Best hybrid family cars

Looking for a petrol or diesel alternative as your next family car? Take a look at our list of the best hybrid family cars

BuyaCar team
Dec 18, 2019

Looking for an alternative to a conventional petrol or diesel model as your next family car? Take a look at our list of the best hybrid family cars

With a broad range of models, manufacturers and technologies competing for your money, there is a greater choice than ever of hybrid cars available – vehicles that combine a fuel-burning petrol or diesel engine together with an electric motor.

For family car buyers, there are familiar hatchbacks, taller sport utility vehicles (SUVs), as well as long and low saloon cars. And if you need something less sizeable, perhaps as a second car, there are smaller hybrids too.

For maximum efficiency (at a higher price) look for plug-in hybrids with bigger batteries that can be charged up, enabling them to power the car on electric power alone, typically for 20 to 30 miles.

Tax advantages of hybrid cars

Because hybrid cars generally emit lower levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) than conventional cars, they attract less car tax and company car tax. For example, compare the best-known hybrid, the Toyota Prius, with the best hatchback on sale, the VW Golf.

An entry-level Prius Active costing £24,245 when new will attract a company car tax bill of £2,940 or £5,879 (20% or 40% tax payers respectively). The fuel cost is estimated to be 6.8 pence per mile.

In comparison, a VW Golf SE 1.6 TDI DSG with a list price of £23,325 emits more CO2. Fuel bills will be higher, at around 8.2 pence per mile. Meanwhile company car drivers will pay £3,789 or £7,578 – significantly more than the Prius.

Hybrids that were on the road before April 2017 are likely to pay little or no car tax, but the rules changed on April 1 2017, reducing the tax benefits of hybrids. Although the first year tax rate (usually included in the price of a new car) is based on CO2 emissions, there's a flat rate in subsequent years. Hybrid car owners pay £130 per year - a £10 discount on the cost for conventional cars.

How do hybrid cars work?

Beneath the surface of a hybrid car, you'll find at least one electric motor and a battery pack, in addition to a petrol or diesel engine. The aim is to capture energy that would go to waste in a normal car, and use it to help reduce the car’s emissions and improve fuel economy.

Reversing the motor as the car slows down generates electricity that's stored in the batteries. Electricity is also generated from the engine when it is efficient to do so.

The idea is to use this energy to power the electric motor when accelerating. This reduces the power required from the engine at a time when it's usually least efficient. Hybrids can also use the motor to power the car at extremely slow speeds.

With their bigger batteries, plug-in hybrids have enough energy to run on electricity alone at higher speeds. Where more power is needed, the engine and motor combine.

Best hybrid family cars

Best hybrid hatchbacks

1. Toyota Yaris

Best hybrid family car for short trips

Fuel economy 58.8mpg
CO2 emissions 84g/km
Used deals from £8,150
Monthly finance from £130

Not everyone needs a large family car. For many drivers, especially those who don’t travel far or live in city centres, having a compact car is a positive advantage.

That’s where the Yaris hybrid can make a deal of sense, offsetting its inflated price. It will seat four in comfort yet can hold its own in the cut and thrust of urban congestion, and with emissions of just 84g/km, short of an electric car it’s one of the cleanest ways to get from A to B.

Toyota Yaris buyers' guide

2. Hyundai Ioniq hybrid

Best hybrid family car for conventional design

Fuel economy 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions 84g/km
Used deals from £11,490
Monthly finance from £144

The styling of the latest Toyota Prius is a bit of an acquired taste. That’s a shame, because more’s the pity if it puts off drivers from the considerably improved hybrid tech beneath the surface.

However, it could play into Hyundai’s hands. The Korean company’s competitively priced Ioniq – which sounds like something from the treatment list at a detox sanctuary – is less challenging to look at and almost as good to drive.

The Hyundai Ioniq is efficient on the motorway, as well as at slower speeds and has a spacious interior Hyundai has kept the dashboard and controls mercifully simple to use too. You’ll also benefit from a five-year warranty, matching Toyota. For extra efficiency, there's a plug-in hybrid Ioniq.

Hyundai Ioniq buyers' guide

3. Toyota Prius hybrid

Best hybrid family car for smooth hybrid power

Fuel economy 94.2mpg
CO2 emissions 70g/km
Used deals from £8,990
Monthly finance from £148

The Toyota Prius is the car that put hybrid on the map with Britain’s drivers, and the latest model is excellent - with efficiency that's not far off the Toyota Yaris, the smaller, lighter hybrid found in Toyota showrooms. At the time of writing, the manufacturer had not published the fuel economy figures from the latest WLTP test.

As with any hybrid, part of the appeal beyond the on-paper benefits is just how smooth and relaxing it is to drive. That’s especially the case with the Prius, as its electric motor has enough oomph to make headway at low speeds, and the suspension gives a pliant ride that does a good job of smothering Britain’s broken roads – a real boon with children on board.

Toyota Prius buyers' guide

4. Suzuki Swift 1.0 Boosterjet hybrid

Best hybrid family car for value

Fuel economy 51.8mpg
CO2 emissions 98g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The smart little Suzuki Swift is an agile small family hatchback that’s enormous fun to drive and offers plenty of space inside for a small family. Its mild hybrid technology is quite subtle, but it does provide both a boost to performance and economy – albeit one not quite as extreme as some of the other models in this list.

If you want a small hybrid that slots simply into your everyday motoring life but don’t really want to show off your eco credentials with a hybrid that shouts ‘look how green I am’ every time you drive it, there are few better directions to point your money.

Suzuki Swift buyers' guide

Best hybrid SUVs

1. Toyota C-HR hybrid

Best hybrid family car for turning heads

Fuel economy 57.6mpg
CO2 emissions 86g/km
Used deals from £15,950
Monthly finance from £197

The Toyota C-HR is one of the most interesting looking SUVs on the road. If you superimposed it into Blade Runner, it wouldn’t look out of place with officer Deckard at the wheel, hunting down replicants.

Those intersecting angles and curves come at a small price, as there’s not as much headroom in the back seat as in other family SUVs, but hey, you can’t have everything. And unlike those competitor cars, this one is available with a petrol-electric hybrid drive system, which means drivers can achieve diesel-like fuel economy without worrying about the particulates being left in its wake.

Surprisingly good to drive, if less comfortable and not as quiet as the Prius, it’s another impressive hybrid from Toyota.

Toyota C-HR buyers' guide

2. Lexus NX 300h

Best hybrid family car for an alternative to German SUVs

Fuel economy 37.1mpg
CO2 emissions 135g/km
Used deals from £20,950
Monthly finance from £314

When drivers make a shortlist of upmarket SUVs to test drive, it will inevitably feature models from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and, increasingly, Volvo. But there is another option, Lexus – the car company with some of the most satisfied customers on the road.

The NX300h looks sharp and is more than capable of holding its own in the car park at work or at the golf club. The interior is equally contemporary in feel, the quality is impressive and there’s a good amount of space for four adults, or three younger children on the back seat.

Its hybrid system has been set up to give the NX300h four-wheel drive as and when extra grip is needed, as a second electric motor drives the back wheels. However, don’t expect especially impressive fuel economy. In day to day driving it will rarely better 40mpg.

Lexus NX buyers' guide

3. Kia Niro PHEV

Best hybrid family car for plugging in

Fuel economy 201.8mpg
CO2 emissions 31g/km
Used deals from £13,420
Monthly finance from £183

The plug-in version of the Kia Niro can manage around 30 miles on electric power alone, so those with a short commute might be able to get to and from work without using a drop of petrol.

The rest of the Niro is pretty appealing as well. It offers plenty of equipment as standard, it’s fairly fun to drive and – because the whole range was designed to be hybrid from the outset – doesn’t compromise on interior space to make room for the batteries.

Other versions of the Niro include a non-plug-in hybrid and a fully electric option.

Kia Niro buyers' guide

4. Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine

Best used hybrid family car for a stylish premium SUV

Fuel economy 100.9mpg
CO2 emissions 51g/km
Used deals from £34,990
Monthly finance from £519

The modestly stylish Volvo XC60 represents a classy alternative to the quality SUV offerings from Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Range Rover.

The T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid version brings plenty of power to proceedings, too, with around 400hp available from the combination of a 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine and an electric motor.

Volvo XC60 buyers' guide

Best hybrid premium cars

1. Mercedes E300de

Best hybrid family car for a beautifully-made interiors

Fuel economy 166.2mpg
CO2 emissions 41g/km
Used deals from £31,980
Monthly finance from £464

Another diesel hybrid enters our list, this time it's in the form of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The new E300de combines a 2-litre diesel engine, with an additional electric motor. Take the official 201.8mpg figure with a pinch of salt, as you'll need to do a lot of electric-only driving to achieve it, but the E300de should do around 30 miles on just electric power. If you're not keen on diesel, then there's another plug-in hybrid option: the E300e, with a petrol engine.

Inside, expect the usual hallmarks of a Mercedes - top quality interiors and loads of tech.

Mercedes E-Class buyers' guide

2. BMW 530e

Best hybrid family car for a sporty drive

Fuel economy 128.4mpg
CO2 emissions 49g/km
Used deals from £16,358
Monthly finance from £271

As a plug-in hybrid, the BMW 530e is able to operate for a short time without using its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine at all. When used in combination, it offers enough performance to stand comparison with the powerful 530d diesel variant of the 5 Series.

The only compromise is slightly less boot space than you’ll find in a regular 5 Series, as the batteries take up 120 litres of potential cargo space, but the remaining 410 litres is more than adequate.

BMW 5 Series buyers' guide

3. Volvo V60 T8

Best hybrid family car for carrying luggage in style

Fuel economy 135mpg
CO2 emissions 48g/km
Used deals from £44,840
Monthly finance from £665

Volvo is famous for making sensible and practical family cars, and the spacious Volvo V60, with its 529 litres of luggage space, is no different. These days, though, Volvos are fast gathering a reputation for being upmarket and sleek, too.

To this appealing mix, the V60 T8 Twin Engine adds a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that delivers the possibility of electric-only running for short trips, plus a real boost to both economy and performance thanks to the electric motor that drives the rear wheels.

You’ll need to plug it into a charging point either at home or at a public facility on a fairly regular basis to make the most of the V60’s extra electric power, but it’s (quite literally) a small price to pay for all that extra performance and economy.

Volvo V60 buyers' guide

4. Lexus IS 300h

Best hybrid family car for anyone without a charging point

Fuel economy 50mpg
CO2 emissions 109g/km
Used deals from £12,799
Monthly finance from £233

High-priced upmarket cars are frequently sought after by business users looking to cut their company car tax. They want a car with low CO2 emissions to reduce their tax band, which means they will probably be looking at a plug-in hybrid car.

But if you're just looking for excellent fuel economy without having to plug your car in to the wall every evening, then the Lexus IS 300h uses the same type of hybrid system as the Toyota Prius, in a package that brings more performance and a much more interesting design.

It looks good, it's quite and it's reasonably stable in corners. For families, consider it a four-seat car and you won’t be disappointed by the level of space in the back seats.

Lexus IS buyers' guide


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