Best hybrid cars 2021

The best hybrid cars can give you better fuel economy with lower running costs, lower emissions and better performance too

Joe Holding
Mar 4, 2021

If you’ve been looking for a new car lately, you won’t have failed to notice the sheer number of models that are now available in ‘hybrid’ form. These are cars that have a conventional engine but also some electric assistance.

The jargon being thrown around can be confusing if you’re unaccustomed to the latest developments in technology, but fear not, BuyaCar is here to help you work out the differences and decide which type of car is best for you and your needs.

In simple terms, there are three types of hybrid car. The first are called ‘mild hybrids’, so-called because their abilities aren’t that different to those of a normal car. Mild hybrids usually have a small battery that collects energy otherwise waster when driving that’s then used to help an engine accelerate, thus improving fuel economy. Engines can also idle for longer when stationary, again reducing fuel consumption.

Next you have ‘full hybrids’, though ‘full’ isn’t always mentioned. These use a slightly larger battery than you’d find in a mild hybrid, and employ an electric motor to provide a limited amount of drive without needing the engine; usually no more than a mile. They too can help an engine accelerate and boost its overall performance and reduce fuel consumption.

Finally you have ‘plug-in hybrid vehicles’ or PHEVs. Plug-in hybrids typically have a much larger battery than the other two types of hybrid; so large in fact that you’ll need to charge them up using a cable to make the most of the electric motor. Most PHEVs offer an electric-only range of between 20 and 40 miles on a full charge, which is enough to cover most people’s daily driving needs. You could potentially slash your running costs with a PHEV if you mainly cover short distances and charge between these, as driving on electricity is much cheaper per mile than petrol or diesel.

Below we’ve rounded up a mix of the best hybrid cars coming in 2021 so you can see what the latest technology can do. But if you're on a tighter budget and the idea of a used hybrid car takes your fancy, BuyaCar has some great deals. Better yet, your next car could be only a few clicks away. Click on the button above to find the right car for you.

Best hybrid cars for 2021

1. Vauxhall Astra

The Vauxhall Astra hatchback has been a common sight on British roads for years, and in 2021 a new model is expected to be launched with a plug-in hybrid version available as part of the lineup.

Performance details are being kept under wraps for the time being, although we know that the new Astra will be built on the same platform that underpins the current (and most likely the next-generation) Peugeot 308 hatchback. Although we’ve not seen a plug-in hybrid model of that car, the same platform is used underneath the Peugeot 3008 small SUV, which uses a 13.2kWh battery to offer an electric range of 36 miles per charge. As the Astra would be smaller and lighter, we’d expect it to go further with the same size battery.

Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid tech aside, Vauxhall has said that the Astra will adopt a bold new look, and boot space is expected to compete with the 380 litres offered in the Volkswagen Golf, meaning lots of luggage space for the size of car. In-car tech will be bang up to date too, with wireless phone charging and adaptive cruise control available.

VAUXHALL ASTRA BUYERS’ GUIDE

2. Toyota Yaris Cross

The Toyota Yaris Cross is a brand new small SUV arriving in the UK in 2021, and it will use the same hybrid setup that’s used in the Yaris supermini. That means a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine will work alongside an electric motor to generate 116hp and maximise efficiency, with the engine using some of its power to charge the battery on the go.

The battery in question is a lithium-ion unit as opposed to the nickel hydride batteries that used to be used, a move designed to ensure that the Yaris spends as much time as possible in electric-only mode around town, which should maximise fuel economy and reduce your petrol bills.

In the standard Yaris we’ve seen that 65mpg is easily achievable on a mix of roads, with fuel economy being particularly impressive on slower urban roads. Therefore, we'd expect the fuel economy in the Yaris Cross to be especially good for this type of car.

MORE DETAILS ON THE TOYOTA YARIS CROSS

3. Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai front three quarters view

A new-generation Nissan Qashqai SUV has been revealed for 2021, and the new car will only be offered as a hybrid going forward. Initially the range will consist of petrol engines operating in conjunction with mild hybrid technology, with a full hybrid set to join further down the line.

Most mild hybrid cars use '48-volt' systems, but the Qashqai will use a '12-volt' setup known as the Advanced Lithium-ion battery System (ALiS). Ignore the long name, what's important is that weighing only 22kg, ALiS is relatively lightweight and designed to recover energy lost when slowing down as electricity, giving the Qashqai a small boost that amounts to a CO2 emission cut of 4g/km.

When it arrives, the full hybrid will get a 1.5-litre petrol engine, however this won’t be used to drive the wheels. Instead, the engine will act as a generator for the car’s battery, feeding an electric motor to produce 191hp. Nissan believes this gives it the best chance of lowering emissions in everyday driving, although it has decided not to pursue a plug-in hybrid model.

Meanwhile, the Japanese company is promising more practicality, with the new Qashqai being 35mm longer and 30mm wider than the outgoing car, which should help to make the boot larger than the relatively small one on the outgoing car. A fresh interior will make it feel nicer inside, too.

MORE DETAILS ON THE NEW NISSAN QASHQAI HYBRID

4. Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered

You can already get your hands on a plug-in hybrid version of the 508 saloon, however Peugeot is also planning to use the technology on a high-performance Sport Engineered version to go on sale later this year.

The Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered will deliver 26 miles of range from its 11.8kWh battery pack; that's 14 miles less than you get from the standard PHEV model. However, an extra electric motor brings total power up to 360hp, which should be enough to power it from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds - far faster than the current model. The top speed will be limited to 155mph.

Using the added power from electric motors to boost performance as well as efficiency is nothing new, with Seat's sporty brand Cupra expected to do the same on the forthcoming Formentor PHEV SUV, while Mercedes will use the same trick on its F1-engined, Mercedes-AMG One hypercar.

PEUGEOT 508 BUYERS’ GUIDE

5. Mercedes C-Class

A new Mercedes C-Class saloon is in the works for 2021. Mild hybrid technology is available on just the one version on the outgoing car, although it’s expected to be a standard feature when the new one rolls along later this year.

This allows the engine to shut down on the motorway for brief spells when coasting, boosting fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. It can also provide the engine with an extra 14hp for easier acceleration. Though we’re still waiting to hear official details, Mercedes will also introduce a new plug-in hybrid version of the C-Class in order to compete with the BMW 3 Series PHEV.

The outgoing C-Class is available in plug-in hybrid form with the choice of petrol and diesel engines (a rare thing for a major car maker), with a 13.5kWh battery affording an electric range of up to 35 miles per charge. It’s possible that improvements with the battery could see this rise to around 50 miles on the new C-Class, making electric driving even more feasible for drivers - provided you remember to charge the batteries between journeys. Fail to do so and the petrol engine will have to kick in, increasing your fuel bills and emissions.

MERCEDES C-CLASS BUYERS’ GUIDE

6. DS 4

Later in 2021, Citroen's upmarket brand DS will launch the DS 4 compact SUV. Like the Astra above, it’ll be based on the same platform as the Peugeot 3008 and larger DS 7 Crossback (Citroen, DS, Vauxhall and Peugeot are now part of the same parent company), with a plug-in hybrid variant offered alongside petrol and diesel versions.

A 1.6-litre engine and electric motor will combine to produce 226hp, while electric range should amount to around 31 miles or so per charge thanks to the 13.2kWh battery. We’d expect it to take you around two hours to charge using a dedicated home charger, rising to five hours or more with an everyday, three-pin plug socket.

Measuring 4,440mm long, 1,830mm wide and 1,470mm tall, the DS 4 will be a tad bigger than the popular Ford Focus hatchback. Two other models - the DS 4 Cross and DS 4 Performance - will also be introduced to the range, with the former adopting SUV-like styling and the latter getting a sportier look. Mechanically the cars will be the same, however.

Inside, the interior will look very modern with very few physical buttons. DS has decided to digitise most of the controls, with a 10-inch media system in the middle of the dashboard controlled by a second, five-inch touchscreen located in the centre console.

MORE DETAILS ON THE DS 4

7. Jaguar F-Pace

New hybrid versions of the Jaguar F-Pace SUV went on sale late in 2020, but as the first examples are only now finding their way onto UK roads in 2021, we’re including it on this list. Every F-Pace except for the entry-level petrol engine now uses mild hybrid technology, which is designed to reduce fuel consumption on what is a rather fuel-greedy car.

In truth, the hybrid system hasn’t made that much of an improvement to the F-Pace’s fuel economy. The 3.0-litre, 300hp diesel engine is said to return up to 38.1mpg, while the 3.0-litre petrol fares worse, managing just 28.8mpg according to official figures. These numbers are quite poor when you consider what other manufacturers are able to achieve with their large SUVs.

There’s a plug-in hybrid model too, which benefits from a 17.1kWh battery for 33 miles of electric range. It’s the fastest version of the F-Pace as well, with the electric motor and 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine pushing the car from 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds. The new F-Pace is sharp to drive and gets a brilliant touchscreen media system too, so if you’re in the market for an upmarket SUV, this should definitely be on your shortlist.

JAGUAR F-PACE BUYERS’ GUIDE

8. Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid

Plenty of medium SUVs have welcomed plug-in hybrid versions already, and the Toyota RAV4 will join this crowd in 2021 with a PHEV model of its own. Officially it’s claimed that the RAV4 PHEV will do 46 miles on a full battery, which is pretty impressive for a plug-in hybrid, although you should expect closer to 35 miles in reality. Just as normal cars are more fuel efficient on paper than they are in real life, lab testing usually overestimates the kind of range PHEVs can achieve in real-world conditions.

Charging up the battery should take two-and-a-half hours if you have your own wallbox charger near your driveway, but if not you’ll be looking at a seven-hour top-up time via a normal three-pin socket. The 18kWh battery will cost about £2.70 to charge fully on an average electricity tariff, so you’ll save a lot of money if you can avoid using the engine on most of your journeys by charging regularly and predominantly doing short journeys.

When you do need to rely on petrol power, the 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor deliver a combined 306hp. As a result, Toyota says the RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid will do 0-62mph in six seconds, which is pretty quick and will be handy if you’re ever in a hurry.

MORE DETAILS ON THE TOYOTA RAV4 PLUG-IN HYBRID

 

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Best cars with high torque

  2. Best cars with adaptive cruise control

  3. Best cars with reclining back seats