Best used hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars 2019

Like the idea of electric power for town, but the backup of a normal engine for longer trips? You need a hybrid. Here are eight of the best

James Mills
Oct 16, 2019

From fuel-sipping superminis to fire-breathing supercars, there's no shortage of hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars for drivers to choose from. The trend for marrying an electric motor with a petrol or diesel engine - providing the possibility of low-emission motoring around town plus the ability to cover longer trips without having to stop to charge - has seen countless car companies develop the technology.

Happily, because so many car makers now provide an alternative to conventional petrol and diesel power, you can choose from a wide selection of second-hand models. And even if you are on a tight budget, hybrids cost from as little as £2,000 – although they will be some of the oldest examples that have covered a high number of miles.

Spend a little more - the average price of a used car is between £7,000 and £8,000, but hybrids, especially plug-in versions, are generally more expensive, due to additional technology included - and your choice broadens considerably, as does the quality and capability of the cars. And if you're looking to finance your next car, hybrid models become even more affordable, with costs for PCP finance deals on hybrids starting at around £150 per month with less than £1,000 as a deposit.

However, before taking the plunge, ask yourself whether a hybrid is suitable for the type of day-to-day driving you do. Generally, hybrids are most efficient, offering the greatest fuel economy, when used at low to medium speeds, making them well suited to town driving and lower-speed cross-country trips. If you ask them to sit on a motorway at 70mph for miles on end or regularly zoom along fast country roads, the economy you get is likely to be worse than a diesel equivalent.

 

Standard hybrids - now branded as 'self-charging hybrids' - recharge their battery as you drive, recouping energy when you brake, and providing electric power for up to a couple of miles. Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid vehicles - also known as 'PHEVs' - feature a larger battery and should be plugged in regularly to give the best fuel economy, with some models able to travel for up to 30 miles on battery power alone after a full charge. It is possible to use the engine to charge the battery in a plug-in hybrid, but this is extremely inefficient. Do this and you might as well have a cheaper and simpler ordinary petrol or diesel model.

Hybrid drivers often praise their cars for the quiet driving experience they offer. By pulling away using battery power alone in many cases, and using a petrol engine (in the majority of models) to build more speed, they are more refined than a typical diesel. If that sounds appealing, keep reading for our roundup of the best value used hybrid cars available now.

Best hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars 2019

1. Audi A3 e-tron PHEV

Best hybrid car for a high-quality interior

Latest Audi A3 e-Tron PHEV deals from £18,000
Monthly finance from £192

The A3 hatchback has been one of Audi’s most popular models for years, combining upmarket looks and a high-quality interior. With many current A3 drivers nearing the end of a PCP finance plan and considering how to replace their petrol or diesel models with something similarly desirable but a little more frugal, the A3 e-tron could be the answer.

This version has a 1.4-litre, turbocharged petrol engine plus an electric motor powered by a small battery, which provides a combined power output of 201hp. This means performance is brisk with 0-62mph taking just 7.6 seconds. As this is a plug-in hybrid, meanwhile, it can also be driven for up to 29 miles on battery power alone.

Audi claims that this petrol-electric car is capable of 166mpg - assuming you regularly charge the batteries and don't head out on long journeys too often, where the batteries run out of charge and the petrol engine has to work harder - using more fuel. After living with one for six months, we'd say you're more likely to achieve 70-80mpg on typical journeys, assuming you charge it regularly.

2. BMW 330e PHEV

Best hybrid car for an enjoyable drive

Latest BMW 330e deals from £16,995
Monthly finance from £242

The BMW 3 Series has long been one of the very best compact saloons money can buy. And for those looking for a plug-in hybrid saloon, the trend continues: the 330e is an accomplished alternative to a diesel. It offers strong acceleration, is comfortable but satisfyingly sporty to drive and offers impressive refinement compared with petrol and diesel models.

Charge the battery from the mains regularly and drive in a relaxed manner and this is a car that is capable of 148mpg. Take that with a pinch of salt though; depending how you drive, the actual range with electric propulsion can be as little as 11 miles, compared with the 25 that BMW claimed. Despite all this, the 330e is one of the very best plug-in hybrids to drive.

3. Hyundai Ioniq

Best hybrid car for choice - hybrid and PHEV available

Latest Hyundai Ioniq deals from £12,499
Monthly finance from £187

If you’re considering a hybrid car but find the popular Toyota Prius a little too wacky to look at, then try the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid. Inoffensively styled and competitively priced when new - and equally good value as a used car - it is a self-charging hybrid that is capable of up to 83mpg, while CO2 emissions of 79g/km mean that models registered before April 2017 are exempt from road tax.

Spacious enough for a family, with a big boot to, er, boot, and coming with plenty of equipment, this is a smooth and comfortable performer for those who value easy-does-it driving. Better still, if you do mostly shorter trips and spend lots of time in town or on slower roads, there is a plug-in hybrid version, too. This can travel further on electric power alone, offering the prospect of much improved fuel economy, provided you remember to plug it in regularly.

4. Mercedes-Benz C350e Estate PHEV

Best hybrid car for all-round ability

Latest Mercedes-Benz C350e Estate deals from £16,998
Monthly finance from £251

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the most handsome estate cars around. Open the doors, and you’ll discover it’s just as stylish inside, with one of the most attractive cabins of any car in this price range. Comfort levels are pretty high, too, making this a great car for relaxed drives.

You lose a little bit of boot space by choosing this plug-in hybrid (this drops to 350 litres, which is less than a standard VW Golf hatchback) but what you lose in outright space you gain in driving efficiency. Charge the battery regularly and Mercedes says the C350e is capable of around 134mpg, with 19 miles on battery power alone, but it’s more likely to fall between 50 and 60mpg in day-to-day driving conditions.

5. Mini Countryman Cooper S E ALL4 PHEV

Best hybrid car for all-weather grip

Latest Mini Countryman PHEV deals from £20,990
Monthly finance from £278

Most plug-in hybrid cars are thoroughly sensible machines that go out of their way to be efficient but are a little lacking in the personality department. Trust Mini, then, to change that. In the Countryman S E, it puts some fun into a family plug-in hybrid, with funky design and a responsive driving experience.

It has the power to nip from a standstill to 62mph in just 6.8 seconds, which is fast enough to put a smile on your face. Take things gently, meanwhile, and the petrol-electric model can return as much as 134mpg if you plug it in regularly. Perhaps the point that will seal the deal for some drivers is that it also comes with four-wheel drive, so in poor weather this Mini offers greater grip than two-wheel drive alternatives.

If you're after the best car for driving in snow, you really need to get yourself a set of winter tyres, as these not only boost grip when accelerating - the aspect four-wheel drive helps with - while offering much improved grip when cornering and braking - areas where four-wheel drive cars with normal tyres perform poorly.

6. Lexus NX300h

Best hybrid car for striking styling

Latest Lexus NX300h deals from £20,950
Monthly finance from £277

The Lexus NX stands out of the crowd for two reasons. The company's designers have created an SUV that looks like nothing else and under the surface it offers hybrid power, which is still a relatively rare thing for this type of car.

The NX has proved a big success for Lexus, becoming the Japanese brand’s best-seller in the UK, since it was launched in 2014. Aside from its visual attitude, there’s the petrol-electric, self-charging hybrid format, which helps it to acheive up to 54mpg. If fuel economy is your top priority, however, many diesel SUVs offer similar figures, so you may want to compare rivals including the Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60.

The electric motor comes into its own in stop-start queues or slow-moving traffic and creates a calm driving experience. If only the trackpad device, used for operating the media system, was as relaxing. It’s the car’s most annoying feature and as a result the media system simply isn't good enough considering how much the car costs new. If you're considering a used model, however, the NX makes much more sense. 

7. Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Best hybrid car for easy town driving

Latest Toyota Yaris Hybrid deals from £8,495
Monthly finance from £143

You won’t be spoilt for choice when it comes to small cars with hybrid power, but happily Toyota responded to the call, with the Yaris Hybrid. Look out for the versions with the smaller, 15-inch wheels, because they can manage up to 91mpg, and have low CO2 emissions that means there’s no road tax to pay if you go for a model registered before April 2017.

The Yaris works well when driving across smaller country roads or around town but when tasked with venturing onto main roads, especially motorways, the car’s automatic gearbox - which is a 'continuously variable transmission' (CVT) - can become annoying and the fuel economy won’t be at its best. That's because the CVT gearbox holds the engine at a set speed when accelerating, as the length of the gear is increased. This gives the sensation of the engine screaming away, despite the car not accelerating that fast.

8. Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine PHEV

Best hybrid car for seven-seat practicality

Latest Volvo XC90 T8 deals from £33,990
Monthly finance from £434

The trouble with large, seven-seat, four-wheel drive SUVs is that they weigh as much as a house and tend to be even less efficient. Volvo attempted to address that, with the T8 version of its current XC90 - a plug-in hybrid. It’s a handsome SUV, with a wonderfully soothing interior, but the trump card is the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid kit underneath.

You get up to 134mpg, on paper at least. In practice, however, that is likely to be 50mpg at best. On a full charge the car can travel as far as 27 miles on battery power, though in reality, it's likely to be less. Despite all this, though, the most appealing part about the XC90 is the car itself.

It’s unquestionably one of the very best large seven-seaters, so choose this if you want a supersized family car that happens to offer relatively strong fuel economy and the ability to travel around town on electric power alone - not if you're after a plug-in car that's great for the environment.

 

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Best pre-registered car deals 2019

  2. Best new vans: 2020 models worth waiting for

  3. Best new sports cars and supercars coming in 2020

What our customers say