Fuel-efficient hybrids used to be compromised in terms of practicality, with seven-seaters, in particular, having to ditch third-row seating for a bulky battery pack. However, improvements in battery tech mean these packs have become more space-efficient, so there's now a slew of versatile seven-seat hybrid vehicles with low running costs.
These options range from conventional hybrids utilising a small battery pack with an electric motor that works as an assistant to a traditional engine at low speeds to boost fuel economy, to plug-in hybrid alternatives with larger batteries that can be charged up overnight and allow for a certain amount of zero-emission driving, before an engine takes over to enable to you to complete longer journeys.
The former works well for those looking for a cost-effective way into greener motoring. The latter benefits company car drivers thanks to lower emissions and less benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax.
All the hybrid options on our list offer an electrified stepping stone for those not ready for an electric vehicle, with pricing that should keep you from having to raid your children's university funds.
Our pick: 1.4 TSI eHybrid Life DSG
The latest Volkswagen Multivan towers over other SUVs, including the latest Range Rover, so there's a great view for you to watch out for traffic, but it also works for children in the back to see out and hopefully avoid feeling car sick on long trips.
The plug-in eHybrid produces 215bhp in total thanks to the combined efforts of its 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor, and cracks 0-62mph in 9.0sec. The eHybrid also gets a 13kWh (11.4kWh useable) battery pack with an electric-only range of 30.4 miles. That should be enough for all your urban errands without burning any fuel. Speaking of fuel, the Multivan has a combined figure of 156.9mpg. However, just like every other plug-in hybrid, you'll need to charge up regularly to get anywhere close to that number.
If you venture beyond the urban jungle, the Multivan is refined at motorway speeds and provides a comfortable ride. Everyone gets their own seat, and these all move independently of one another should you need to get out of striking distance of your siblings.
Your family will love you for buying a Multivan
7. Ford S-Max
Our pick: 2.5 FHEV Titanium
It may be a little long in the tooth, but the Ford S-Max has been updated with hybrid technology.
The S-Max uses a 187bhp 2.5-litre petrol engine (the same engine used in the Ford Kuga PHEV) and electric motor to boost fuel economy into the mid-40s, which is okay for a big car with seating for seven. You'll need to put your foot down hard to swiftly get it up to motorway speeds because it takes nearly 10sec to get from 0-62mph. The S-Max handles well for a car its size, though, with lots of grip and little body lean, giving you the confidence to carry your hard-won speed on twisting country lanes.
Versatility is good, with the middle row getting individual seats that slide and recline independently of one another, and the rearmost seats can be made to fold flat into the floor when not needed to maximise boot space.
Old, but gold. The S-Max is still a fine car
6. Ford Galaxy
Our pick: 2.5 FHEV Titanium
Much like the S-Max, this Ford Galaxy uses the same 2.5-litre petrol and hybrid system, so performance and economy are similar to the S-Max.
However, the Galaxy is much more practical given its squarer exterior shape, translating into greater headroom for any inlaws relegated to the third row. The Galaxy also works as a far better removals van because you can fit more things in it with all the seats folded down.
This Galaxy is not as tasty as the chocolate variety
5. Volvo XC90 Recharge
Our pick: 2.0 T8 Recharge PHEV Core Bright
The Volvo XC90 was a pioneer when it came out in 2015. It was so well packaged compared with rivals such as the Audi Q7 that it kept its seven seats despite having a plug-in hybrid battery pack.
It has been updated since then, with the latest version getting an upgraded 18kWh pack (14.7kWh useable), helping to take it past the magic 40-mile electric-only barrier to qualify for a lower BIK tax band. The performance has also been improved because the combined output of its hybrid system is 449bhp, enough to get this large luxury SUV from 0-62mph in a mere 5.4sec.
There's plenty of space inside for seven. The middle row enjoys limo-like levels of leg room, and the individual seats can even recline for greater comfort. The boot isn't all that bad with all seven seats up, either.
A replacement is on the horizon, but the biggest Volvo can still cut it
4. Dacia Jogger Hybrid
Our pick: 1.6 HEV Expression
The Dacia Jogger is the most affordable seven-seater on this list, but there are other reasons it does well on this list.
The regular Jogger is a pleasant thing in its own right, providing all the basics you'd need, plus some handy extras. There is an 8.0in infotainment system with full smartphone integration, climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and even blindspot monitoring to warn you of cars alongside you on the motorway.
This hybrid version is the only way to get an automatic Jogger, making driving in town more straightforward than the regular petrol model. It also deals with the weight of a car load of people better thanks to having more power from its 136bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor combo. It isn't the smoothest hybrid system out there, but it does the job, and fuel economy in the mid-50s is very impressive.
It's even big enough that you can fit an adult in the third row if needed, or the rearmost seats can be removed altogether for tip runs.
You'll like running a Jogger
3. Kia Sorento HEV
Our pick: 1.6 T-GDi HEV Edition 4WD
This Kia Sorento is over twice the price of our last offering, but don't hold that against it because it is a brilliant seven-seater.
It is so expensive these days because you can only get it in one fully-loaded trim level called Edition. Your only choice is if you want a tow car-friendly diesel, a plug-in hybrid aimed at company car users, or our preferred choice, the hybrid.
It still has enough grunt with 223bhp to get this big SUV up to motorway speeds without much fuss.
The Sorento stand out in terms of interior space and seating versatility. There's loads of room for the first and second rows, and you don't have to slide the middle row that far forward to get tall adults in the back. There are cup holders and charging ports throughout so everyone can charge devices. When it comes time to get out, it is a simple one-button operation on the kerbside to tilt and slide the seat forward so those in the third row can disembark.
The Sorento is an ideal tow car
2. Nissan X-Trail ePower
Our pick: 1.5 ePower eForce N-Connecta (7-st)
The ePower hybrid system in the latest Nissan X-Trail is unusual because the drive to the wheels comes from an electric motor, much like an electric car, but instead of a battery supplying the electric motor with electricity, it comes from a turbocharged, three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol.
The upsides are that the X-Trail gets up to speed very smoothly thanks to there being no gears to change, and because electric motors provide power instantly, it can get from 0-62mph in a swift 7.2sec, plus fuel economy over 40mpg is respectable. Smooth is also how you'd describe the ride, soaking up the worst bumps with little fuss, and the X-Trail grips the road nicely, with precise enough steering for a large SUV. It's also refined, so at least it won't be the car that bugs you on a long trip with kids screaming in the back.
You can recline the second row, but you must utilise its slide function to give anyone sitting in the third row a little more leg room. Still, all the seats fold neatly into the floor when not needed, and the doors open to nearly 90deg, which is handy when loading a child seat.
Nissan's X-Trail ePower does the hybrid thing differently to the other kids
1. Hyundai Santa Fe HEV
Our pick: 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid Premium 4WD Price: £44,945
Yes, the Hyundai Santa Fe is indeed a close relative to the Kia Sorento, and it uses the same 1.6-litre petrol and electric motor combination. However, while the Kia is only available in everything but the kitchen sink Edition trim and costs over £50,000, the Santa Fe gives you the same practicality and performance but costs nearly £6000 less in our preferred Premium trim.
It isn't as if the Santa Fe is lacking in equipment in Premium trim because you still get an upgraded Krell sound system, leather seats with electric front seat adjustment, a 10.1in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, LED headlights, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. And you still get the same versatile seating and respectable 40mpg fuel economy as the Sorento, just for a more palatable price. Add an excellent reliability record and a long five-year warranty, and you have the best seven-seater hybrid.
The Santa Fe is way cheaper than the Kia