Hybrid cars come with both an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine to give you a tempting combination of punchy performance and almost silent low-speed cruising. They also typically use less fuel and emit fewer CO2 emissions than conventional cars.
Our list also includes several plug-in hybrid models. These cars usually come with larger battery packs than traditional hybrids that you can charge form a household socket or public charging point to boost your electric-only range.
Fancy a new hybrid that’ll cope with the odd off-road excursion? Read our list of the best hybrid SUVs on sale or head over to our list of the best seven-seat hybrids for a range of more practical cars that might not appear here.
[2018 update: The hugely popular Toyota Prius clings on to the top spot in our list in 2018, closely followed by the sportier VW Golf GTE and luxurious Lexus RX. The BMW 5 Series makes an appearance in ninth position in 530e hybrid trim while the affordable Toyota Yaris rounds off our top 10.]
Here are the best hybrid cars on sale:
- Toyota Prius
- VW Golf GTE
- Lexus RX
- Hyundai Ioniq
- Audi A3 e-tron
- Volvo XC60 T8
- Audi Q7 e-tron
- Kia Niro
- BMW 5 Series hybrid
- Toyota Yaris hybrid
1. Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius was one of the first mainstream hybrids when it went on sale in 1997 and the latest model is still one of the best in the business. It’s easy to drive and switches between petrol and electric power so seamlessly you’ll barely notice the difference. You even get a good view out, which makes it a doddle to drive around town, and Toyota claims it’ll return an impressive 94mpg. No wonder Uber drivers love them.
Its cabin design won’t appeal to everyone and you’ll find some scratchy plastics on the doors and dashboard, but there’s enough room in the back for tall adults to get comfortable. Its boot’s pretty generous, too, and its wide opening makes it easy to load.
2. VW Golf GTE
The Volkswagen Golf GTE could be your ideal hybrid if you want a car that’ll be cheap to run but looks just like an ordinary family car on the outside. Its stylish cabin feels as posh as in the standard Golf and there’s space for tall adults in the back seats but beneath the GTE’s unassuming metal skin you get a perky 1.4-lite petrol engine and a smooth electric motor that work together to reduce fuel consumption.
It’s reasonably quick, too, although the weight of its battery pack means the GTE doesn’t feel anywhere near as sharp as a Golf GTI on a twisty country lane. Around town, however, the near-silent electric motor does most of the work, which makes it much more relaxing to drive than its sporty sibling.
3. Lexus RX
The Lexus RX is a high-riding SUV with a posh, upmarket interior and a frugal petrol-electric drive system. This means it’ll be reasonably cheap to run and you can potter around town without using the petrol engine at all. Lexus claims this tall SUV will return around 53mpg.
Unfortunately, the RX’s standard CVT automatic gearbox slightly dulls the feeling of acceleration you get when your floor the throttle. This is a small complaint, however, and the fact that the RX is more affordable than hybrid alternatives from Audi, BMW and Volvo helps it take third place on our list.
4. Hyundai Ioniq
The Hyundai Ioniq is a small family car that combines a futuristic interior with slick styling and an economical petrol-electric hybrid system. There’s enough space inside for four reasonably tall adults to get comfortable and it comes with a more intuitive infotainment system than the Toyota Prius.
Unfortunately, it can’t quite match the Prius’ fuel economy – Hyundai claims the Ioniq will return 83mpg – but it has a dual-clutch automatic gearbox (rather than the Toyota’s CVT unit) so it is smoother and better to drive.
5. Audi A3 e-tron
The Audi A3 e-tron is based on the upmarket A3 Sportback so comes with a fairly spacious cabin that feels impeccably well built. You get a super-intuitive infotainment system and a there’s even the option of a fantastic widescreen digital driver’s display instead of conventional analogue dials.
Unfortunately, this plug-in hybrid model’s batteries eat slightly into the boot space, but there’s still enough room for a family’s luggage and its large battery capacity means you can drive it in electric-only mode for almost 30 miles. It’s easy to drive and comes with an automatic gearbox as standard, but you can’t get the e-tron with the A3’s adaptive suspension that makes the standard car feel relaxing on the motorway and sporty on a twisty country road.
6. Volvo XC60 T8
The Volvo XC60 T8 is a high-performance hybrid that packs a fairly serious 390hp punch from its electric motor and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. As a result, it feels pretty sporty to drive, yet won’t cost the earth to run. It’s what’s known as a plug-in hybrid, so you can charge it up from a household socket and drive for approximately 30 miles using electric power alone. Inside, you get all the stylish creature comforts that make the standard XC60 so appealing, such as the intuitive portrait infotainment system, leather upholstery and cool unvarnished wood dashboard trims.
Unfortunately, all these fancy features don’t come cheap – the hybrid T8 model is by far the most expensive car in the XC60 lineup. If you don’t mind spending a bit of extra cash, however, it’s a safe, spacious and surprisingly speedy Swedish SUV that’s well worth considering.
7. Audi Q7 e-tron
The Q7 e-tron is a hybrid version of Audi’s flagship SUV. It can cruise along at slow speeds almost silently using electric power alone which makes it cheaper to run than a comparable petrol or diesel car and surprisingly relaxing to drive in town – despite its large size. You can drive for around 35 miles in electric-only mode before the diesel engine has to lend a hand. With both systems working together, Audi claims it’ll return 156mpg.
Unfortunately, you can’t get the e-tron model with seven seats like the standard Q7 and it’s quite a bit more expensive to buy. If you live in a city and absolutely must have a tall SUV, however, it’s one of the best in the business.
8. Kia Niro
The Kia Niro is one of the few small SUVs on sale that comes with a hybrid drive system. This means it’s cheaper to run than most comparable petrol and diesel SUVs, yet still gives you a confidence-inspiring high driving position and a good view out over the road ahead. Its boxy shape means you get more headroom in the back seats than in the likes of the Prius and Ioniq, too.
It’s not quite as frugal as these cars, however – Kia claims it’ll return 74mpg – but its standard six-speed automatic gearbox does help make light work of heavy traffic and it doesn’t cause its engine to drone when you accelerate hard, like in the Prius.
9. BMW 5 Series hybrid
The BMW 5 Series is also available as a fuel-sipping 530e hybrid – perfect if you fancy an upmarket saloon but rarely venture out of town. It has the same plush cabin as the standard 5 Series, with plenty of space for passengers and loads of high-tech features, including an infotainment system with gesture controls that let you change the stereo volume by spinning your hand in mid air.
Unfortunately, it’s more expensive than a comparable 530i petrol model and won’t be quite as cheap to run as a 530d if you do lots of long motorway journeys. It’s still an excellent hybrid saloon, however, and certainly deserving of a spot in our top 10.
10. Toyota Yaris hybrid
The Toyota Yaris is one of the most affordable hybrid cars on sale but still delivers impressive fuel economy in an easy-to-live-with package. Toyota claims it’ll return 85.6mpg and there’s easily enough space in the back seats for kids to get comfortable. Its boot is more than roomy enough to hold a big weekly shop, too.
Sadly, the Yaris’ modest 99hp petrol engine struggles slightly to keep up with fast-moving motorway traffic and its CVT automatic gearbox causes the engine to drone rather loudly when you accelerate hard. It’s still well worth a look if you’re after an affordable hybrid – especially if you do most of your driving around town.
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