For our friends on the other side of the ‘pond’, hybrids may seem a little commonplace. For us in the diesel-obsessed UK, though, hybrids are not the automatic choice.
The trend is changing, however, as hybrids become even more efficient and even less compromised compared to conventional cars. The best hybrids have two sides to their talents – the ability to run on electric power only when pootling about in stop-start traffic, and the ability to engage their combustion engines when more power is required, like on the motorway or when the batteries are exhausted.
When judging the hybrids, we looked at how effectively they used their powertrains, how easy they were to live with each day and how close they were to their conventionally-powered rivals.
Audi A3 e-tron
This is the latest powertrain development from the Volkswagen-group and forms the platform of the Volkswagen Golf GTE as well as the Audi A3 e-tron. It combines the much-lauded Volkswagen Group 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol with an electric motor. This setup means the e-tron will hit 60mph from rest in 7.6 seconds, returns an claimed average of 176.6mpg, can emit just 37g/km of CO2, and has a total range of 584 miles, 31 of which can be done on electric power alone. It’s a mixture of hyper-efficiency, potent power and A3-style common sense.
Lexus is one of the few manufacturers that’s been touting hybrid technology for years, so it’s fair to say they know a thing or two about it. This compact executive saloon features a good quality cabin with readouts showing where the power from the engine and motor is being distributed to.
The powertrain switches smoothly between the combustion engine and the electric motor, and when both are combined there’s reasonably sufficient power to overtake on the motorway. Pick the smaller wheels and you’ll have a car that achieves more than 60mpg on average and emits less than 100g/km of CO2.
Mercedes C300 Hybrid
The Mercedes C-Class has been gathering some positive reviews since its release and for the first time Mercedes has elected to offer the car with a hybrid powertrain. A combination of the brand’s 2.1-litre turbodiesel and an electric motor bring the total system output to nearly 230hp.
Inside, there’s the usual C-Class quality cabin with a beautifully sculpted centre console that’s not overly festooned with buttons. Artificial leather comes as standard along with Mercedes’ infotainment system – buyers can also specify a heads-up display to help keep their eyes on the road.