Best small hybrid cars 2023
Inexpensive to run, environmentally friendly and compact enough for urban lifestyles, here’s our pick of the 10 best small hybrid cars you can buy right now.
Hybrid cars have become very popular in the past few years but finding out which are the best ones you should buy isn't that east. Luckily we're at hand to help you find the best small hybrid cars on sale.
While electric cars are usually thousands of pounds more expensive than an equivalent petrol model, hybrid cars are something of a halfway house. They come in three basic forms, plug-in hybrids, self-charging hybrids and mild hybrids. All combine a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor to boost efficiency and reduce emissions.
Plug-in hybrids can even drive solely using electric power for a distance of around 20-50 miles depending on model. This makes it possible to dramatically improve your fuel economy if you keep the batteries charged up, especially if you do a reasonably short commute.
There’s a growing choice of models available on the used car market and if you regularly need to negotiate busy town traffic, a small hybrid car might well be your best bet, especially as we see more and more restrictions on cars producing higher emissions.
Small hybrid cars for sale
Best small hybrid for the city
Our pick: Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-h Icon Tech
Read our full Toyota Yaris review
Monthly finance from £136.71*
Toyota is known as a pioneer of hybrid technology so it’s no surprise to find three of the company’s models in this list. The smart-looking Toyota Yaris small car offers big car build quality, with simplicity and ease of use.
The hybrid system can run the car for short distances at slow speeds 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 shows that it’ll only achieve around 53mpg, which is pretty low when you consider this is a hybrid. If fuel economy is not everything for you, though, the Toyota Yaris is worth considering. It’s very suitable for driving around congested city centres and it’s also one of the cheapest options on this list.
Best small hybrid for advanced city tech
Our pick: Honda Jazz Advance e:HEV
Read our full Honda Jazz review
The latest version of the Honda Jazz is tailored towards a younger demographic than ever before, and has funky, fresh looks coupled to masses of interior space and practicality for such a small car – a feature that has always been a signature of the model.
It uses two powerful electric motors connected to a 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery and a fixed-gear CVT transmission, providing a smooth, eager and direct response.
Powerful and compact, the combined system can push the Honda Jazz from 0-60mph in just over nine seconds. The result is an enjoyable and comfortable drive, equally at home in urban areas or cruising on motorways. Plus, being a Honda, its reliability record is pretty much flawless. A sensible buy that’s far from dull.
Best small hybrid for city chic
Our pick: Renault Clio E-Tech esprit Alpine
Read our full Renault Clio review
One of the freshest self-charging hybrid cars on the market, the updated Renault Clio is also one of the most desirable thanks to its strong image and fashionable good looks.
Based on the French brand’s popular small car, the Renault Clio E-Tech Full Hybrid uses the same combination of a 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor, along with a six-speed automatic transmission, as found in the Renault Captur and Renault Arkana SUVs, but in the lighter Renault Clio bodywork the 143PS on offer leads to a lively and engaging driving experience.
It’s an entertaining car to own and a very fashionable one, with sensible pricing and a great all-round combination of urban ability, cruising refinement and entertaining handling on twistier roads, while it’s also projected to hold its value well.
Best small hybrid for emission-free driving
Our pick: BMW i3 REx
Read our full BMW i3 review
The BMW i3 is an electric car first and foremost, but the BMW i3 Range Extender, as the name implies, makes use of a little two-cylinder petrol engine to help recharge the batteries while you’re on the move. This adds around 70-80 miles to your range, meaning it could be capable of hitting 200 miles with a single charge.
Although it’s one of the older models on our list, first released in 2014, it still seems fairly cutting-edge today. With its funky looks and uncluttered, sharp interior it certainly feels modern. It also differs from most hybrids by using its engine as a range extender – power is always supplied to the wheels via electric motors, and the engine operates more as a generator.
The BMW i3 REx is a great car for bridging the gap between hybrid and electric cars, offering a decent electric-only range which you can top up overnight using a home charger. If you can avoid using the petrol engine to charge the batteries, you could open the door to rock-bottom motoring costs.
Best small hybrid for value for money
Our pick: Suzuki Swift 1.2 Boosterjet SHVS SZ-T
Read our full Suzuki Swift review
As if being great value wasn’t enough, the Suzuki Swift is also terrific fun to drive and lives up to its name on the open road. Responsive steering and nimble cornering mean it’s enjoyable to pilot down a twisty road.
The hybrid system doesn’t affect the car’s weight a great deal as it’s only a mild hybrid, which means that the motor and batteries aren’t as large as those in some of the other cars on this page.
This means that the system can’t drive the Suzuki Swift on pure electricity, but it boosts power when accelerating hard. Real-world economy figures of nearly 50mpg prove that the Suzuki Swift can be fun, frugal and good value.
Best small hybrid for all-round capability
Our pick: Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-I Hybrid Icon Tech
Read our full Toyota Corolla review
The Toyota Corolla is a sturdy and sensible choice for those in the market for a small hybrid. 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).
The Toyota Corolla is 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.
The Toyota Corolla’s popularity with private hire operators proves its reliability, comfort and functionality, even if it doesn’t give the most inspiring image. It’s a car that promises flawless dependability and to many motorists that’s all you could ever want.
Best small hybrid for performance and image
Our pick: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GTE Advance
Read our full Volkswagen Golf GTE review
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 VW Golf GTI and calling it the Volkswagen Golf GTE.
With hybrid cars using the electric motor and engine to provide power when accelerating, the VW 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 petrol-powered GTI.
Volkswagen GTE models belonging to the Golf Mk7 had 248PS, however when Volkswagen launched the Golf Mk8 in 2020 it started to offer a pair of plug-in hybrid models. They both use the same mechanical parts, but the regular plug-in hybrid available on a number of the standard trims got 207PS, and the VW Golf GTE got uprated to 245PS.
Best small hybrid for an upmarket feel
Our pick: Lexus CT 200h Sport
Read our full Lexus CT 200h review
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 on which much of it is based.
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 robust. On the outside, larger, smarter alloy wheels can make it look more fashionable. It’s an example of Toyota’s proven hybrid technology in a much posher package.
The Lexus CT 200h only has one engine available (a 1.8-litre hybrid petrol set-up) and an automatic CVT gearbox, which can take some getting used to thanks to its unusual noise.
Best small hybrid for durability
Our pick: Toyota Prius Hybrid Business Edition
Read our full Toyota Prius review
Sales of the Toyota Prius were discontinued in the UK in 2022, as a change in consumer fashions led to the SUV-styled Toyota CH-R taking over from it among Toyota’s customer base. But the Toyota Prius remains one of the most sought-after used cars on the market – and for a very good reason.
Sold over more than 20 years and through four generations, the Toyota Prius made a name for itself as the go-to-choice for hybrid motoring, and for many buyers it still is. In later years, it was even offered with a plug-in option, but it’s the 1.5-litre petrol hybrid with CVT transmission that’s most prevalent.
Buy carefully, though. Such is the demand for used Toyota Prius models that there are hundreds of Japanese imports hitting the road, many to serve the private hire sector and these will not have the same level of rustproofing or warranty as UK-supplied cars.
Best small hybrid for outright functionality
Our pick: Hyundai Ioniq Premium SE
Read our full Hyundai Ioniq review
Not to be confused with the thrusting new Hyundai Ioniq 5, which looks like a steroid-fuelled DeLorean, the original Hyundai Ioniq is the Ronseal of hybrid hatchbacks. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
And that’s ideal if you’re after a functional five-door hatchback that’s no bigger than a Ford Focus, but which gives you the choice of conventional hybrid or plug-in hybrid technology to keep your emissions and your running costs down.
Comfortable and well-equipped, the Hyundai Ioniq is a peaceful car to own and drive, with excellent refinement, good levels of tech and supreme comfort. It’s also sharper to drive than rivals from Toyota and Honda, as it uses a dual-clutch transmission in tandem with its 1.6-litre petrol engine and battery powertrain, rather than a CVT, which tends to sap a bit of power. Indeed, it’s a more entertaining car to drive than its plain-Jane looks would suggest.