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Looking for the best hybrid cars? Our resident experts have pulled together the best hybrids currently on sale so you can go green and get a great car too.
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If you’re keen to drive a hybrid, but a decent proportion of your driving is hacking up and down motorways, diesel hybrid cars could be ideal for you - here are the cars you should be considering first.
The Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48v has what’s called a Mild Hybrid Starter Generator or MHSG that works together with a 48V electrical system and small battery to help out the diesel engine. So when accelerating the MHSG will provide some extra shove to take the strain off the diesel engine, while when braking it’ll switch to store energy back to the battery ready for the next burst.
All Audi A7 diesel engines now include mild hybrid technology. It has a clever set-up that helps the A7 shut off its engine between 34 and 99mph to coast and save fuel and then intelligently fire the engine again when needed.
Hyundai owns Kia, so it’s no surprise that its Tucson SUV shares many components with the Sportage. As such, the Tucson’s also gets a mild hybrid version with the same 2.0-litre diesel engine aided by a Mild Hybrid Starter Generator, 48v electrical system and small battery.
Audi’s Q7 is available with a range of powerful six-cylinder diesel engines, or you combine the most economical of those with an electric motor and batteries in this e-tron model. It’s a plug-in hybrid, so you can charge it up via a charging point or three-pin socket and it’ll cruise on electricity alone for up to 34 miles.
Choosing the best plug-in hybrid car for you doesn’t need to be difficult – all these plug-in hybrids are cheap to run and fulfil a variety of needs.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is one of the best plug-in hybrids on sale because it combines cheap running costs with a practical SUV body. It can run for miles on electric power alone, plus it has space for four tall adults and their luggage for two weeks away.
The Toyota Prius Plug-in can travel 30 miles on electric power alone slashing your costs if you have a short commute. The Prius’ angular exterior is matched by a high-tech interior that has space for four adults and their luggage.
The BMW i3 qualifies for this list of the best plug-in hybrid because of its spectacularly low running costs. It’s small but has just enough room for four adults and some bags of shopping, and its small size makes it ideal for cutting through busy cities.
The Volvo XC90 Twin Engine has a luxurious interior with space for seven adults and room left over for a little bit of luggage. It can travel 30 miles on electric power but is also surprisingly quick when you need a burst of acceleration.
The BMW 530e is one of the best plug-in hybrids on sale although you’d never know it. It looks exactly the same as any other 5 Series but is cheaper to run if you have a short commute. Its posh interior has a great infotainment system and space for four tall adults.
Our resident experts have pulled together the best small hybrids cars on sale so you can have a small car with small running costs.
The BMW i3 Range Extender is the best small hybrid car on sale. It’s exempt from paying London’s Congestion Charge, is cheap to run and has a surprising turn of speed. Its cool interior has just enough space for four adults and its boot can swallow a week’s worth of shopping.
The Toyota Yaris Hybrid is relatively cheap to buy, frugal to run and can run for a few miles in silent electric mode. Its small size makes it easy to drive, but the Yaris can just about carry four adults and a couple of suitcases.
The Volkswagen Golf GTE is one of the best small hybrids if you’re looking for a quick car that’s also cheap to run. It is almost as fun to drive as the Golf GTI hot hatch but your fuel bills won’t be anywhere near as high. Like any Golf, its interior is well built and practical.
The Audi A3 e-tron is one of the best small hybrids if you want a car that feels expensive. Its interior’s very well built, plus has space for four adults and their luggage. It’s quick, but also very cheap to run, particularly if you have a short commute and somewhere to charge it.
Just because you want a hybrid car doesn’t mean you’re willing to accept compromise – all these cars aren’t just great hybrids, they’re great cars in their own right.
The Toyota Prius is the best hybrid car on sale because it delivers spectacular fuel economy, can drive for miles on electric power alone and is so clean it’s exempt from paying London’s Congestion Charge. On top of that, it has space-age styling, is comfortable and spacious.
The Lexus RX gets surprisingly good fuel economy for such a large car and is well priced considering how big and luxurious it is. Its interior has acres of space and its boot is pretty large too.
The Hyundai Ioniq is one of the best hybrid cars on sale if you’re not looking to make a statement. It’s cheap to run and buy for a hybrid car and it’s quiet and comfortable to drive. Its back seat isn’t brilliant for rear headroom but the large boot can swallow a family’s luggage.
The BMW i8 is a hybrid sports car with space-age exterior and interior looks. The i8’s combination of a petrol engine and an electric motor provide four-wheel drive and rapid acceleration, yet it can run for miles on electric power alone. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s still one of the best hybrids you can buy.
The Toyota Prius+ is one of the few seven-seat hybrid cars on sale. Its robust interior has space for five with an extra pair of fold-out seats in the large boot suitable for kids. The Prius+ is frugal on fuel and can run for a few miles on silent electric power alone.
A hybrid car is a car that has more than one source of power. It combines a conventional combustion engine with an electric motor to power the car.
The benefits of a hybrid include high fuel economy and low emissions compared with standard petrol and diesel engines - if used in the right way. Some hybrid cars can run on electric power alone for short distances, improving economy and emissions even further.
Hybrid cars tend to be cheaper to tax than conventionally powered cars and some are eligible for 100% discounts on London’s Congestion Charge.
Most hybrid cars are petrol-electric hybrids but there are also diesel-electric hybrids, although they are less common.
The Toyota Prius is perhaps the most well-known hybrid car, launching more than 20 years ago, but these days many car companies make hybrid cars.
Exactly how the two power sources work together depends on the individual car manufacturer. While they all have different ways of blending the two, the basic idea remains the same – when conditions allow, electric motor will replace or work with the combustion engine to provide drive the car. The reduced load on the engine means it uses much less fuel.
Hybrid cars have packs of batteries that power the electric motor. These batteries are recharged by the combustion engine as you drive along. You don't need to plug in the car to charge them up. Braking also helps recharge the batteries as you drive.
A traditional (or sometimes called full hybrid) is a system where to two power sources - the engines and the electric motor - which can work together to drive the vehicle or can each be used in isolation.
This system differs from the traditional hybrid because the electric motor can only be used to help assist the combustion engine, not power the car on its own.
Plug-in hybrids - also called PHEVs, which means Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles - have a much larger electric-only range than traditional hybrids. As the name suggests, you do have to plug-in a PHEV to recharge the batteries, much as you would charge an electric car, but with a full tank of fuel, plug-in hybrids can go much further than any electric car.
These are predominantly electric cars that have a small petrol engine that recharges the batteries. The engine doesn't power the car.
On 11 October 2018, the Government announced changes to the Plug In Car Grant scheme. From 9 November 2018 the grant for Category 2 and 3 cars is being scrapped completely.
The cars below are eligible for the grant – a discount of up to £2,500 – until 9 November.
Category 2 cars
These vehicles have CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 16km (10 miles) without any CO2 emissions at all:
Audi A3 e-tron
Hyundai IONIQ PHEV
Kia Niro PHEV
Kia Optima PHEV
Mercedes-Benz C350 e (with 17 inch rear wheels)
Mercedes-Benz E350 e SE
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (except Commercial)
Toyota Prius Plug-in
Volkswagen Golf GTE
Volkswagen Passat GTE
Volvo S90 Twin Engine
Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine
Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine
Volvo V90 Twin Engine
Volvo XC60 Twin Engine
Category 3 cars
These vehicles have CO2 emissions of 50 to 75g/km and can travel at least 32km (20 miles) without any CO2 emissions at all:
Mercedes-Benz E350 e AMG Line
MINI Countryman PHEV
Is a hybrid car the right choice for you? If you’d like to cut the costs of running a car a hybrid car might be a good option. They can cover longer distances than electric-only cars, and if you mostly drive around town you'll get impressive fuel economy. If you can drive in electric-only mode (ie at low speeds and without putting your foot down much) they're serene and relaxing to travel in because there's no engine noise.
If you've done any research you will have seen huge mpg figures for some hybrid cars – for example, the Volvo XC90 T8 SUV can achieve a claimed 134.5mpg, and the Toyota Prius Plug-in hatchback manages a massive 283mpg. These figures are obtained under laboratory testing and you won't get anywhere near this fuel economy in real-world driving.
Still, if you stick to town driving and keep the batteries charged then a hybrid will usually be more economical than a regular petrol or diesel car – we got 80mpg from a Toyota Prius in a mix of town and rural driving.
If you mostly do motorway driving, however, a hybrid car might not be as economical as a diesel car because you'll be using the combustion engine most of the time.Another downside is that many hybrids use CVT automatic gearboxes, which can make a lot of noise when you put your foot down and blunt the feeling of acceleration.