Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) combine the best of both Electric and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) technology.

As you might expect, they all sport an electric motor that enables the car to travel a certain distance based on the capacity of the batteries, and there's also a normal petrol engine that kicks in once the electric battery is depleted - at this point, the car effectively turns into a conventional hybrid.

PHEVs are perfect for drivers who want the environmental and fuel saving benefits of an EV, but may require additional range for those weekend getaways. PHEVs aren’t all about efficiency, either - there are some rather sporty models around, too.

With the Government recently announcing a new Clean Car Standard, we expect PHEVs to become more and more popular as their emissions generally sit below the 105g/km requirement. Here are the top five bestselling PHEV vehicles in NZ last year.

5) BMW X5 xDrive45e (25 units) from $161,900 (+ORC)

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The BMW X5 xDrive45e is a luxurious SUV. For the money, though, the SUV has some interesting features up its sleeve, with Acoustic Pedestrian Protection and adaptive dual-axle air suspension for a much more comfortable ride.

The X5 xDrive45e is powered by a sizable 3.0-litre powerplant, which can get this model 0-100km/h in just 5.6 seconds.

Despite these impressive figures, the car still consumes just 2.5L/100km and has a CO2 output of only 56g/km. The electric range is estimated at 80km.

4) Porsche Cayenne (39 units) from $167,300 (+ORC)

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The Porsche Cayenne is the fastest of the five PHEVs on our list, which can get from 0-100km/h in just 5.0 seconds (if you select the Sport Chrono package as an extra).

The 3.0-litre engine produces 340kW of power and a combined 700Nm of torque, with its consumption sitting at 3.2L/100km and a CO2 rating of 78g/km. The electric motor is paired with a 14.1kWh battery pack, which can drive the car for up to 40km on electric power alone, up to an electric-only top speed of 135km/h.

Despite not being the most efficient PHEV on the list, it’s by no means thirsty compared to conventional ICE cars. Your reward is superb acceleration in this lavish parlor on wheels.

3) Toyota Prius Prime (59 units) from $49,490 (TDP*)

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The Prius Prime PHEV is a sleek five-seater alternative to the popular conventional hybrid Prius offering from Toyota.

Charging is simple enough – it takes approximately four and a half hours through a standard household socket, which will give you a pure EV range of 40-45km.

The design of the Prius Prime is fairly futuristic, with its double bubble rear window and aero stabiliser built right into the light cluster which results in a drag co-efficient of just 0.25.

The Prius Prime has a total power output of 90kW from its 1.8-litre engine and electric motors. Fuel consumption is exemplary at just 1.5L/100km, with a standout CO2 rating of 34.91g/100km.

*TDP = Toyota Driveaway Price

2) MINI Countryman Hybrid (70 units) from $64,790 (+ORC)

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The MINI Countryman Hybrid is an attractive package, and it possesses the same head-turning appeal of the 1959 classic - albeit with a futuristic flourish. The Countryman Hybrid is powered by a feisty turbocharged three-cylinder powerplant and produces 165kW. With an economy of 2.4L/100km and a CO2 output of only 54g/km, it’s one of the greenest MINIs about.

It’s not just a pretty face, the Countryman Hybrid is smart too, with an automatic tailgate and an impressive 1,275 litres of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat.

Electric-only range is respectable at around 48km, which will suit most city commuters.

1) Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (431 units) from $52,490 (+ORC)

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Step back to 2014, and it was Mitsubishi who introduced the world's first mass production SUV PHEV. Today, the Outlander PHEV still sells well, despite not receiving a major update over the past seven years.

Though the Outlander PHEV has had some upgrades since its introduction, including the ability to recharge on a fast-charging station (25 minutes). The Outlander PHEV also now sports a 2.4-litre engine with a combined output of 130kW.

You can travel 55km on EV power alone, which is reasonably practical for short commutes and the school run. A fuel consumption rating of just 1.9L/100km and CO2 emission of only 44g/km, the Outlander PHEV is a very efficient, family-friendly option, and being an SUV makes it a perfect fit for today’s market. No wonder it’s been so popular amongst Kiwis.

What will 2021 bring?

While PHEVs are not the biggest sellers in the NZ market, they do offer great fuel economy and performance, along with enviable CO2 outputs. There’s more to come, too, from the likes of the new Kia Sorento PHEV and the Ford Escape PHEV, which could challenge the ever-popular Mitsubishi Outlander for the top spot.

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Will the 2021 Kia Sorento PHEV be a top seller?

Even a Ford Transit van has been added to the mix, with a 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine and an electric-only range of 56km.

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