Best hybrid cars from 2021

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

Joe Holding
Jul 27, 2022

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, and the choice spreads across a range of practical cars, from roomy estates to family-friendly hybrid SUVs.

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 is called a mild hybrid, 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 wasted 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 regular hybrids, often referred to as self-charging hybrids. 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 of 2021. 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.

Best hybrid cars from 2021

1. Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra HYBRID-e list price from £32,200*

The Vauxhall Astra hatchback has been a common sight on British roads for years, and while it admittedly didn't go on sale until 2022, it was announced in 2021.

The new Astra will be built on the same platform that underpins the Peugeot 308 hatchback. From launch, Vauxhall will sell the Astra with 110hp and 130hp petrol engines and a 130hp diesel engine borrowed from the rest of the Peugeot range, as well as a 180hp plug-in hybrid option. A 225hp plug-in hybrid is expected to follow, as is an electric version later in 2023.

Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid tech aside, the new Astra will adopt a bold new look, and boot space is better than many of its rivals like the Volkswagen Golf at 422 litres, 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.

2. Toyota Yaris Cross

Used deals from £22,999
Monthly finance from £339*

The Toyota Yaris Cross is a brand new crossover using 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 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

Used deals from £24,299
Monthly finance from £300*

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 to power its 191hp electric motor. 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. This will make it similar to the BMW i3 Range Extender, which BMW discontinued some years ago.

NISSAN QASHQAI BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered

Used deals from £36,999
Monthly finance from £568*

While there have been hybrid versions of the 508 before, the latest 508 PSE is a little different. PSE stands for Peugeot Sport Engineered - put simply, up to 360hp propels the family saloon to 62mph in 5.2 seconds, enough to rival even the quickest hot hatches.

Using the added power from electric motors to boost performance as well as efficiency is nothing new, though. As well as the F1-engined Mercedes-AMG One hypercar, other carmakers are doing similar things such as Cupra with its sporty Formentor crossover. 

PEUGEOT 508 BUYERS’ GUIDE

5. Mercedes C-Class

Used deals Limited stock

Mild hybrid assistance was available on the previous C200 - the car's entry-level petrol engine - but every version of the new C-Class comes with this technology. That is, unless it's a plug-in hybrid variant.

Mild hybrid technology 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.

The only plug-in option is a C300e petrol-electric model; Mercedes promises 471mpg from this setup, but that would be with regular charging of the battery and minimal use of the engine. Still, try hard enough and you could get 100mpg in certain conditions, which is double what you could get in one of the mild hybrid diesel engines. A plug-in hybrid diesel should follow in 2022.

MERCEDES C-CLASS BUYERS’ GUIDE

6. DS 4

DS 4 E-TENSE list price from £41,950*

DS started taking orders for the 4 in November 2021. There's a couple of petrol and diesel engines sourced from its sister companies Peugeot and Citroen, while a 1.6-litre engine and electric motor will combine to produce 225hp for the plug-in hybrid model. The 13.2kWh battery could cost as little as 73p to charge with cheap overnight energy rates, providing up to 30 miles. 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

Used deals from £58,995
Monthly finance from £870*

New hybrid versions of the Jaguar F-Pace SUV went on sale late in 2020, but it took a while for them to become common on UK roads, which is why we are 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 mild 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 38mpg, while the 3.0-litre petrol fares worse, managing just 29mpg 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

Used deals from £30,000
Monthly finance from £370*

There are already plenty of plug-in hybrid SUVs on sale, and the Toyota RAV4 PHEV joined this crowd in 2021. 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, especially of this size. 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 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, or around £1 if you have access to some of the cheapest overnight rates, 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

 

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