Best used hybrid cars 2023
Like the idea of electric power for town with the backup of a normal engine for longer trips? You need a hybrid. Here are eight of the best
For some, the idea of plunging head first into the pool of fully electric motoring is still a bit too daunting. Perhaps a range of only 200 miles or so is simply not enough, or maybe the stress of trying to find a suitable charging point is too much for you. No matter what the reason, there is certainly a need for compromise, and hybrid cars are just that.
As with any compromise, plug-in hybrid cars - also known as PHEVs - aren't perfect. While you can expect to get strong fuel economy thanks to electric motors handling a share of the work (provided you regularly charge the car in the case of PHEVs), you can only realistically hope to get around 30 miles of electric-only driving with a PHEV before you'll have to recharge, so it will only really prove useful during short drives around town. Go on longer trips and the petrol or diesel engine kicks in and you start burning fuel again.
Self-charging hybrids, meanwhile, have smaller batteries and offer less electric assistance, so don't expect to waft around town for more than a couple of seconds on electric power alone. Another challenge with hybrid technology is that it's incredibly expensive to develop, so it's no surprise that purchasing a car with it attached can set you back a lot more money than a standard petrol model would. The difference is likely to shrink when you start looking at more affordable used cars, however.
So, don't be scared away by those hefty price tags, because hybrid cars do become more affordable if you start looking towards used car finance. Be careful not to make too many comparisons with petrol alternatives because in most cases they will still be cheaper, but if you're determined to make the first step towards electric motoring you can pick up some cheap PCP finance and HP finance deals on used hybrid cars starting at £104.71 per month on BuyaCar.
Best hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars 2021
Best hybrid car for a high-quality interior
The A3 hatchback has been one of Audi’s most popular models for years, combining upmarket looks and a high-quality interior. With many current A3 drivers nearing the end of a PCP finance plan and considering how to replace their petrol or diesel models with something similarly desirable but a little more frugal, the A3 e-tron could be the answer.
This version has a 1.4-litre, turbocharged petrol engine plus an electric motor powered by a small battery, which provides a combined power output of 201hp. This means performance is brisk with 0-62mph taking just 7.6 seconds. As this is a plug-in hybrid, meanwhile, it can also be driven for up to 29 miles on battery power alone.
Audi claims that this petrol-electric car is capable of 166mpg - assuming you regularly charge the batteries and don't head out on long journeys too often, where the batteries run out of charge and the petrol engine has to work harder - using more fuel. After living with one for six months, we'd say you're more likely to achieve 70-80mpg on typical journeys, assuming you charge it regularly.
When a new Audi A3 arrived in 2020, the plug-in hybrid version became the 'A3 40 TFSI e'. Audi reckons well in excess of 200mpg, but as with any plug-in hybrid car, this depends massively on how regularly you are able to charge it. If you want the latest safety tech and gadgets, this is the version to go for. There's also a more powerful 245hp version badged '45 TFSI e' which shares its setup with the Golf GTE, but the lesser-powered version will be enough for most.
Best hybrid car for an enjoyable drive
The BMW 3 Series has long been one of the very best compact saloons money can buy. And for those looking for a plug-in hybrid saloon, the trend continues: the 330e is an accomplished alternative to a diesel. It offers strong acceleration, is comfortable but satisfyingly sporty to drive and offers impressive refinement compared with petrol and diesel models.
Charge the battery from the mains regularly and drive in a relaxed manner and this is a car that is capable of 148mpg. Take that with a pinch of salt though; depending on how you drive, the actual range with electric propulsion can be as little as 11 miles, compared with the 25 that BMW claimed. Despite all this, the 330e is one of the very best plug-in hybrids to drive.
If you can afford it, a new version of the 3 Series, along with a 330e model, dropped in 2019. It's still recognisable on the outside, but the interior saw a huge leap in terms of quality.
Best hybrid car for choice - hybrid and PHEV available
If you’re considering a hybrid car but find the popular Toyota Prius a little too wacky to look at, then try the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid. Inoffensively styled and competitively priced when new - and equally good value as a used car - it is a self-charging hybrid that is capable of up to 83mpg, while CO2 emissions of 79g/km mean that models registered before April 2017 are exempt from road tax.
Spacious enough for a family with a big boot, and coming with plenty of equipment, this is a smooth and comfortable performer for those who value easy-does-it driving. Better still, if you do mostly shorter trips and spend lots of time in town or on slower roads, there is a plug-in hybrid version, too. This can travel further on electric power alone, offering the prospect of much-improved fuel economy, provided you remember to plug it in regularly.
Best hybrid car for all-round ability
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the most handsome cars around in both saloon and estate forms. Open the doors, and you’ll discover it’s just as stylish inside, with one of the most attractive cabins of any car in this price range. Comfort levels are pretty high, too, making this a great car for relaxed drives.
You lose a little bit of boot space by choosing this plug-in hybrid (this drops to 350 litres, which is less than a standard VW Golf hatchback) but what you lose in outright space you gain in driving efficiency. Charge the battery regularly and Mercedes says the C350e is capable of around 134mpg, with 19 miles on battery power alone, but it’s more likely to fall between 50 and 60mpg in day-to-day driving conditions.
If you find yourself doing motorway stints quite regularly, the diesel-powered plug-in hybrid model could be the one to go for, which should prove more economical once the battery has run out.
Best hybrid car for all-weather grip
Most plug-in hybrid cars are thoroughly sensible machines that go out of their way to be efficient but are a little lacking in the personality department. Trust Mini, then, to change that. In the Countryman Cooper S E, it puts some fun into a family plug-in hybrid, with a funky design and a responsive driving experience.
It has the power to nip from a standstill to 62mph in just 6.8 seconds, which is fast enough to put a smile on your face. Take things gently, meanwhile, and the petrol-electric model can return as much as 134mpg if you plug it in regularly. Perhaps the point that will seal the deal for some drivers is that it also comes with four-wheel drive, so in poor weather this Mini offers greater grip than two-wheel drive alternatives.
If you're after the best car for driving in snow, you really need to get yourself a set of winter tyres, as these not only boost grip when accelerating - the aspect four-wheel drive helps with - while offering much-improved grip when cornering and braking - areas where four-wheel drive cars with normal tyres perform poorly.
Best hybrid car for striking styling
The Lexus NX stands out of the crowd for two reasons. The company's designers have created an SUV that looks like nothing else and under the surface, it offers hybrid power.
The NX has proved a big success for Lexus, becoming the Japanese brand’s best-seller in the UK, since it was launched in 2014. Aside from its distinctive styling, there’s the petrol-electric, self-charging hybrid format, which helps it to achieve up to 54mpg. If fuel economy is your top priority, however, many diesel SUVs offer similar figures, so you may want to compare rivals including the Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60.
The electric motor comes into its own in stop-start queues or slow-moving traffic and creates a calm driving experience. If only the trackpad device, used for operating the media system, was as relaxing. It’s the car’s most annoying feature and as a result the media system simply isn't good enough considering how much the car costs new. If you're considering a used model, however, the NX makes much more sense, especially for a model covered by Lexus' whopping 10-year warranty.
There's a new NX on sale as of 2022, and while it has been redesigned and has more in-car tech, the only version still looks sharp. It should also have dropped in price as a result, making this premium-badged hybrid more affordable.
Best hybrid car for easy town driving
You won’t be spoilt for choice when it comes to small cars with hybrid power, but happily Toyota responded to the call, with the Yaris Hybrid. Look out for the versions with the smaller, 15-inch wheels, because they can manage up to 91mpg, and have low CO2 emissions that means there’s no road tax to pay if you go for a model registered before April 2017.
The Yaris works well when driving across smaller country roads or around town but when tasked with venturing onto main roads, especially motorways, the car’s automatic gearbox - which is a 'continuously variable transmission' (CVT) - can become annoying and the fuel economy won’t be at its best. That's because the CVT gearbox holds the engine at a set speed when accelerating, as the length of the gear is increased. This gives the sensation of the engine screaming away, despite the car not accelerating that fast.
Best hybrid car for seven-seat practicality
The trouble with large, four-wheel-drive, seven-seat SUVs is that they weigh as much as a house and tend to be even less efficient. Volvo attempted to address that, with the T8 version of its current XC90 - a plug-in hybrid. It’s a handsome SUV, with a wonderfully soothing interior, but the trump card is the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid kit underneath.
You get up to 134mpg, on paper at least. In practice, however, that is likely to be 50mpg at best. On a full charge the car can travel for around 30 miles on battery power, though in reality, it's likely to be less. Despite all this, though, the most appealing part about the XC90 is the car itself.
It’s unquestionably one of the very best large seven-seaters, so choose this if you want a supersized family car that happens to offer relatively strong fuel economy and the ability to travel around town on electric power alone - not if you're after a plug-in car that's great for the environment.
Hybrids vs petrol and diesel cars
Before making a decision on a hybrid car, ask yourself whether it will be suitable for the type of day-to-day driving you do. Generally, hybrids are most efficient, offering the greatest fuel economy, when used at low to medium speeds, making them well suited to town driving and lower-speed cross-country trips. If you ask them to sit on a motorway at 70mph for miles on end or regularly zoom along fast country roads, the economy you get is likely to be worse than a diesel equivalent.
Standard hybrids - now branded as 'self-charging hybrids' - recharge their battery as you drive, recouping energy when you brake, and providing electric power for up to a couple of miles. Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid vehicles - also known as 'PHEVs' - feature a larger battery and should be plugged in regularly to give the best fuel economy, with some models able to travel for up to 30 miles on battery power alone after a full charge. It is possible to use the engine to charge the battery in a plug-in hybrid, but this is extremely inefficient. Do this and you might as well have a cheaper and simpler ordinary petrol or diesel model.
Hybrid drivers often praise their cars for the quiet driving experience they offer. By pulling away using battery power alone in many cases, and using a petrol engine (in the majority of models) to build more speed, they are more refined than a typical diesel. If that sounds appealing, keep reading for our roundup of the best value used hybrid cars available now.
*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:
48 monthly payments of £192
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.