► The best hybrid cars on sale in 2020
► Our pick of the best buys
► PHEVs, plug-ins and hybrids
After an electrified car but not sure if an EV suits you just yet? A hybrid should be at the top of your list. Hybrids offer an appealing blend of efficiency, range, power and low emissions – and they’re an ideal halfway house between a conventional car and a fully electric car.
'Dual-energy' cars give you a dollop effciency without the sour taste of charging or range-related concerns. At low speeds, the electric motor will typically do all the work – giving you clean and quiet running around-town motoring. Head further afield, though, and the hybrid’s petrol or diesel engine will allow you to drive for as long as you’ve got fuel in the easily refilled tank.
Hybrid cars: further reading
There are other financial advantages, too; you’ll avoid the oft-high purchase price of a pure EV and potentially benefit from less expensive company car tax, VED, ultra-low emissions zone (LEZ) charges and Congestion Charge tolls – especially if you live in London, where these charges are being pioneered.
The UK Government has revised the terms of the electric vehicle subsidy (or Plug-in Car Grant, known as PiCG) in a way that excludes some of the UK's most popular eco-friendly cars. Full electric cars now have a reduced grant, and hybrids have lost any financial incentive altogether. Short-sighted, or a natural step as users are weaned on to electrification?
The best hybrid cars to buy in 2020
If you already know which type of UK hybrid you’re interested in, click on the links below to jump to our pick of the cars on sale in each sector:
Otherwise read on as we cluster different models together, naming our favourite picks in each segment. Just remember, different driving styles and environments will suit different powertrains: if you regularly do long-distance journeys, you may be better off sticking with an efficient modern diesel or downsized petrol engine, rather than lugging around a heavy battery in a hybrid; if you mostly drive around town, why not consider a pure electric car? If your typical driving falls somewhere between these extremes, a hybrid may be just the answer you're looking for.
Best small hybrid cars
1. Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Toyota has given its mid-sized five door hatchback and estate a substantial reworking – including a new 2.0-litre, performance-focused engine – so much so that it’s dug up the most popular badge in the world to affix to its bootlid. So farewell Toyota Auris – and hello (again) Toyota Corolla. It's another in the company's growing band of self-charging hybrids that you'll never have to plug in; the battery is topped up by the engine and energy wasted during braking or coasting downhill. It's clever stuff.
Read our Toyota Corolla review here
2. Audi A3 Sportback E-tron
The Audi takes the familiar A3 five-door bodystyle and adds the 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine, mated to an electric motor. By juggling the two power sources, the Germans manage to squeeze CO2 emissions down to just 38g/km (on paper!), meaning you’ll be saving money both at the pumps - and in your annual tax bills. Remember that these super-low CO2 ratings are achieved only if you plug in your PHEV at every opportunity; if you merely run your plug-in as a combustion engine car, its emissions will actually be far worse.
Read our Audi A3 E-Tron review
3. BMW i3
One of the most radically shaped hybrid cars in our list, the BMW i3 is fundamentally an electric car but was available until winter 2018 as a plug-in hybrid PHEV model (marked by its twin charging ports on the right-hand side, see above). Dubbed REX, or range-extender, it used a tiny two-cylinder petrol engine on board to charge the batteries, giving useful range and flexibility to the BMW i3 range. However, with ever-greater battery range, Munich decided this autumn to discontinue it. Snap up one of the last i3 remaining REX models if you fancy a plug-in hybrid version.
We lived with a BMW i3 REX for a year: read our long-term test diary
4. Mini Countryman Plug In Hybrid
The Mini Countryman small crossover is available as a plug-in hybrid, meaning you can charge up at home and start every day with a full battery for around 26 miles of silent, zero-emissions progress. Yet performance is eager, too, with a punchy three-cylinder petrol engine working in tandem with the electric motor to create combined power output of 224bhp. Prices for the Mini hybrid start at around £32,000 in the UK.
Mini Countryman PHEV review
5. Toyota Yaris Hybrid
The smallest hybrid currently on UK sale is, perhaps inevitably, a Toyota. With the longest experience of developing petrol-electric cars, the Japanese have slotted everything they know about self-charging hybrid tech into the small Yaris supermini, which is priced from around £13,000. Toyota quotes up to 76mpg fuel economy and CO2 emissions stand at 84g/km.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid review
6. VW Golf GTE
One step up in size is the VW Golf GTE, which adds electric drive to one of our favourite mid-sized hatchbacks. This is a proper PHEV, so you’ll need to charge up every day to get the most from the plug-in Golf, otherwise you’ll be lugging around heavy batteries and motors without harvesting their benefit. You have been warned. When fully charged, VW claims a 31-mile range. Just remember that the VW Golf GTE is currently not available to order in the UK ‘due to unprecedented demand.’ We expect this to be rectified with the new Mk8 VW Golf being launched in 2020.
CAR magazine lives with a VW Golf GTE plug-in hybrid
Best hybrid family cars
1. BMW 330e
A classic of the breed, the BMW 3-series hybrid adds an 87bhp electric motor to the familiar 2.0-litre engine, bringing a theoretical 25-mile electric range and some attractive tax breaks, saving company car drivers a good couple of hundred pounds a month. It’s only available as a four-door saloon, but remember that the new 3-series has just been unveiled and we expect the new G20 generation to extend hybridisation even further across the range.
BMW 330e hybrid review
2. BMW 530e
Like the 3-series hybrid, the 5-series is only available in electrified form as a four-door saloon. Blame the greater popularity of the sedan globally - and the complications of a raised boot floor, whose batteries can eat up precious cargo space required in a load-lugging estate. Regardless, the 530e iPerformance model shares the Three’s similar technology, with a mode for performance, efficiency or to charge up the battery so you can enter a city centre on whisper-quiet electric power.
We drive the BMW 530e hybrid
3. Ford Mondeo Hybrid
One of the most familiar car shapes in Britain is now available with hybrid power - and the price of entry starts at around £26,000. There’s little show-offy about the Mondeo Hybrid; it looks to all intents and purposes like a cooking or garden Mondeo, yet the electrified powertrain cuts CO2 emissions to 108g/km while claimed fuel economy stands at 59mpg.
Ford Mondeo Hybrid review
4. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
The Ioniq is that rare thing: a car that’s available in three different electrified forms - as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a pure electric car. It’s a nice size; a little smaller than the Prius but roomy enough for daily life. The Ioniq Hybrid costs from around £22,000, whereas the Ioniq Plug In balloons to around £26,000, thanks to its bigger battery packs and 39-mile electric range. And when that battery depletes, the petrol engine kicks in to charge it back up - providing the best of both worlds.
Driven: the Hyundai Ioniq in Hybrid and Electric specs
5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350 E Saloon and Estate
Available in both four-door saloon and five-door estate bodystyles, the plug-in C-Class has a commendably low CO2 rating of just 49g/km for plenty of tax breaks. With a 6.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack, Merc quotes a 19-mile EV range and thereafter the four-cylinder petrol engine kicks in. On paper, it's a compelling mix - it just doesn't work quite so well on the open road, in our experience. But it shows the direction of travel at Mercedes-Benz, as it prepares to launch the full electric EQC.
6. Toyota Prius
The big daddy of the hybrid car scene, the Prius is the original and - some would argue - the best. Look past its wilfully divisive, Marmitey styling and you’re left with an extremely clever family car. Pick from the regular (self-charging) Prius Hybrid model or the separately badged Prius Plug-In, which is a PHEV. It’s all very Ronseal: the former doesn’t require plugging in, whereas the latter does - if you want to experience its maximum electric range around town. Toyota quotes a 235mpg fuel economy figure and just 28g/km CO2 emissions for the Plug-In.
Toyota Prius review
Best hybrid estate cars
1. Toyota Auris Touring Sports Hybrid
Priced from around £22,000, you can pick up the wagon bodystyle in the Auris Hybrid to electrify your family lugging duties. Toyota claims up to 65mpg and CO2 emissions stand at 99g/km, to duck under many of the important tax and Congestion Charge thresholds. Toyota's hybrid car knowledge, specs and experience all wrapped up in a surprisingly practical bodyshell. The Auris will soon be relaunched in spring 2019 as the Corolla - and a petrol-electric version has already been confirmed.
On test: the Toyota Auris Touring Sports Hybrid
2. Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine
Volvo offers most of its big cars with Twin Engine hybrid spec, and one of our favourite is the big V90 estate. This is a good-looking car - and quick to boot, with a combined power output of 400bhp from the petrol and electric motors. If the V90 is too big, don’t forget you can pick any of the 90- or 60-series models with the same Twin Engine hybrid tech.
Volvo V90 hybrid on test
3. VW Passat Estate GTE
The familiar Volkswagen Passat Estate bodystyle lends itself well to a hybrid application. Unfortunately, like the Golf GTE plug-in, the Passat is currently delisted on VW’s UK website ‘owing to high demand.’
Volkswagen Passast GTE plug-in hybrid reviewed
Best hybrid sports cars
1. BMW i8
Most stylish, head-turning hybrid car on sale today? Possibly. The i8’s been around for a good four years or so now and BMW has perfected its plug-in hybrid sports car. The latest edition is available as a coupe or roadster, and with a combined 369bhp, it’s no slouch: 0-62mph takes just 4.6 seconds (although high-speed acceleration runs will dent the EV range of 33 miles). A shame it's about to be axed, thought there will be a new hybrid supercar on the way, this time from BMW's M-division..
Find out how we got on living with a BMW i8 plug-in
2. Honda NSX
A Japanese foil to the German saber, the NSX goes about its business in a much more high-tech fashion. There’s a twin-turbo V6, three electric motors and all wheel drive - bringing a very serious indeed 565bhp, 0-62mph in three seconds and a punchy £144,000 price tag. Where do we sign?
Honda NSX hybrid supercar review
3. Lexus LC500h
Good-looking? Check. Rare and exclusive? You betcha. The Lexus LC is available with pure V8 power, or as a hybrid - and you can’t go far wrong with the petrol-electric version. You forego a pair of cylinders, but the 3.5-litre V6 still has decent performance and Lexus quotes a 0-62mph time of less than five seconds while top speed is pegged to 155mph. Lexus quotes 44mpg, but you’ll more likely find your average starting with the digit ‘3.’
Lexus LC review
Do you agree with our choice of best hybrid cars? Are hybrids worth it? Are you running a plug-in hybrid or PHEV? Which hybrid car is the best? Do be sure to sound off in the comments below and tell us how you've got on with your petrol-electric or diesel hybrid.
Further electric reading