Toyota hybrid cars

Toyota pioneered the hybrid as we know it. These are the Toyota hybrid cars on sale today leading the charge

John Evans
Sep 11, 2018

The dictionary definition of ‘hybrid’ is a thing made by combining two different elements. In the case of Toyota and its range of hybrid cars, the ‘two different elements’, are an electric motor and a conventional petrol engine that power them.

But remember, a hybrid isn't a pure electric vehicle like the Renault Zoe or Tesla Model S, both of which only have an electric motor and nothing else.

There is a variation on the company’s hybrid theme however, in the shape of a model that can also be plugged in to a remote power socket. This recharges a larger on-board battery, extending the car’s electric-only range. This car is the Toyota Prius Plug-in, and can be read about further down on the list.

Toyota has been producing hybrid vehicles for many years and is a leader in the field. Its first hybrid was the Prius (still going strong), launched in 1997. It has since expanded its hybrid range to seven models, most of them sitting alongside conventional petrol and diesel powered versions in Toyota’s line-up.

Like all other Toyota models, hybrid versions have a generous five-year/100,000-mile warranty, and their batteries are long-lasting.

However, before we take you through each of them, a word or two about Toyota’s hybrid technology.

How does Toyota’s hybrid system work?

If you could take a Toyota Hybrid apart you’d find a petrol engine, an electric motor, a transmission system that connects both power sources enabling them to drive the wheels, a generator that makes electricity and a battery pack to store the electricity in. You’d also find a clever system that recovers heat generated when braking and converts it into electricity.

Here’s how they work together.

When pulling away from a stop – This is one of the main reasons hybrids are more efficient for city driving. The electric motor powers the car, drawing on the battery for the power. Up to 15mph (for most Toyotas), the vehicle uses only the electric motor for power.

During normal cruising – This is when the normal petrol engine is used as it is most efficient. The engine can also power the generator while cruising, which produces electricity and stores it in the batteries for later use.

During heavy acceleration – Both the conventional engine and electric motor work together to increase power to the wheels. At the same time, the petrol engine powers the generator while the electric motor uses electricity from the battery and generator as needed.

During braking and cruising – When you brake or you take your foot off the accelerator, Toyota Hybrids use a system called ‘regenerative braking’. As the car no longer needs to apply power to the wheels, it allows the spinning wheels to power the vehicle’s generator, which produces electricity and stores it in the battery for later use.

When reaching a complete stop – Both the conventional engine and electric motor turn off and the car switches to battery power to run the radio, air conditioning and lights.

Strengths and weaknesses of Toyota hybrid cars

Strengths of Toyota hybrid cars

✔  Very low CO2 emissions mean some versions have low company car tax rates as well as being zero-rated for road tax
✔  Some models are exempt from the London congestion charge
✔  They are very quiet when running in electric-only mode

Weaknesses of Toyota hybrid cars

In the real world, some are no more economical than their diesel counterparts
They’re paired with an unpleasant type of automatic gearbox
Some cars registered after April 9 will be subject to road tax


Toyota hybrid cars model range

Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Best Toyota hybrid for city drivers

Not surprisingly, the smallest model in Toyota’s hybrid range is great around town, where its nippy but quiet performance, light steering and low CO2 emissions (it’s exempt from the London congestion charge) come into their own. Out on the open road it’s a different story with the automatic gearbox making the car noisy and revvy, and it leans uncomfortably in corners, too.

Inside, it looks and feels good, and there’s sufficient room for four adults. Happily for a hybrid, the car’s 286-litre boot is the same size as the boots of other versions in the range.
Toyota Yaris buying guide

Toyota Auris Hybrid

Best Toyota hybrid for undemanding drivers

Another Toyota hybrid that is more at home in the city than anywhere else. The Auris will do almost 84mpg here – and that’s a real-world, rather than official, figure. On the downside, the least polluting version emits 79g/km CO2, meaning it’s not exempt from the London congestion charge.

Again it’s nippy and quiet around town but on the open road it’s noisy due to the revvy auto gearbox, uncomfortable and not much fun to drive. The interior feels well made and is reasonably roomy. It’s quite practical, too, the battery pack requiring no boot space to accommodate.
Toyota Auris buying guide

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Best Toyota Hybrid for active families

Toyota’s mid-size SUV is a long-established model, so this hybrid version should have little trouble winning new friends. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do the hybrid argument many favours by being noisy and dull to driv.

At fault is a combination of things: the vehicle’s highish kerbweight, that noisy and revvy automatic gearbox once again and a fidgety ride on anything but the smoothest roads. The boot is also made smaller by the need to stow the electric motor’s batteries. The two-wheel-drive version’s towing allowance is a measly 800kg, too.

However, the RAV4 is at least the largest hybrid Toyota makes, with a 501-litre boot. It even does 46.1mpg in real-world fuel economy testing.
Toyota RAV4 buying guide

Toyota Prius

Best Toyota Hybrid for city drivers

Latest Toyota Prius Hybrid deals from £16,495
Finance from £228 per month

The daddy of hybrid cars is now in its fourth generation and it shows, this latest model being the most efficient, refined and spacious so far. It’ll do up to 36mph on electric power alone, making it a quiet, urban friendly tool.

Most versions have CO2 emissions of 70g/km, meaning they’re exempt from the London congestion charge, and it does up to 94.1mpg. The suspension masks urban potholes and irregularities very well, while on the open road the Prius is soft riding but generally very refined, the fly in the ointment being that automatic gearbox which can make the engine sound revvy.

The interior is impressively space age and well made. Space all round is generally good, although headroom is at a premium in the back.
Toyota Prius buying guide

Toyota Prius +

Best Toyota hybrid for versatility

Latest Toyota Prius + Hybrid deals from £18,995
Finance from £247 per month

This seven-seat version of the standard Prius is not as efficient as the standard model but if you want to avoid paying road tax and trim your fuel bills, all while carrying up to seven people, it’s the way to go.

It’s reasonably comfortable and refined although again, the automatic gearbox can make the engine sound busy and noisy. The interior lags behind the standard car’s in style and quality, but there’s no doubt about its versatility. There are roomier MPVs but a couple of small children will be comfortable enough in the back.
Toyota Prius buying guide

Toyota Prius Plug-in

Best Toyota hybrid for electric-only driving

Latest Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid deals from £16,499
Finance from £228 per month

This version of the Prius goes one better than the standard model by having a larger battery that gives an extended electric-only driving range of 30 miles.

These plug-in versions can be plugged into a remote charging socket and recharged in two hours. It’s the reason Toyota can claim CO2 emissions of just 49g/km, useful if you buy a car registered after 1 April when the car tax rates change to take account of the rising numbers of low-polluting cars such as hybrids.
Toyota Prius buying guide

Toyota C-HR

Best Toyota Hybrid for eye-catching looks

Toyota’s new entry in the fast-growing compact crossover market, dominated by the Nissan Qashqai, is dressed to impress. In fact, striking looking though it is, there’s real substance to the C-HR thanks to a reasonably roomy cabin, and a good ride and handling set-up that makes it pleasurable to drive in most conditions.

But that’s only half the story because under the skin is a hybrid powertrain lifted straight from the Prius. Unfortunately, it emits rather more CO2 (86g/km compared with 70g/km) and suffers with the same annoyingly rev-inducing automatic gearbox. It’s not as practical as some rivals such as the Seat Ateca, either, but it certainly cuts a dash.
Toyota C-HR buying guide


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