Used hybrids for car enthusiasts – plus all the hybrids explained

Published: 21 May 2021

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Whatever used car you’re searching for, hybrids can hit the sweet spot between the freedom of petrol or diesel and the feelgood factor of pure electric driving. Not all hybrids are created equal, though, so here’s our quick-fire guide to all the key categories, illustrated by great examples of used hybrids you can buy right now…

MILD HYBRID

Mild hybrids (or MHEVs) are quickly becoming the norm for regular petrol or diesel cars. They add what’s called an integrated starter generator (ISG), which can give the engine a little boost and let the car coast when you release the accelerator, but mostly they offer a normal driving experience with enhanced fuel economy.

Range Rover Evoque

The Evoque invented the premium compact crossover, and now the second-generation gently evolves the concept-car design while offering mild hybrid technology for the first time. Evoques are fun to drive and comfy for the family, but even front-wheel-drive versions can ace off-road routes. Not every version is a mild hybrid, so check the ad description!

In a nutshell: Compact off-roader built for the urban jungle

Browse used cars from: £33,790

Road tax: £490 (for 5yrs from 2nd time vehicle is taxed)

Emissions-free range: 0

ULEZ: £0

Ford Puma

The Puma has shape-shifted from the tiny coupe of 20 years ago to a modern compact crossover. Sounds like a risky switch, but the new Puma blends Ford’s hot-hatch knowhow with raised ground clearance and space for all the family. Ecoboost Hybrid tech ups performance 20 per cent, but also fuel efficiency 10 per cent. What’s not to like?

In a nutshell: Funky crossover on a budget

Browse used cars from: £14,000

Road tax: £490 (for 5yrs from 2nd time vehicle is taxed)

Emissions-free range: 0

ULEZ: £0

Audi Q7

The Q7 is Audi’s largest, most practical SUV. It combines seven-seat versatility with cutting-edge tech and a comfortable ride. Older versions from 2015 onwards available with plug-in hybrid drivetrains are more affordable (see plug-in section, below), but the 55 TFSI mild hybrids are filtering onto the used market.

In a nutshell: Seven-seat SUV, hybrid efficiency

Browse used cars from: £37,490 (plug-in), £52,990 (MHEV)

Road tax: £490 (for 5yrs from 2nd time vehicle is taxed)

Emissions-free range: 34 miles (plug-in), 0 (MHEV)

ULEZ: £0

PARALLEL HYBRID

Toyota popularised the parallel hybrid (aka full hybrid) with its Prius. These hybrids are much like a regular petrol or diesel car, but there’s also a battery onboard. You can’t plug these hybrids in, rather the battery is topped up when you decelerate or brake. The energy captured is used to boost performance or drive the car on electricity alone for short periods. 

Toyota CH-R HYBRID

Despite sounding like a demand to get yourself to human resources pronto, the CH-R is our favourite Toyota hybrid. A compact crossover, the CH-R combines funky design, lively driving dynamics and a roomy interior without breaking the bank. Available as both 1.8- and 2.0-litre hybrids.

In a nutshell: Crossover style meets Prius hybrid tech

Browse used cars from: £12,450

Road tax: £0

Emissions-free range: Short periods

ULEZ: £0

Mercedes S-Class Hybrid

The S-class is the jewel in the crown of the Mercedes range, going large on tech, comfort and, well, being large. It’s a fabulous limousine that’s only enhanced by hybrid tech – the silence of electrification at low speeds is a perfect match for the trademark S-class waft. Diesel and petrol versions available.

In a nutshell: When the CEO’s limo goes ECO

Browse used cars from: £25,995

Road tax: £20

Emissions-free range: Short periods

ULEZ: £0

Lexus IS300h

Here’s your alternative to the default BMW 320d – the Lexus IS300h. Origami design makes a refreshing break from the German norm, plus you get rear-wheel-drive dynamics, excellent cabin quality and space for all the family. Under the bonnet there’s a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor and the promise of up to 61.4mpg.

In a nutshell: The alternative business-class saloon

Browse used cars from: £7450

Road tax: £10

Emissions-free range: Short periods

ULEZ: £0

PLUG-IN HYBRID

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs for short) are the stepping stone to full electric cars. The name nails it: plug-in hybrids combine a petrol or diesel engine with a battery that can be plugged in at a charging socket or domestic socket. PHEVs drive on electricity alone for much longer than a parallel hybrid, but usually won’t run emissions-free longer than an EV – 20-40 miles is a good rule of thumb, and you can always use petrol or diesel for longer trips.

BMW i8

With its carbonfibre chassis and butterfly doors, the BMW i8 is like a cut-price McLaren, 

but instead of a thirsty V8 mounted behind the driver, a tiny 1.5-litre three cylinder teams up with plug-in hybrid tech. That gives you an electric-only top speed of 75mph (155mph burning petrol) and up to 34 miles of guilt-free motoring. The engine’s so compact there are even two small seats in the back – perfect for those emergency school run moments!

In a nutshell: BMW’s hybrid supercar is still from the future

Browse used cars from: £39,944

Road tax: £0

Emissions-free range: Up to 34 miles

ULEZ: £0

Golf GTE

The Golf GTI kickstarted the hot-hatch phenomenon in the 1970s, but the Mk7 Golf GTE gave the formula a 21stcentury twist. You get near-identical looks and cabin, but a 1.4-turbo engine boosted by an electric motor. That translates to a punchy 201bhp with up to 166mpg if you keep on top of charging.

In a nutshell: Golf GTI power, hybrid mpg

Browse used cars from: £12,990

Road tax: £0

Emissions-free range: 31 miles

ULEZ: £0

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

If the Porsche Cayenne proved SUVs could drive like performance cars, the 2015 S E-Hybrid showed they didn’t have to drink like them. So while you’ve got similarly sharp looks and handling as other Cayennes, the S E-Hybrid adds plug-in versatility to its supercharged V6 engine. That equates to a thumping 410bhp, but up to 22 pure electric miles.

In a nutshell: The eco-friendly performance SUV

Browse used cars from: £28,495

Road tax: £0

Emissions-free range: Up to 22 miles

ULEZ: £0

RANGE EXTENDER

Range extender is the name for electric cars with a small reserve engine that extends the distance you can travel when the batteries run out. They typically travel further on electricity than plug-in hybrids, and the engine never drives the wheels directly – it just acts as a generator to recharge the battery.

BMW i3

The all-electric BMW i3 is optionally available as a range extender (the REx), giving you freedom above the electric-only circa 100-mile real-world driving range. Now eight years old, BMW’s electric supermini still brims with early-adopter cool: carbonfibre chassis, punchy electric powertrain and a design teleported from the future. For such a compact car, it’s also spacious, and its trick rear-hinged rear doors make getting the family aboard easier.

In a nutshell: The electric supermini without limits

Browse used cars from: £11,406

Road tax: £0

Emissions-free range: Up to 190 miles

ULEZ: £0

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By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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