Buy a hybrid car

What are hybrid cars? Would one suit your lifestyle? Take a gander at our helpful guide

Mar 28, 2018

Think of a hybrid and there’s probably one car in particular that springs to mind: the Toyota Prius. Loved for its easy driving manners, low running costs and reliability, the Prius became the poster boy of the green car revolution, adopted by Hollywood A-listers keen to show they were doing their bit for the environment, as well as private hire firms looking to minimise running costs.

In many ways that mantle is now being passed to plug-in hybrid and purely electric  cars, but that’s not to say hybrids can’t still be very effective.

What is a hybrid?

A hybrid uses a small battery and an electric motor to augment a conventional petrol or diesel engine, which is particularly good for improving fuel economy around town. During acceleration, for example, the electric motor helps the engine power the wheels, meaning a smaller, more efficient petrol engine can be used to deliver the performance drivers expect.

A hybrid can also travel a small distance just using electric power, and can recapture energy created by the brakes to give the battery a boost.

The technology is particularly favoured by Toyota and its luxury division Lexus, but others including Hyundai and Kia also offer hybrid models in their ranges, as does Mercedes-Benz.


Examples of hybrid cars

Toyota Prius

List price from £24,240 2016 cars typically £19,990

Lexus IS 300h

List price from £28,414 2016 cars typically £26,000

Toyota Yaris Hybrid

List price from £16,495 2017 cars typically from £14,995

Hyundai Ioniq


The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid has been designed to be aerodynamic and boost fuel economy even further.

List price from £20,885 2017 cars typically from £18,295

Mercedes-Benz C300 Hybrid

List price from £33,854 2017 cars typically from £28,000

Kia Niro

List price from £23,135 2017 cars typically from £19,500

Toyota C-HR

List price from £24,215 2017 cars typically from £22,995

Lexus NX300h

List price from £39,959 2017 cars typically from £35,000

No need to plug in

One of the inherent advantages of hybrid cars is that they don’t need to be plugged in for the batteries to be recharged. Instead power is drawn from kinetic energy created when the car is decelerating or braking, and then deployed when accelerating.

As a result the electric-only range of a conventional hybrid is considerably smaller than you’ll be able to achieve with a plug-in hybrid, usually amounting to just a mile or two, and then only if you accelerate very gently.

Even so, hybrid cars are often more efficient than their petrol or diesel equivalents, performing particularly well in laboratory-based fuel economy tests, which also keeps CO2 emissions down. A Toyota Prius, for example, achieves 94.2mpg in official EU fuel economy tests, and in the real world can easily exceed 60mpg in mixed driving, or more for mainly urban commutes.

Driving a hybrid

Part of the fundamental appeal of any hybrid is that it should fit into your life as easily as a petrol or diesel car. You just get in, switch it on and drive away, helped by the inclusion of an automatic gearbox.

In reality there are a few quirks to hybrids that make them stand out as something different. For example, they feel very responsive when you set off thanks to the instant power delivery of the electric motor. Hybrids can also run silently in traffic jams and at low speeds, although the downside is you notice the extra noise when the engine does kicks in.

A hybrid doesn’t fare so well at higher speeds, where the extra weight of the batteries blunts performance. Generally speaking hybrids also don’t ride or handle as well as the best petrol or diesel cars either, due to a combination of having to lug around the weight of the battery, as well as riding on skinny eco tyres designed to cut rolling resistance and maximise fuel economy. As a result, hybrids don’t tend to appeal to keen drivers, although there are exceptions such the Honda NSX.

Advantages of hybrids

  • No need to plug in
  • Very efficient around town
  • Lower CO2 emissions than petrol or diesel

Limitations of hybrids

  • Limited electric-only range
  • Minimal tax benefits or grants compared with fully electric or plug-in hybrid
  • Motorway fuel economy lags behind diesel

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