Best Hybrid Cars

Now the Toyota Prius has turned 21, other car manufacturers are catching up. We highlight the best hybrid cars on offer

BuyaCar team
Oct 23, 2018

With the driving range of a normal petrol car, the option of electric-only driving and the tax-saving benefits of low CO2 emissions, there's a lot going for hybrid cars.

They range from small hatchbacks to tall seven-seat sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and sports cars - not forgetting the familiar Toyota Prius. Hybrid car prices on BuyaCar start at £7,995, or from £117 per month on finance.

Hybrid vehicles combine a traditional internal combustion engine (typically petrol-powered) with a battery and electric motor, which can recover energy that's usually lost while braking. This energy is used to drive the car at slow speeds, and to provide extra power while accelerating, reducing the amount of fuel required by the engine.

Some have larger batteries that can be charged up. These plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, can typically drive between 20 and 30 miles on electric power alone, which means that you may never use any fuel if your commute only covers a few miles.

Hybrid fuel economy can be exceptional but it will depend on how you use your car. Hybrids excel in city driving, for example, but on long journeys at steady speeds you'll be relying on the car's engine so mpg may be little different to a standard car.

The cars tend to perform well in official emissions tests, which are carried out in a laboratory, which makes them particularly attractive for business users because company car tax is based on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The savings on a car that cost £25,000 when new can add up to £1,000 or more each year. Most hybrids that emit less than 75g/km CO2 are exempt from the London congestion charge too.

Hybrid cars that were on the road before April 2017 generally benefit from free - or very low - car tax but more recent models are taxed under a new system and only get a £10 discount on the standard annual tax rate rate of £140.

Best Hybrid Cars

1. Toyota Prius

Best hybrid for all-round excellence

Latest Toyota Prius deals (current model) from £10,599
Finance from £117 per month

Think hybrid, and there's a good chance that you're thinking Prius. The car has been at the forefront of hybrid motoring since 1997 and this fourth-generation model shows it.

The car is comfortable, with plenty of passenger space and light controls that make it relaxing to drive. Fuel economy is excellent too, even in real-world driving where you can realistically expect 65-70mpg, particularly on urban roads.

A plug-in hybrid version offers the potential for even greater fuel economy for a higher price and its design is a little less ... distinctive. That car's larger battery does reduce the already-limited boot space, though.
Toyota Prius buying guide 


2. Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

Best hybrid for design

Latest Mini Countryman PHEV deals from £16,759
Finance from £252 per month

The Countryman attempts to combine the familiar Mini design into a larger, taller shape, and the formula has proved popular with families. It was designed to be a plug-in hybrid model from scratch, so there's very little difference compared with the standard Countryman (although the boot size has reduced from 450 to 405 litres to accommodate the batteries.

As with other Minis, it feels agile in corners and has nippy acceleration. You can expect to travel around 15 to 18 miles before the battery runs out, when driving normally. Older cars (badged Cooper S E All4) are in the lowest company car tax bracket, thanks to official CO2 emissions of 49g/km but, since summer 2018, newer models have been rated at 55g/km thanks to the introduction of a new testing method.
Mini Countryman buying guide


3. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Best hybrid for family value

Before you buy a Toyota Prius, it's worth considering the Hyundai Ioniq, which is cheaper, has a bigger boot, and also looks more conventional too. Just like the Prius, it's available as a standard hybrid or a plug-in version, which can travel for around 30 miles on electric power alone - without the need for particularly efficient driving.

It's comfortable to drive, even if it can't quite match the smoothness of the Prius, and it's efficient too. Again, though, the Prius has a slight edge in this department with slightly better fuel efficiency in real-world driving. Where you can realistically expect between 60-65mpg from the Ioniq, the Prius is around 5mpg better.
Hyundai Ioniq buying guide 


4. VW Golf GTE

Best hybrid for economy and performance 

Latest VW Golf GTE deals from £14,965
Finance from £199 per month

The VW Golf GTE plug-in hybrid car adds super-low running costs to the model’s already familiar virtues: excellent build quality, a quiet and smooth ride, and a spacious interior. A real-world range of around 20 miles on electric power alone should be enough for most commuters.

If you push the accelerator hard, the petrol engine will start up and to boost the power of the motor, enabling the Golf to accelerate from 0-62mph in a brisk 7.6 seconds.

The Golf GTE is currently not available to order from new, but there are plenty of nearly new and used models to choose from.
VW Golf GTE buying guide


5. Kia Niro

Best hybrid for crossover style 

Latest Kia Niro deals from £12,196
Finance from £177 per month

Crossover cars use take same mechanical parts as conventional cars, and package them in a taller shape that provides a higher driving position and often more practicality. It's a family-friendly formula adopted by the Kia Niro, which can be bought as a standard or plug-in hybrid.

Kia is a sister company to Hyundai, and so uses the same hybrid systems that are fitted to the Ioniq. This brings smooth and efficient performance, but can't quite match the Toyota on fuel economy. The tall shape increases headroom, compared with the Prius and Ioniq, but the boot is smaller - at 382 litres, it has roughly the same amount of space as a VW Golf.
Kia Niro buying guide 


6. Lexus IS 300h

Best hybrid for serenity 

The Lexus IS is built for calm, steady driving, which brings out the best in this luxurious and quiet saloon car. The hybrid system means that the car is virtually silent when accelerating gently, and a relaxed driving style can also see fuel economy exceed 50mpg, although long journeys can see that drop below 40mpg.

The Lexus isn't as smooth over bumps as a Mercedes C-Class, but its real weakness comes if you try and get a move on. This isn't the car for you if you prefer a sportier driving feel: the Lexus' gearbox causes the engine to rev noisily if you push the accelerator hard, and even this doesn't result in stellar performance.


7. Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Best hybrid for the city

Latest Toyota Yaris deals from £5,499
Finance from £118 per month

As a small hybrid car, the Toyota Yaris is just about in a class of its own. It's perfect for scooting around town where the hybrid system is extremely efficient at recovering braking energy in stop-start traffic. The electric motor's assistance while accelerating helps to keep the car quiet and it's comfortable with light controls for easy manoeuvring.

The Yaris hybrid is less at home on faster roads, where fuel economy decreases and hard acceleration results in the engine revving noisily.
Toyota Yaris buying guide


8. BMW 330e iPerformance

Best hybrid for sportiness and practicality 

Company drivers love the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid, thanks to its miniscule 44g/km CO2 emissions figure, which places it into the lowest company car tax bracket.

In theory it can drive on electric power for 25 miles, but real-world testing suggests that this is closer to ten miles, which will affect the amount that you save on fuel. However, the real strength of this BMW is the powerful acceleration that's available when the petrol engine and electric motor combine (the car decides when to pool power depending on how hard you're pressing the accelerator).

A 0-62mph acceleration time of 6.1 seconds is quick, and the car is almost as nimble in corners as a petrol or diesel 3 Series. It's no longer sold brand new, as the car is due to be replaced shortly, but there's a good selection of second-hand cars for sale.
BMW 3 Series buying guide 


9. Volvo XC90 T8

Best hybrid for large SUV practicality 

It's not only a hugely capable SUV with all the visibility and safety tech you could wish for, the Volvo XC90 is also a genuine seven-seat family car. That’s why the T8’s plug-in hybrid capability is so valuable, since it helps keep running costs of this huge vehicle within tolerable limits. Like most plug-ins, that’s only true if you can charge it frequently, which provides up to 25 miles of electric motoring at your disposal: good if your commute offers charging opportunities at each end.
Volvo XC90 buying guide


10. BMW i8

Best hybrid for shock and awe

The most striking thing about the i8 is not its space-age looks, its claimed 134.5mpg economy (expect closer to 40mpg), its ow CO2 emissions or its 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds. Instead, it's the price you can buy it for as a used car. From new, the i8 was priced at close to £100,000, but prices for some cars are now just over half that amount. Age hasn't diminished the car's traffic-stopping looks. 


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