahead of Mercedes. Both were beaten by 21st-place Audi, while Jaguar finished in a far more respectable 12th position.

Mercedes owners seemed particularly disappointed by servicing and running costs. Interior styling and build quality received more praise than handling and ride comfort, and reliability was regarded as below average, with 24% of owners reporting a fault within the first year of ownership.

The brand is often regarded as something of a pioneer when it comes to on-board safety equipment. The E-Class offers sophisticated features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, auto-dipping headlights and traffic-sign recognition, as well as active cruise control.

The plug-in hybrid E-Class shares its five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating with other models in the range – the independent organisation awarded the Mercedes a 95% score for adult protection in a crash and rated it at 90% for how children are protected.

Mercedes GLC SUV review

“The Mercedes GLC is an SUV that benefits from a lot of C-Class pedigree, but with a raised ride height and improved practicality”

Mercedes has had a car battling against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 since 2009, but to UK buyers this may not have been obvious because the old GLK-Class was only sold in left-hand-drive markets. However, since 2015, the GLC, which replaced the GLK, has been sold here and is an SUV version of the popular Mercedes C-Class saloon on which it’s based.

Mercedes gave the GLC a mild facelift in 2019, which involved some tweaks to the exterior design, some new engines and a plethora of technology upgrades inside. The updates were needed given how competitive the SUV market had become, and 2021 ushers in a plug-in hybrid version for the first time too.

Best 4x4s and SUVs
The revised GLC borrows engines and equipment from the C-Class. The similarities between the two models are harder to spot in style terms, however, unlike the Mercedes A-Class and GLA, which have more in common. The GLC is an attractive car in its own right, with the latest design including slimmer headlights and tail lights, and the latest Mercedes grille.

Every GLC comes with Mercedes' 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Versions badged 220 d and 300 d are fitted with the same 2.0-litre diesel, but tuned differently to produce 191 and 242bhp respectively. The 220d returns up to 45.6mpg and has CO2 emissions starting at 175g/km, while you can expect 42.8mpg and 184g/km from the 300 d, which are competitive figures. These are trumped by the GLC 300 e plug-in hybrid model, which can manage 26-31 miles of electric range and 122mpg. What’s more, its low CO2 emissions mean company-car tax is a third of the petrol and diesel engines.

A clear highlight of the GLC is its attractive and well built interior, which also has enough room for front and rear occupants to be comfortable, along with heater controls for people sitting in the back, which is surprisingly rare. There are lots of thoughtful cubbies and the 550-litre boot puts the GLC in the same territory as the X3 and Q5, while the Discovery Sport is more practical and has the option of seven seats.

The introduced the latest Mercedes MBUX infotainment system, but unlike all-new models, there's still a tablet-style central screen perched on the dash, that looks slightly incongruous. The software is a major upgrade, though, and the main screen now responds to touch as well as the central control pad. A regular set of dials are standard, while a large 12.3-inch digital version is available as an option.

On the road, it soon becomes apparent that Mercedes concentrated on comfort when developing the GLC. It’s very smooth on the standard suspension and even more cosseting if the optional air-suspension is fitted. Drivers on the hunt for thrills may feel short-changed, though – while the Volvo XC60 is even softer, the newer BMW X3 is more responsive and poised on a country road.

There are effectively three trim levels, consisting of the core AMG Line trim, plus Premium and Premium Plus versions. The 220 d engine is only available in AMG Line Premium and below; the more powerful 300 d is the AMG Line Premium and up. Desirable items like a powered tailgate, reversing camera and Artico leather upholstery are all included, along with sat nav and LED headlights. AMG Line Premium GLCs gain distinctive body styling and an interior makeover, as well as even bigger 20-inch alloy wheels.

AMG Line is now the most appealing trim for company-car drivers and we'd recommend spending the extra monthly finance cost for private buyers too, to benefit from all the GLC has to offer. The Premium equipment line includes adaptive headlights, running boards, a larger instrument display, ambient lighting, augmented reality navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and wireless smartphone charging.

Before it was facelifted, the GLC came 61st out of 100 models in our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but reliability wasn't a strong point, so owners will be hoping issues have been remedied. Further peace of mind should be provided by the GLC’s five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating.

Mercedes GLC SUV - MPG, running costs & CO2

The Mercedes GLC is actually quite economical given its size

The Mercedes GLC is pretty economical for an SUV, with its claimed figures rivalling the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Mercedes also offers competitive warranty and servicing plans.

Mercedes GLC MPG & CO2
The 220 d version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine can return up to 45.6mpg, reducing slightly in top trims with optional wheels fitted. CO2 emissions of 175g/km mean it sits in the highest BiK band, which won’t appeal to company-car drivers. The more powerful GLC 300d is a shade less economical, at up to 42.8mpg, with emissions of 184g/km. By comparison, the BMW X3 xDrive 30d offers more pace and returns 46.3mpg with 159g/km.

Petrol engines are offered too. A GLC 300 model promises up to 33.6mpg, while the AMG 43 and 63 models above are even thirstier. They certainly prioritise speed over running costs; you can expect 26 and 22mpg respectively. All petrols are in the top BiK band.

A plug-in hybrid GLC 300 de version is now available, pairing the 2.0-litre diesel engine with a 13.5kWh battery. It offers 27 miles of electric range and up to 156.9mpg if you regularly recharge the battery, while business users will be drawn to its 12-13% BiK rate. It’s also exempt from the London Congestion Charge until October 2021. In 2021 it was joined by the GLC 300 e, with a petrol 2.0-litre engine and an electric range of 26-31 miles. It can officially manage up to 128.4mpg with emissions of 62g/km and it takes around 2.5 hours to charge the battery using a 7kW home wallbox.

After the first year's CO2-based road tax (generally included in the on-the-road price), Mercedes GLCs cost £150 a year to tax, or £10 less if it's a hybrid. Every GLC now has a list price (including options) of more than £40,000, making it liable for an additional surcharge of £325 a year in years two to six, bringing the annual bill to £475 during that period.

Insurance groups for the facelifted Mercedes GLC are quite high, with diesel versions starting in groups 32 and the GLC 300 de in groups 44-45 out of 50. Oddly, this is just as high as the AMG versions in groups 41-44.

Mercedes provides a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty on all of its new models, which is the same as BMW offers on the X3. Pan-European Mercedes Roadside Assistance is also included, that can last up to 30 years if you keep the car maintained within the dealership network.

Mercedes offers fixed-price servicing plans that cover all scheduled maintenance. You can pay all in one go up front or spread the cost over monthly instalments, which should be about £35 for a diesel GLC.

Mercedes GLC SUV - Engines, drive & performance

Its diesel engines are smooth, but the Mercedes GLC is more of a comfortable cruiser than an exciting driver’s car

Engine choice is reasonably limited in the Mercedes GLC, but the two diesel options are very smooth on the move. All also come with four-wheel drive as standard – a system Mercedes calls 4MATIC. The GLC is almost car-like to drive and as comfortable and sophisticated as a luxury limousine – a happy consequence of sharing a platform with the C-Class saloon.

The GLC is at its best when driven in a relaxed, unfussed manner than on spirited back-road jaunts. Although all models have clever dampers as standard, they seem optimised for soaking up bumps and improving ride comfort rather than providing sharper responses. For a truly rewarding SUV driving experience, the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace remain the cars to beat, although in the comfort stakes, the Merc trumps the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The Volvo XC60 is even more comfortable still.

Mercedes GLC SUV nose20
The GLC leans a little during hard cornering, but not so much as to feel unsettling and less than the Audi and Volvo. The steering is accurate enough, yet feels rather light and requires quite large inputs, so there’s little to encourage fast driving anyway. It’s far better to ease off the accelerator and cruise, which the Mercedes does very well.

All models use a smooth, responsive nine-speed automatic gearbox, which does a good job of keeping the engine revs low in the interest of fuel economy. The four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged and uses traction control to ensure a firm grip on the road – any wheel found to be slipping is lightly braked and the engine's power is sent to the wheel on the opposite side to get you moving again.

Mercedes GLC diesel engines
Many people buying an SUV of this size will choose a diesel, and there are two available, badged 220 d and 300 d. Both are different versions of Mercedes' four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine, which is smoother and quieter than the 2.1-litre diesel it replaces, but still slightly more clattery than the best diesel engines found in rivals.

It might not appear like it if you look at the official performance claims, but most drivers will be satisfied with the slower 220 d, and it suits the GLC well. Mercedes claims 0-62mph times of 7.9 for the 200 d and 6.5 seconds for the 300 d, both of which will be more than fast enough for most SUV owners. That means our top pick is the cheaper 220 d, and it's a shame this isn't available with every trim level. Unlike the coarse old engine, the GLC 300 d we sampled was as smooth and quiet as a petrol, but with even more urge in real-world driving.

Petrol engines
Talking of petrol, the GLC 300 with 254bhp is available, featuring a new turbocharger, engine design and particulate filter all aimed at reducing emissions. It's also fitted with a mild-hybrid system that can recoup energy as the car slows down, then use it to aid acceleration. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds, while its top speed is 149mph. AMG models are even faster - the 43 model cracks 0-62mph in under five seconds, and the 63 and 63 S reduce this to four seconds or less. With the speed limiter removed, the GLC 63 S will carry on all the way to 174mph.

Hybrid engine
Most plug-in hybrids use a petrol engine, but the GLC 300 de has a diesel engine for long-range economy. The combination produces 302bhp, so the PHEV is quick too - 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds. For 2021 the petrol-based GLC 300 e plug-in has also arrived, and it's even faster, taking just 5.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph.

Its 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and electric motor produce a combined 316bhp, and it does a good job of prioritising electric power when the battery is charged. In this mode it's almost silent, and even when the petrol engine kicks in it's almost imperceptible. There's also a clever regenerative braking system that can be adjusted using the paddles behind the steering wheel or left to work automatically based on the road and traffic.

Mercedes GLC SUV - Interior & comfort

The Mercedes GLC has a well built interior and even the entry-level model has loads of standard kit

The Mercedes GLC boasts an impressive, high-quality dashboard and interior design that’s more luxurious and up-to-date than what you’ll find in many rivals. All models are well equipped, but you’d expect them to be considering the GLC’s price. We'd recommend choosing an AMG Line Premium trim or above to really experience all the GLC has to offer.

Thanks to a honed suspension setup and using some parts from the Mercedes C-Class saloon, the GLC is very comfortable on the move whether on the standard steel springs of the Sport or the optional AIRMATIC system. Road and wind noise are minimal and a clever crosswind prevention system helps to keep the GLC stable at high speeds. Even the more sportily tuned AMG Line models maintain the comfortable ride of the Sport, although the wider tyres do kick up a little more noise from the road.

Mercedes GLC dashboard
The GLC shines when you sit behind the wheel. The entire design looks like it’s been lifted straight from the C-Class saloon, as there’s loads of solid metal switchgear and clear instruments. The middle of the dashboard is dominated by a single piece of wood or gloss-black veneer that starts from just underneath the infotainment screen and swoops down to connect to the centre console.

The classic air vents look like they’ve been taken straight from a vintage aircraft and the control for the sat nav and infotainment is the only control interruption on the centre console. The steering column-mounted gear selector is a little strange to get used to, though. It's also a shame that the standard analogue gauges and central trip computer look dated compared with the digital instruments fitted in AMG Line Premium trim.

The GLC now comes in AMG Line trim as standard but extra kit can be added by upgrading to Premium and Premium Plus versions. Even the entry-level model has a comprehensive amount of equipment: a reversing camera, Parktronic, a powered tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, leather seats, automatic climate control, sat-nav and DAB radio are all standard.

The AMG Line Premium version throws in a sports bodykit and interior makeover, sports suspension, 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, adaptive headlights, ambient lighting and a 12.3-inch digital instrument display. Premium Plus is even more lavish, thanks to a panoramic sunroof, Burmester stereo system, keyless entry, 360-degree camera view and memory front seats and steering wheel.

The Driving Assistance package is worth considering if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, adding blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and a system that applies the brakes if it thinks you're about to hit the car in front. Air-suspension can also be fitted, further improving the ride quality. If you plan on towing, an official tow bar costs around £750.

 Mercedes GLC SUV - Practicality & boot space

The Mercedes GLC provides loads of storage areas and its boot is a decent size, if not class-leading

Considering it’s an SUV, the GLC is easy enough to get into, as its doors open nice and wide. The steering wheel and driver’s seat have plenty of adjustment and there’s plenty of room in the back. Boot space is good, if not class-leading, but the plug-in hybrid offers noticeably less due to its batteries taking up some of the luggage room.

Mercedes GLC interior space & storage
The GLC offers a decent amount of leg and headroom in the rear, but the transmission tunnel can eat into space for the middle-seat passenger.

Interior storage is good, thanks to a generous space in the front armrest and a deep cubby in front of the infotainment dial in the centre console. The door bins can all hold bottles and rear-seat occupants get their own air ventilation and an armrest that features a storage cubby and two cup-holders.

Boot space
Total boot volume is about on par with a lot of the GLC’s rivals. The 550 litres on offer is the same as what you get in the BMW X3 and equal to the Audi Q5’s boot. However, it’s less than what’s available when you fold down the Land Rover Discovery Sport’s third row of seats. The GLC’s rear seats fold in a 40:20:40 configuration with the pull of a lever, offering extra versatility and more room in the boot if needed.

In the boot you’ll find the usual range of neat practical touches like anchor points for smaller items and a cubby either side to store bits and bobs. The boot itself is square and the opening is large, so getting awkwardly shaped items in should be a breeze, especially with the power-operated tailgate.

Compared to the 550 litres you get in petrol and diesel cars, the PHEV’s boot is a bit smaller at 395 litres. That’s only 25 litres more than in the A-Class hatchback but at least the boot floor is flat, unlike the annoying step in the boot of the E-Class plug-in. It also benefits from underfloor storage, so you can keep your charging cables separate from your shopping.

All diesel GLC models can tow 2,500kg – more than most versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, and matching the D240. Both the GLC 300 de and 300 e can also tow up to 2,000kg, which is an impressive amount for a plug-in hybrid.


Lexus RX L review


Seven-seater version of beautifully built Lexus hybrid SUV

The Lexus RX L is a seven-seated version of the Lexus RX, a large SUV that's been offering buyers the choice of hybrid capability for 20 years.

Hybrid SUVs scything through big cities might be commonplace now, but it wasn't the case in the late nineties. Then Lexus came along with the original RX, changing the way posh city dwellers drive. Now people could choose a large car with an imposing seating position that was also kind to the environment.

The RX is equally as good away from tight city streets, and now it has another string to its bow - seven seats, in the form of this RX L.

The RXL goes toe-to-toe with the likes of the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport. It's pitched as a standalone model that sits alongside the five-door RX. Lexus reckons two thirds of customers will choose five seats, while one third will opt for seven.

Lexus RX 450hL: the seven-seater SUV

Only one variant is sold in the UK: the RX 450h L. The h in that name signifies that it’s the hybrid petrol-electric version. Other markets elsewhere in Europe offer a petrol-only powertrain, but it’s not available here.

The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is mated to an electric motor on each axle and the RX L constantly juggles between the power sources; there is an EV Mode button on the centre console that drivers can select if they want to whirr around town silently for ultimate eco-warrior status. Just be mindful that you can only drive for a couple of miles before the small battery will be depleted and the engine kicks in to take over.

Do I have to plug in my Lexus RX L?

No - it is not a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. Instead, the V6 petrol provides charge to the nickel metal hydride battery pack under the rear seats and this is why Lexus has started referring to the technology as a self-charging hybrid.

The system works well and there is little complication for drivers to tackle; merely slot the automatic transmission into D for Drive and set off. Electronics constantly shuffle the power supply, the only indication of what’s happening being the electronic display between the speedo and power supply dial.

Lexus RX 450hL prices and specs

With only a single engine available, the RX L price structure is very simple. UK prices start from just under £53,000, around £1,300 more expensive than the regular five-seat RX.

Choose from two trim levels: RX 450hL and Takumi.

RX 450hL 20-inch alloys, keyless entry, 12.3-inch infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric tailgate
Takumi (in addition to standard car) Heated/ventilated front seats, 360-degree camera, Mark Levinson Surround Sound System

Lexus RX L review: what's it like to drive?

It’s important to realise that the RX 450hL shares the same wheelbase as the regular RX - the underlying oily bits are the same and there is no change to the distance between the wheels. Instead, the extra space comes from an elongated rear end, stretched by 110mm.

So, it drives in a very similar fashion to the five-seat car. The Lexus RX L is now a long vehicle at precisely five metres and heavy at around 2.2 tonnes, but it never feels unwieldy. Although the parking sensors and cameras are really appreciated when squeezing into tight spaces.

On the road, the RX 450hL has a laid-back gait: this is an extremely relaxing car to drive, with impeccable refinement, whisper-quiet powertrain and little wind noise (double glazing helps here). At a cruise, it is extremely impressive.

However, that peace is disturbed somewhat if you go for an overtake or drive up a steep hill; the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearbox sends the revs soaring sky-high as the V6 engine wakes up and provides its thrust. In fairness, the powertrain is much better than earlier iterations and in day-to-day driving, it’s much more relaxed.

It is impressive how frequently the car runs on electric power alone; a green EV logo lights up in the dashboard and you simply cruise silently for long stretches in and out of town, virtual halo firmly intact above your head.

If you want a dynamic, more involving drive, we’d look at the more engaging BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport; the RX is somewhat detached and sterile, even in Sport mode. But we commend its focus on chilled-out comfort: it’s bang-on for the Lexus family character and SUV buyers favouring comfort and premium luxury over cornering prowess will love it.

Practicality and those seven seats

Lexus RX 450 hL rear-most seats are good enough for occasional useEnlarge0videoEnlarge41photo
Accommodation in the front and middle rows is generous. There is no transmission tunnel at all for the second row, meaning lots of space for feet. Headroom is plentiful too.

There is an impressive 150mm of fore-aft adjustment of the middle row, letting you juggle space for luggage and limbs. Crucially, it also means you can slide the bench forwards to ease entry to the third row (an easy, one-handed affair).

Seats six and seven fold up and down electrically and are best reserved for children or small adults on short journeys. Room for head and legs is tight, though competitive with the class norm, and there’s third-row climate control as standard so kids in the back can be as cool or hot as they wish.

Perhaps more impressive than back-row accommodation is luggage space: unlike some seven-seaters, the boot is a decent size at 495 litres when set up as a five-seater. Pop down both rows of rear seats and the cargo bay stretches to an echoing 966 litres. With all seven pews up, there is 176 litres worth of space in the boot.

Build quality is exceptional throughout; Lexus has interior quality licked and we have every reason to expect the RX L to be a safe and trouble-free long-term proposition.

Lexus RX 450hL emissions and running costs

This is one of the RX’s party tricks: its hybrid powertrain brings with it devilishly attractive tax and running cost advantages, especially if you’re a company car driver. There is no diesel option at all.

Claimed CO2 emissions start at 185g/km, rising to 186g/km for models with a sunroof. Fuel economy meanwhile is stated at 34.4mpg. In reality, we expect 40+mpg to be a feasible result in typical driving.

Be warned that service intervals are shorter than the German competition’s: you’ll have to visit your local Lexus dealership every 10,000 miles or annually. Insurance group rankings vary between group 41 and 43, depending on which spec level you plump for.

Lexus RX 450hL infotainment

The Lexus received an updated infotainment system in 2019 - something it desperately needed. The old one was outdated and fiddly becuase it used a mouse-operated multi-controller system.

Luckily, the new system is a lot easier. The 12.3-inch central touchscreen is methodical in design, while if you don't want to use that on the move there's a trackpad with haptic feedback like you'd find on a high-end phone.

It all works effortlessly, although there are lots and lots of options we suspect many people may not ever use, and it's still not as easy to use as traditional systems like you'll find in the BMW X5. At least the Lexus has physical buttons for the heating system - unlike the Volvo XC90.

Phone connectivity is also here with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which basically make the car's infotainment system work like your phone.


New Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV review

The Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e plug-in hybrid promises 135mpg and an all-electric range of 38 miles, but does it deliver?


The switch to plug-in electrification does bring a compromise or two to Land Rover’s most affordable family SUV. You’ll need to accept it as a five-seater only, and it comes with a pretty hefty price that may put off private buyers. But for company car choosers, the considerable BiK savings are impossible to ignore; this is a very practical vehicle that is still good to drive, and suddenly more affordable.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport really upped its game when it switched platforms as part of a mid-life update last year. Mild-hybrid power helped the family SUV to deliver much-needed efficiency gains - but now there’s the option of a plug-in hybrid version that could be ideally suited to daily commutes and school runs.

The Discovery Sport P300e shares its basic powertrain with the newly launched Evoque P300e. That means a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels, and 107bhp electric motor on the rear axle, delivering four-wheel drive when required. There’s 15kWh battery, too - enough, Land Rover claims, for the car to travel up to 38 miles on electric power alone. With a Benefit-in-Kind tax rating of 10 per cent, that should make this Disco Sport a hefty chunk cheaper for company car choosers than any of its siblings.

The adoption of the part-electric powertrain doesn’t affect the Disco Sport’s four-wheel drive credentials; the electric motor on the back axle is always on standby for slippery conditions and off-roading, even if the official battery capacity is at zero. It does remove the possibility of the Disco Sport’s occasional third-row seats, sadly - but the boot capacity beyond the second row is still cavernous, at 963 litres.

If you’re wondering if a three-cylinder engine-based powertrain can have enough shove to cope with such a practicality-focused model, you needn’t worry. The instant torque from the electric motor allows the Disco Sport to glide around town without much effort at all. It would feel quite at home completing a week’s worth of short school runs on EV power alone, frankly - and the ability to go from zero to 80 per cent of battery capacity in less than 90 minutes on even a 7kW home wallbox would make overnight recharges very easy indeed.

The car’s behaviour on the open road is a slightly different matter. We’ve been impressed with the P300e powertrain’s smooth transitions in the Evoque and that trait is present and correct here too, we’re glad to report. Keep the Disco Sport in Hybrid mode and should you extend the system to the point where the engine kicks in, you’ll barely notice the start-up. In this area at least, Land Rover’s is among the best set-ups that we’ve experienced.

The engine itself, though, is definitely more vocal in the Disco Sport than it is in the Evoque. It doesn’t appear to be revs-related either, but there are harmonies and chirps allowed through to the cabin in the Disco that simply aren’t present in its smaller, style-focused stablemate. We’re bemused by this - the installation ought to be damn-near identical - but perhaps there’s a layer of soundproofing that gets applied to Range Rovers but not to Land Rovers.

Either way, just accept that you will get some three-cylinder grumble here - but in the grand scheme of things it’s probably no worse than what you’d experience with a modern diesel. And as with the Evoque, you can use a natty gauge in the instrument panel to temper your attitude on the right-hand pedal and, battery level permitting, prevent the engine from being called upon at all, particularly around town.

The drive itself is every bit as accomplished in P300e form as it is in regular Disco Sports. The transmission in the PHEV is an eight-speed auto (compared with nine-speeds elsewhere in the range) but it’s a solid performer, smart enough to work with the driver and delivering smooth shifts when required.

There’s no getting around the fact that this is a tallish SUV, so there’s a bit of body roll in corners, but in general it’s well controlled and there’s bags of grip to give you confidence, even in slippery conditions. The steering remains slower than in the Landie’s German rivals, but it’s precise enough and makes it easy to place the car in corners. Front visibility is still a strong point, too, and the ClearSight digital rear-view mirror helps to eliminate blind spots behind you.

The 2021-model-year Discovery Sport gets Land Rover’s latest Pivi Pro infotainment system, which is a huge leap over what was previously offered. It delivers proper smartphone integration and the system has quick to respond to inputs.

Curiously, the P300e is being restricted to R-Dynamic editions of the Discovery Sport - although you at least have the option of S, SE and HSE once you’ve ticked that initial box. That means you get plenty of kit, even at the entry point that we’ve driven here, but it does bump the price up to the point where private buyers would need to think hard about the potential savings on running costs.



Kia Sorento Is Compelling in Hybrid Form

The front-wheel-drive hybrid version of Kia's redesigned Sorento mid-size three-row crossover packs a solid 227 horsepower and a 37-mpg EPA combined estimate.

The new 2021 Kia Sorento hybrid doesn't make a big deal of itself, despite being the first electrically assisted version of Kia's mid-size crossover. It's got a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and it drives like you'd expect—except that the little four feels like it has about 25 percent more displacement than it actually does. In fact, the Sorento hybrid's combined output—227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque—nearly matches that of the 2020 Volkswagen GTI. Like a GTI, the front-wheel-drive-only Sorento torments its front tires with torque. Unlike the compact GTI, though, it has three rows of seats and an EPA combined estimate of 37 mpg. Thus concludes our references to the Volkswagen GTI, but we hope the comparisons helped you subliminally internalize the idea that the Sorento hybrid is actually kind of fun.

To get the Sorento hybrid's 227 horses out of a 1.6-liter turbo-four, you'd generally have to boost the bejesus out of it. Kia didn't do that. But it did pair the engine with a sizable electric motor and a 1.5-kWh lithium battery that enables some neat tricks. Such as producing an abundance of torque off the line and sailing along at highway speeds with the engine off. And yes, achieving solid fuel-economy ratings of 39 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.

Kia's highly specific spec sheet lists the 1.6-liter as making 177.2 horsepower and 195.4 pound-feet of torque from 1500 to 4500 rpm. The electric motor generates a claimed 60.1 horses and 194.7 pound-feet from zero up to 1600 revs. Notice that those two torque figures are both almost the same and happen at low revs, which helps explain why the hybrid's low-end grunt feels diesel-like in strength. It's simply a smooth, prodigious shove that's out of proportion to the gas engine's displacement.

The 1.6 does sometimes lug at low rpm, particularly when climbing grades, as the transmission holds a tall gear and leans on the electric motor for help. But that's a common hybrid trait. As dealership sales reps like to say: They all do that. And, as we tend we say: At least it's not a CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission). Should you desire a lower gear from the Sorento hybrid's conventional automatic, there are paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel.

The Sorento hybrid offers no dedicated electric-only mode, but nonetheless it relies on electric power surprisingly often and at high speeds. Light on the throttle, downhill, you'll see the green EV indicator light come on at 80 mph. While its relatively tiny battery means you won't ever go far on electricity alone, this Sorento is good at seamlessly juggling its propulsion options without calling attention to the machinations happening beyond the firewall.

Priced at $34,760 to start for the base S trim, the hybrid costs $1700 more than a non-hybrid Sorento S, which employs a 191-hp naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder and an eight-speed automatic. That model is only rated for 26 mpg combined, and the EPA figures that over five years, the hybrid will save you $1750 in fuel. Your mileage may vary, of course, but you'll notice that those estimated savings neatly erase the hybrid's price premium. It looks as if a half-decade is your financial break-even point, if that's a motivating factor. But the hybrid also is the significantly more powerful option, and that's a worthy upgrade on its own. Just don't expect it to outpace the nonhybrid Sorento's optional 281-hp 2.5-liter turbo-four that we've already driven.

In terms of drawbacks, the Sorento hybrid has a couple. It's only available as a front-driver, so if all-wheel drive is nonnegotiable you'll need to look elsewhere—or wait for the upcoming plug-in hybrid variant that drives all four of its wheels with a combined 261 horses and a significantly larger battery. The hybrid also shouldn't be your pick if you expect to tow much with it, as its 2000-pound tow rating lags behind the nonhybrid models' 3500-pound max. But if neither of those factors is an issue, you may as well spring for the hybrid over the standard Sorento. Think of it as a five-year investment in free horsepower.



Kia Niro PHEV Review: Old-School Hybrid With Old-School Issues

The verdict

The Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s efficiency, practicality and utility are outweighed by its unpleasant driving experience.

Versus the competition

Newer, next-generation plug-in hybrids are here, and they feel far more refined than the Niro PHEV while offering up competitive technology, comfort and, in some cases, superior range — not to mention all-wheel drive.

I was about 5 miles into my first spin behind the wheel of a 2020 Kia Niro plug-in hybrid when I realized this was not going to be a pleasant motoring experience. Those 5 miles made me realize just how much electric and plug-in vehicles have improved in the past decade. Gone from most of the market’s electrified vehicles are those artificial-feeling brakes, numb steering, odd powertrain noises and nonlinear, jerky, odd acceleration and deceleration qualities. “Most” is the operative word here, though, as I’ve apparently found one vehicle that hasn’t gotten the memo yet — the Niro Plug-In Hybrid. This crossover-style wagon has a few issues in terms of how it drives and performs, but if it’s as efficient as it seems to be and provides a decent amount of occupant room and cargo space, is that enough to overcome its driving deficiencies?

What’s It Packing?

The Kia Niro comes in three flavors: hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicle, the difference being the size of battery pack each car has and how far it can drive in electric-only mode. The hybrid has no plug-in ability and operates much like any other hybrid out there, while the EV has no gasoline motor to help it recharge on the go, meaning it operates only in electric mode. The PHEV version is kind of the best of both worlds — it operates first and foremost in electric mode but uses its onboard gas engine to keep the vehicle moving and recharge the batteries when they’re depleted. Plus, it provides extra propulsion even when they aren’t. The PHEV version can also be plugged in to refill the battery, allowing you to drive in electric mode using land-generated power instead of electricity created by the onboard engine.

The Niro PHEV is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a 60-hp electric motor for a total system rating of 139 hp and 195 pounds-feet of torque. The system is mated to something rare in a hybrid — an actual automatic transmission. In this case, it’s a six-speed dual-clutch unit. It’s far more common to have a hybrid employ a continuously variable automatic — to more easily make use of the mixing of gasoline and electric propulsion methods — but Kia’s gone for something different here, and it doesn’t work that well. The six-speed transmission does not shift smoothly, especially under deceleration, and seems to be at odds with the electrified gasoline powertrain. The engine and electric motor combination is also less than adequate: Acceleration is slooooow, without any of the zippiness one usually finds in cars with electrified powertrains.

The Niro PHEV feels heavy and ponderous whether you keep it in EV-only mode or allow it to mix in some gasoline-sourced propulsion. It behaves like an old-school hybrid, one from the days in which automakers were still ironing out the interaction and function of hybrid systems. Putting the Niro into Sport mode does not help matters; the brakes are terrible, with an artificial, nonlinear feel. The last 10 feet of any stop sees the mechanical brakes grab with sudden bite, causing head-bobbing among occupants regardless of how carefully and smoothly one tries to bleed off speed. The regenerative braking function has a few settings, controlled by the paddle shifters in normal mode (Sport mode turns them back into gear selectors). The most aggressive regen mode is far too aggressive, again causing passenger discomfort when the driver lifts off the accelerator, while the mildest setting doesn’t seem to do much.

The car doesn’t ride or handle well, either, weighing about 3,400 pounds and featuring slow, highly boosted steering and a stiff ride that transmits a lot of bumps and noise into the cabin. In short, the Niro PHEV simply isn’t a pleasant car to drive.

Scores Points on Practicality

So if it’s not particularly pleasant, does the Niro PHEV at least make up some ground on practicality or efficiency? Yes, it does. Being a plug-in hybrid means it can operate in electric mode for a limited distance before needing to employ its onboard gas engine to keep going, allowing drivers to get to a charging station to refill the battery. It can also use that gas engine to add additional propulsive force (so if you’re in EV mode and floor the accelerator, it’ll add some grunt to the mix) to maintain a certain level of charge on the battery while cruising, or even to recharge the battery while you’re driving. I took the Niro on my traditional plug-in-hybrid testing loop to see how far it would go on electricity alone, starting with a full battery and driving mixed urban streets in EV mode with the climate control off and the windows up until the gas engine kicked on — no hypermiling, just driving normally and smoothly, sticking to posted speed limits.

The Niro PHEV is rated to go 26 miles on electricity only, then topping out at a total range (gas engine included) of 560 miles (assuming the EPA’s gas-only fuel economy rating of 48/44/46 mpg city/highway/combined). My test saw the Niro PHEV best that number, delivering 32.8 miles of observed electric range before the gas engine kicked on — a 26% improvement over what the EPA said the car would achieve. Recharging the fairly small 8.9-kilowatt-hour battery from a household 120-volt outlet should take about nine hours, according to Kia, or 2.5 hours on a more powerful 240-volt charger. (DC fast charging is not an option on the Niro PHEV.) So yes, it does have the expected plug-in hybrid chops, allowing most people to commute electrically the majority of the time and giving drivers options as to how they’d like to allocate power — either maintaining the battery charge by using the gas engine, recharging the battery en route, or draining the battery every time they drive and recharging it at home.

Utility Is Strong, Comfort Is Mixed

The Niro’s practicality isn’t limited to its hybrid efficiency; it genuinely works as a small compact SUV. There’s plenty of occupant space up front and in back, with more than adequate backseat legroom. Cargo room is also surprisingly plentiful, as the batteries for the hybrid system don’t intrude much into that space. Headroom is also plentiful, and the seats are decently sized and supportive. It works quite well as a small family crossover in terms of roominess, efficiency and utility.

Its comfortable seats, though, are tempered by the fact that ride quality is only mediocre, with a lot of bumps and noise transmitted into the cabin. In fact, noise is one of the more troublesome aspects of the Niro PHEV — and not just road and wind noise, but noises the car generates. It feels like it’s always dinging or beeping at you: the moaning low-speed noise all EVs are required by law to broadcast as a warning to sight-impaired pedestrians, the beeping when you shift into Reverse, the welcome noise, the shut down noise, the warnings. The appeal of a quiet EV is never met with the Niro.

The interior design is also quite good when it comes to the buttons, switches and multimedia system. Kia and its sister brand Hyundai have the secret to a good multimedia system, and while the one in the Niro PHEV might not be Kia’s latest and greatest, it’s still miles better than most. It’s accompanied by plenty of dedicated buttons that are big, easy to locate while driving and very complete. The voice commands are questionable in their function, however: Asking the car to change the radio to SiriusXM’s NPR channel somehow got me navigation directions to the nearest Pier 1 outlet.

At Least It’s Cheap(ish)

The Niro comes in several versions at several prices for the 2020 model year. A plain, basic Niro hybrid starts at a not-inconsiderable $25,710 including destination, while the base Niro PHEV starts at $30,610 and the Niro EV begins at a hefty $40,210. (That said, plug-in models may be eligible for federal or local rebates or tax advantages.) My specific test car was a Niro PHEV EX Premium, which comes nearly loaded for $37,510, with options limited to paint color, cargo accessories and mats. My as-tested price was $38,085 before any tax credits.

Stacking the Niro PHEV up against a proper competitor is not easy given few other plug-in hybrids offer the same body style as the Niro — a tall sort-of-crossover, sort-of-SUV, sort-of-wagon. The closest competitor might be the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, which went all plug-in for the 2018 model year and starts at nearly $5,000 more than the Niro PHEV. The Subaru does have a few advantages, however, such as standard AWD and Subaru’s standard safety systems, but it doesn’t achieve the Niro’s range, with only 17 miles EV-only and 480 miles overall.

Two plug-in hybrid SUVs are available for 2020, one from Ford and one from Toyota. The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid PHEV is front-drive only, as is the Niro PHEV, and starts a little more than $3,500 higher than the Niro PHEV. It features more interior space and greater range: 37 miles EV and 530 miles overall. Another AWD option is the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime, which has a range of 42 miles EV and a bladder-busting 600 miles overall — but costs a whopping $8,600 and change over the base price of a Niro PHEV.

There are better plug-in choices than the Niro PHEV these days. It feels a generation behind many of its hybrid and plug-in contemporaries in terms of powertrain refinement, and its practicality, efficiency and utility sadly don’t outweigh its general unpleasantness to drive.


Tested: Jeep Wrangler 4xe Complicates a Simple Machine

Jeep's new plug-in-hybrid Wrangler promises 375 horsepower and 49 MPGe but struggles to smoothly blend its gas and electric power.

Depending on how you frame it, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe is either a relic of the past or one of the most technologically complex vehicles on the road. Body-on-frame construction, solid front and rear axles, and a fabric roof make the Wrangler a sort of 21st-century self-propelled covered wagon. Yet the 4xe plug-in hybrid follows the lead of science-fair projects such as the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius Prime, running on gas, electricity, or a combination of both in the interest of greater efficiency.

The 4xe (pronounced "four by E") sandwiches a 270-hp turbocharged inline-four between a 44-hp motor connected through the accessory belt at the front and a 134-hp motor taking the place of the transmission's torque converter at the back. The motors draw power from a roughly 14.0-kWh lithium-ion battery stashed under the rear seats. Whether the 4xe is running in Electric mode or as a hybrid, torque is routed to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a transfer case that offers rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive (4WD Auto), and high- or low-range four-wheel drive for the off-road crowd.

2021 jeep wrangler unlimited rubicon 4xe

HIGHS: Guilt-free electric motoring, go-anywhere capability, one vehicle that does the job of many.

 In other words, the power flow through the Wrangler 4xe's running gear is, at times, harder to follow than the plot of Inception. At least the net results are easy to understand: 375 horsepower, an EPA fuel economy of 49 MPGe with the battery charged, and 21 miles of guilt-free electric driving before the gas engine kicks on. The 4xe promises to combine contradictory attributes—power and efficiency—into a single product that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago, like those business-casual sweatpants you can now wear to work. The plug-in hybrid makes the same torque—470 lb-ft—as the V-8-powered Wrangler Rubicon 392, which is rated at just 14 mpg combined.
2021 jeep wrangler unlimited rubicon 4xe
In Car and Driver testing, a $62,415 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4xe hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, which makes it quicker than anything with recirculating-ball steering needs to be. (The Rubicon 392, a vehicle designed around absurd excess, should be about a second quicker, but we haven't tested one yet.) You'll have to shift into 4WD Auto if you want to hustle the plug-in hybrid that hard, because in two-wheel-drive mode the Wrangler throttles the torque, resulting in a 60-mph time that's 1.3 seconds slower.

LOWS: Sluggish in Electric mode, clunky in Hybrid mode, unexceptional fuel economy once the battery is depleted.

2021 jeep wrangler unlimited rubicon 4xe
When the gas and electric powertrains are working in harmony, this Wrangler drives well enough, but transitions between pure electric driving and hybrid operation are can be slow and jarring. If the battery is depleted or the driver asks for more power than the electric motor can deliver, the inline-four often jumps into action with all the grace of a middle schooler at their first dance. There are pregnant pauses long enough that you might ask out loud "What the hell is happening?" before the Jeep starts accelerating with any urgency. Other times the engine makes a rushed, jerky entrance. Driving the Wrangler 4xe in suburban traffic is a constant reminder that calibrating two powertrains to behave as one is more than twice as complicated as tuning a single propulsion source.

An Electric mode remaps the accelerator so that the gas engine kicks on only if you flatten the right pedal. Annoyingly, if you always want to start out driving electrically, you'll have to switch into this mode every time you start the 4xe. But you probably won't, because driving that way, you're moving a 5318-pound brick with just 134 horsepower. That's enough to keep up with traffic, but treating the 4xe as an EV doesn't have the same fun, torque-rich punch we've come to associate with electric driving.

2021 jeep wrangler unlimited rubicon 4xe
To get the full fuel-economy benefit, you'll have to stay close to home and plug in often. A 150-mile trip with only a single charge tanked our average fuel economy over roughly 200 miles to a dismal 16 MPGe. Owners who are religious about plugging in and puttering around in Electric mode will certainly fare better, although we suspect most buyers will come up well short of 49 MPGe. Once the battery has been depleted, the 4xe actually gets worse fuel economy than a Wrangler powered by the turbo four with none of the plug-in-hybrid hardware (20 versus 22 mpg combined). Blame the extra 800 pounds that the 4xe carries wherever it goes.

If you can tune out the powertrain's hiccups and awkward pauses, you'll find that the 4xe drives like any other Wrangler. There's enough slack in the steering, squish in the suspension, and imprecision in the all-terrain tires to hide the effect of all of that extra weight on the dynamics. Turns out there is an advantage to a numb and vague chassis after all.

2021 jeep wrangler unlimited rubicon 4xe

Wrangler buyers are used to making those compromises. For years, Americans have happily paid a premium for a vehicle that's loud on the highway, thirsty at the pump, and cramped inside in order to own the ultimate do-anything vehicle. As with any other Wrangler, the 4xe can be a family SUV, a convertible, an off-roader, and a daily driver. It can tow 3500 pounds, and it can ford 30 inches of water as easily as it rolls over a curb in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.

But the 4xe's clumsy powertrain strikes us as a compromise that few people should tolerate, especially given the $10,705 premium over a V-6 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. (Many buyers will be eligible for a $7500 credit on their federal taxes, but even that doesn't balance this equation for us.) Most Jeep shoppers will be better served by accepting that, at least for now, a simpler Wrangler is a better Wrangler.


Honda HR-V: e:HEV hybrid powertrain details revealed

New Honda HR-V SUV has a fresh look, updated technology and a 129bhp dual-motor hybrid powertrain

The all-new Honda HR-V was revealed earlier this year and now the firm has confirmed further details of the new car’s 129bhp e:HEV hybrid powertrain.

For the third-generation HR-V, Honda has given it a sleeker exterior design, an all-new interior and updated technology onboard. The new car will only be available as a hybrid and is expected to go on sale later this year with a starting price of around £25,000.

When it arrives, the new HR-V will go head-to-head with small SUV models including the Ford Puma, Renault Captur and Skoda Kamiq.

2021 Honda HR-V hybrid: engine and performance

Honda has announced the latest HR-V will be powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine mated to two electric motors and a CVT automatic gearbox. This powertrain is similar to the one used in the current Jazz but features a larger battery mounted under the boot floor. It also produces more power, with a total output of 129bhp.

The way the e:HEV hybrid powertrain operates is unique, with one electric motor powering the car along with the petrol engine. The second motor is connected to the engine but is used as a generator to charge the car’s onboard battery.

This powertrain will be capable of pure-electric running but Honda has not specified any range figures saying “In city driving, most of the time you can, as an accumulated time of driving, drive in pure-electric mode. However, we haven’t actually determined and measured, and also focused our development in terms of maximising the pure-electric range in one go.”

Honda discontinued its 1.6-litre diesel engine in 2020 amid freefalling diesel sales. The new HR-V is part of the brand’s ‘Electric Vision’ strategy, which aims to introduce hybrid or electric power to all of its mainstream models by 2022.


The new HR-V has a rakish design thanks to a coupe-inspired swooping roofline and a longer bonnet. Despite the sporty profile of the roof, which is 20mm lower than the old car, Honda claims the new HR-V can accommodate four adults in comfort thanks to improved packaging of the hybrid powertrain which results in an extra 35mm of rear legroom.

The front features a new integrated grille and slim LED headlights joined together by a narrow piece of chrome trim. The new HR-V also sits 10mm higher than before, with the sides of the car featuring black plastic body cladding around the arches and sills, together with a high indent line along the length of the car and a flush-fitting rear door handle. Large 18-inch five-spoke two-tone alloy wheels also feature.

The rearmost C-pillar is more sharply angled than before, leading to a new tailgate that houses a slim rear tail light cluster that wraps round from the rear quarter panel across the width of the car.

Interior and technology

Inside, the dashboard has been redesigned with a new minimalist look. A nine-inch central infotainment touchscreen is mounted to the top of the dashboard, which appears to be running similar software to the system used in the Honda e, which includes sat nav and smartphone connectivity.

Honda has retained physical rotary dials for the climate controls in a wrap-around centre console with a refreshed gear stick design. The clean dashboard design features an ‘Air Diffusion System’ that replaces the traditional air vents in the centre of the dashboard. This comprises two L-shaped vents mounted by the windscreen pillars, which direct air along the inside the windows to adjust the interior temperature - all without blasting hot or cold air directly at the driver or passenger.

The brand’s versatile Magic Seats storage system also features, offering the option to fold the rear seats flat or to flip up the rear seat bases depending on the storage space required.

Full details of the new car’s interior tech and trim levels are expected to be announced later this year.


The new third-generation HR-V is fitted with Honda’s ‘Sensing’ safety suite adding an array of driver assistance technology. A new front camera is fitted, which has more processing power than before and improves both the car’s emergency braking and steering systems.

The new camera is able to better detect pedestrians detection, and is capable of recognising oncoming vehicles including cyclists and motorcycles, automatically applying the brakes when a hazard is detected.

A new adaptive cruise control system is also included, with new advanced software meaning it can perform overtakes when prompted. The system can work out the acceleration and steering angles required to complete a passing maneuver, all with minimal input from the driver.

Honda CR-V Hybrid Sidles into Our Long-Term Fleet

We begin a 40,000-mile shakedown of Honda's first electrified crossover to see if the powertrain scales up into the brand's bestselling vehicle.


We invited a 2021 Honda CR-V to join our long-term fleet so we could spend some quality time (and 40,000 miles) with Honda's bestseller and the fifth-bestselling vehicle in the United States. We chose the hybrid because it's new to the lineup and because we liked the 212-hp fuel-sipping powertrain in the Accord. In the CR-V, the system boosts fuel economy and performance, making it the choice for buyers who want efficiency and power. Those customers will have to shell out for it, though, given the CR-V Hybrid sits at the top of the range. In addition to shaking down the powertrain and seeing if it can deliver the promised fuel economy, we're hoping this compact crossover—the brand's first with hybrid power to make it to the U.S.—will give us a glimpse at the future of Honda, which will soon phase out gas-only powertrains in Europe.

We ordered a top-of-the-line Touring model loaded with just about everything: leather seats (heated up front), navigation, wireless phone charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, a nine-speaker audio system, a liftgate that opens when you wave your foot under the bumper, proximity key entry, remote start, the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance features, and more. Our $37,920 example has but one option: white paint for $395. Perhaps it's because all of southeast Michigan is currently covered in two feet of snow or because half the vehicles in the grocery-store parking lot are also painted in America's favorite automotive hue (and shaped like tall boxes), but the CR-V blends in a little too well with its surroundings. We wouldn't call the color choice regrettable but maybe a bit forgettable.

Inside, Honda's inoffensive design, easy-to-use 7.0-inch touchscreen, and highly adjustable center console should satisfy most shoppers in this class if not the nit-pickiest staffers on our masthead. Hybrid versions differ from regular CR-Vs in a few subtle ways. A unitless battery gauge replaces the tachometer in the digital instrument cluster and tells you vaguely how much juice you're using at any given moment. Honda also opted for a push-button transmission instead of the chunky gear lever used in the core model. Staff reaction to push-button shifters is mixed, but the setup at least makes for a tidy, unobtrusive center console. In the same way a light color creates the illusion that a room is larger than it is, the Ivory surfaces in our CR-V make the cabin appear adequately spacious, which, granted, it is, offering 103 cubic feet of passenger volume. Provided that light-beige leather can withstand the dye in our Levis, the simplicity of this interior all but ensures it will age well.

A couple of hybrid caveats to note: Choosing this powertrain nullifies the nonhybrid CR-V's 1500-pound tow rating, so technical editor David Beard will have to look elsewhere when he wants to tow his snowmobile. Which is just as well, considering the cargo hold probably wouldn't fit all of his gear. The gas-electric CR-V sacrifices six cubic feet of cargo space (and its spare tire) to the battery. The upside is that, compared with a regular all-wheel-drive CR-V, you gain 9 mpg in combined driving by the EPA's yardstick. That said, if you drive like we do, you can expect much worse results: We're currently averaging a mere 27 mpg.

The Honda's road manners are in line with the amiable-but-boring norm of the segment. Its smooth ride and secure handling are immediately apparent, but there's nothing here that'll make an enthusiast grin—unless of course you're reading its VIN, which by dumb luck contains a bit of bathroom humor. Floor the accelerator and the powertrain fills the cabin with 75 decibels of sound. That's quieter than the regular CR-V's 78-decibel moan at full throttle.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we haven't had as many butts in these seats as we'd like, but after soft-shoeing it through the break-in period, we sent the Honda to the test track. The hybrid's drive motor can contribute 232 pound-feet of torque from the get-go, which helps this ute reach 60 mph a tenth of a second quicker than the unelectrified model, but the latter catches up by 70 mph and pips the hybrid at the quarter-mile, 15.9 seconds to 16.1. Our long-termer also lagged behind the regular CR-V in braking (170 feet versus 165) and roadholding (0.80 g versus 0.85). Given both cars wear identical Continental CrossContact LX Sport tires, we suspect the hybrid's extra 190 pounds are primarily to blame. Fortunately, in the real world, this CR-V seems more athletic than the gas-only version, and its quicker 5-to-60-mph time bears that out. As we put more miles on the odometer, we hope to see some of these numbers improve—particularly the observed fuel economy.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 5131 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 27 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 14.0 gal Observed Fuel Range: 370 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0

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