Best small hybrid cars

Green, cheap to run, and compact enough for city life. Here are the best small hybrids

Simon Ostler
Mar 25, 2020

Thinking about finding a new car that's going to be kinder to the environment? You might find they tend to be rather expensive compared to what you're used to, especially if you buy a new one.

Electric cars especially are tending to be thousands of pounds more expensive than an equivalent petrol or diesel model. But luckily, there is something of a half way house to be found with hybrid cars. They come in three basic forms, plug-in hybrids, self-charging hybrids and mild hybrids, and each of these combines a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor to increase efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

Plug-in hybrids can even drive solely using electric power for a distance of usually around 30 miles, making it possible to dramatically improve your fuel economy - if you keep the batteries charged regularly. 

There's a growing choice of models available on the used car market, but if you find yourself in regular need of a small car to negotiate busy town traffic, a small hybrid car might just be your best bet, especially as we see more and more restrictions on cars producing more emissions.

Best small hybrid cars

1. BMW i3 with Range Extender

Best small hybrid for range

Used deals from £14,900
Monthly finance from £243

The BMW i3 is an electric car first and foremost, but the i3 Range Extender, as the name implies - utilises a little two-cylinder petrol engine to help recharge the batteries while you're on the move and add around 70-80 miles to your range, meaning the BMW i3 REx (short for range extender) could be capable of hitting 200 miles with a single charge.

Although the i3 was first released in 2014, it still seems at the brink of cutting-edge today. With its funky looks and uncluttered, Tardis-like interior it certainly feels modern, and still very different to almost anything else on the market. It’s surprisingly quick too thanks to the powerful batteries.

BMW i3 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Best small hybrid for the city

Used deals from £8,590
Monthly finance from £163

The smart looking Toyota Yaris offers big car build quality, with small car simplicity and ease of use. The hybrid system can run the car for short distances at slow speed on purely electric power which, if you can make the most of it, means you'll rarely be using much fuel, if any at all. However as soon as you stop using the battery power fuel economy begins to suffer quite dramatically.

Real world testing in mixed conditions show that it’ll only achieve around 52.9mpg, which is pretty low when you consider this is a hybrid. If fuel economy is not everything for you though, the Yaris does deliver when it comes to being a small car. It's very suitable for driving around congested city centres, and it's also one of the cheapest options on this list.

TOYOTA YARIS BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Suzuki Swift Hybrid

Best small hybrid car for value

Used deals from £7,795
Monthly finance from £134

As if being great value wasn’t good enough, the Swift is also good fun. Responsive steering and nimble cornering mean that it's enjoyable to zip through a series of bends. The limited amount of power means that it never feels terrifying.

The hybrid system doesn't affect the car a great deal, as it's only a ‘mild’ hybrid, which means that the motor and batteries aren't as large as those in the other cars on this page. This means that the system can’t drive the car on pure electricity, but it boosts power when accelerating hard. Real world economy figures of 50mpg prove that it can be fun, frugal, and good value.

SUZUKI SWIFT BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Toyota Auris Hybrid

Best small hybrid for all-round capability

Used deals from £9,990
Monthly finance from £169

The Toyota Auris is a sturdy and sensible choice for those in the market for a small hybrid. It may have been recently replaced by the improved Toyota Corolla, but it will take several years for that car to offer the same value as the Auris on the second-hand market.

It has a well proven track record, a five year warranty, and there's also the option of an estate car with a larger boot (in case you outgrow your small car). It’s not the most exciting to drive - and the automatic gearbox is a touch noisy, but it makes up for it with its build quality and its clever use of space. It’s brimming with cubbyholes, and can fit three adults in the back comfortably.

TOYOTA AURIS BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volkswagen Golf GTE

Best small hybrid for performance

Used deals from £15,980
Monthly finance from £229

Hybrid cars are typically associated with green motoring, but Volkswagen is looking to promote more a sporty image by dropping its hybrid tech into the Golf GTI, and calling it the Golf GTE.

Where hybrid cars use the electric motor and engine to provide power when accelerating, the Golf GTE is incredibly snappy off the line. However, the extra weight that comes from the battery does mean that its actual 0-62mph time isn't quite as fast as the solely petrol-powered GTI.

If you're looking for a hybrid that keeps its identity pretty well hidden from the outside though, the Golf is definitely a solid option.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTE BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Lexus CT

Best small hybrid for upmarket feel

Used deals from £10,750
Monthly finance from £201

Lexus is renowned for its build quality and reliability, and regularly tops the table in customer satisfaction surveys.

With that in mind, the Lexus CT is a little pricier than the Toyota Prius, even though it shares some mechanical parts. But it’s easy to see what the extra money gets you. Inside there’s a plush interior with soft plastics and buttons that feel well put together. On the outside, big alloy wheels can be had to make it look more fashionable.

It only has one engine available (1.8-litre petrol linked to a hybrid) and an automatic gearbox, which is quite loud. It’s also not the last word in tranquillity, as inside the road noise can be intrusive.

LEXUS CT BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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