- Parkers pick of the best hybrid cars to buy 2019
- Wide range of budgets covered
- Self-charging and plug-in hybrids reviewed
Each month, more and more car buyers take the plunge and opt for a hybrid car. And for good reason, too – these vehicles can often offer many benefits over a pure petrol or diesel car.
The addition of an electric motor can improve performance but in most cases it’s used for greater fuel economy. Hybrid technology tends to provide more economical running than conventionally-powered siblings, with higher fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. The majority are paired to petrol engines, but diesel hybrids do exist.
In addition, they qualify for discounts on first-year road tax, and fall on the right side of upcoming legislation barring certain vehicles from entering city centres without paying a hefty fee, such as London’s ULEZ.
What types of hybrid are there?
We’ve concentrated this list on both traditional hybrids and plug-in variants. The latter have larger battery packs that can be topped up independently, usually allowing for around 20-30 miles of pure-electric driving. This makes them ideal for those who want to complete a short commute on electricity alone but still need the freedom to undertake longer journeys without too much forward planning.
They can be topped up at home or at a public charge point.
Traditional hybrids – that is, the non plug-in variety (Toyota calls this a ‘self-charging hybrid’ system) tend to be cheaper, and are a good choice for those who simply want the ease of a regular car but with lower fuel consumption. In these cars, electricity is generated via regenerative braking and through the engine.
We've discounted the sort of battery-generator stop/start systems often called 'mild hybrids', as these are incapable of driving on their electric motors alone and can be treated identically to petrol or diesel cars.
We’ve chosen the top 10 hybrids on sale today, ranging from practical family crossovers to superpowered supercars. Read on for our thoughts on each of these cars, or click the quick links below to be taken straight to your favourite.
Toyota’s revival of the Corolla name replaced the Auris on these shores – a car that was competent and reliable, but far from exciting. However, the newly stylish Corolla has rather more going for it – a great chassis, improved interior, and a choice of two hybrid powertrains as well as a conventional petrol.
Both 1.8-litre and high-performance 2.0-litre hybrid powertrains are superbly efficient, and even the CVT gearbox – typically an annoyance to be tolerated rather than a feature to be coveted – is improved over previous models. If you want an attractive, well-thought-out and cheap to run family hatchback, the Corolla has to be on your shortlist – just make sure that the rather tight rear cabin will accommodate all you need it to.
New price: £21,305 - £28,310
Lease a Toyota Corolla Hybrid: From £197 per month
Typically, hybrid cars aren’t particularly efficient on longer journeys – their electric motors aren’t effective at higher motorway speeds, turning them into a primarily petrol-powered vehicle. So why not combine the efficient round-town running of a hybrid with the long-distance efficiency of diesel for the best of both worlds?
That’s the route Mercedes has taken with the E 300 de, and it works brilliantly. The capability to run for up to 34 miles on electric power alone should take care of most journeys around town, and the diesel engine will easily return more than 50mpg in solo driving.
New price: £47,700 - £50,195
Lease a Mercedes-Benz E300 de: From £553 per month
Hyundai aimed to offer as much choice as possible with the Ioniq line-up. So in addition to an all-electric model, there’s a choice of standard and plug-in hybrid models – both of which are good choices in their class. The Ioniq offers many of the benefits of a purpose-designed hybrid such as the Toyota Prius, but is far more conventional and as a result, far more easy to live with.
A great feature of the Ioniq is its dual-clutch gearbox, which is less offensive than the CVT transmissions in many rivals. And while ultimate efficiency is still down on the Toyota Prius, the Ioniq hits back with lower pricing across the board.
New price: £21,795 - £30,410
Lease a Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: From £423 per month
The Honda CR-V is already a great family crossover, and there’s plenty of appeal in the hybrid model too. For starters, it’s by far the most efficient CR-V you can buy, as Honda discontinued the option for a diesel engine when it introduced the latest generation.
It’s also superbly smooth and quiet, mainly because the petrol engine only directly drives the wheels when cruising at high speed – most of the time, the CR-V is an electric car with a petrol generator. Add in a really practical interior, trademark Honda solidity and a surprising degree of handling finesse and the CR-V Hybrid makes quite the case for itself.
New price: £30,130 - £38,280
Lease a Honda CR-V: From £282 per month
We love the Volvo XC90 here at Parkers, and there’s good reason for that; it’s an excellent luxury SUV. The T8 Twin Engine is the range-topping powertrain – a plug-in hybrid with impressive performance and even more impressive potential efficiency.
We love the XC90’s interior, which combines practicality with Scandinavian style in a way no other manufacturer can. And while certain items, such as the brand’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving functions aren’t quite at the head of the class any more, the XC90 is still a great choice for the big family with discerning taste.
New price: £66,645 - £71,945
Lease a Volvo XC90 T8: From £643 per month
When it comes to safe, comfortable and efficient family transport, the Volkswagen Passat is the default choice for many – and by default, they’ll usually pick one with a diesel engine. But an alternative does exist in the shape of the Passat GTE, which pairs a plug-in battery pack with a 1.4-litre petrol engine.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘GT’ part of its name – this car is fast but not exciting. It slips well under the radar, though, so if you’d rather not shout about your hybrid vehicle this could be a great choice. It also retains all of the Passat’s great features, from the practical boot and rear seat to the solidly-built interior.
New price: £27,185
Lease a Volkswagen Passat Estate: From £292 per month
Think hybrid cars have to be dull econoboxes? The Honda NSX would like a word, please. With electric motors added not for efficiency, but for performance, this hybrid hero is simultaneously one of the most advanced and accessible supercars you can buy.
It uses three electric motors – one on the rear axle, sharing duties with a 3.5-litre V6 engine, and two on the front, which give the NSX a semblance of four-wheel drive and the ability to use sophisticated torque vectoring in corners. This isn’t a hybrid that’ll get you admiring glances at Greenpeace HQ, then – but it’s certainly one that’ll raise a smile on a twisting road.
New price: £142,355
More and more manufacturers are turning to hybridisation for their large SUVs – a type of car that’s still typically dominated by diesel engines. Since Porsche ditched diesel in its SUVs a little while ago, it’s been focusing on pure petrol and hybrid models. The latter are seriously impressive machines.
What you’re left with in the Cayenne E-Hybrid is a V8, twin-turbocharged SUV that’s capable of hitting 60mph from rest faster than a BMW M3, yet will run silently on electric power for up to 25 miles and returns an official combined fuel economy figure of nearly 60mpg. The added weight means it doesn’t handle quite as sweetly as its purely petrol-powered cousin, but an SUV this size was never going to be particularly nimble anyway.
New price: £123,349
Some credit the Toyota RAV4 with creating the massive demand for crossover SUVs when it launched back in the 1990s. It’s a far cry from that original car now, though – it’s bigger, more practical, and nowadays is available exclusively with a hybrid powertrain in the UK.
Impressive fuel economy and super-low carbon dioxide emissions makes the RAV4 a good choice whether you’re buying privately or driving it as a company car. Its only real setbacks are a lack of infotainment technology, particularly for high-tech buyers who covet smartphone connectivity, and a somewhat remote driving experience.
New price: £29,940 - £34,705
Lease a Toyota RAV4: From £238 per month
Think ‘compact executive car’ and chances are the BMW 3 Series is at the forefront of your imagination – probably in 320d form, with a diesel engine. The 330e plug-in hybrid is worth serious consideration, and despite a strong rival in the form of a Mercedes C 300 e, it manages to top the class for simply being fantastically competent.
Capable of impressive performance when you hoof it and equally impressive economy when you don’t, this is still a practical and comfortable cruiser – with BMW’s trademark handling prowess. Definitely a compelling proposition.
New price: £37,875 - £39,980
Lease a BMW 3 Series: From £371 per month
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