► The best second hand hybrid cars
► What to look out for when buying a used hybrid
► They’re more straightforward than you think
There’s increasing pressure to change to electric cars – both in planned legislation, and in marketing – but even the best electric cars don’t suit everyone’s lifestyle. On top of that, they’re expensive to buy used. Fortunately for drivers looking for reduced CO2 and flexibility, the best hybrid cars can cost less to buy and run than even the cheapest electric option.
Hybrid cars are use a range of technology types – from mild hybrid or self-charging hybrid systems to great effect. They’re available in all shapes and sizes, and we’ve compiled guides of the best hybrid SUVs, the best 7-seater hybrid cars and the the best small hybrid cars too – but even the cheapest hybrid cars can be a little pricey. Thankfully, buying used is an increasingly viable alternative.
EDITOR’S PICK: The Ford Fiesta ST may be on its way out, but the Fiesta mHEV is the next best thing, and it comes with some benefits too. It’s still got the classic three-cylinder engine we’e come to know and love, but its 48V system means it’s engaging but also makes sense on a spreadsheet.
The best used hybrid cars to buy in 2023
Hybrid cars come in all shapes and sizes now, so we’ve grouped different models together, naming our favourite picks in each segment. 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; if you mostly drive around town, why not consider a pure electric car?
Honda Jazz Crosstar (2020-)
Not a looker, but it’s hard to argue with the economy and top-notch engineering
PROS: Fantastic engineering makes for a clever supermini
CONS: Not the best dynamics
It’s a new entrant in the used hybrid hatchback stakes, but Honda’s Jazz Crosstar and less-rugged Jazz leap straight to the top of the class thanks to impressive economy, a genuinely different atmosphere behind the wheel and stunning results at the pumps. Real-world economy approaching 65mpg, and enough electric range when the battery is full to handle the crucial ‘last mile’ of slow, urban traffic where pollution needs the most action taking – it’s a polished package.
Where it really stands out though, is in the packaging elsewhere. The Jazz has made the move to hbrid without sacrificing the clever engineering that ensured it, rather than the Mercedes A-Class, survived the evolutionary battle for tall supermini supremacy. Magic seats allow the full height of the cabin to be used (and that height makes it roomy for passengers) while a revised approach to the A-pillar framing means visibility is excellent (and feels like a space shuttle).
Read CAR’s full review of the Honda Jazz, and Tom Wiltshire‘s report on living with a long-term Honda Jazz Crosstar in Parkers.
Used price from: £19,000 (£15,000 for Jazz)
Toyota Yaris Hybrid (2012-2020)
Shocker: this Toyota hybrid ticks all the boxes – and it’s pretty fun, too
PROS: Takes the guts of the Prius and improves them dramatically
CONS: 1.2 miles of pure-EV driving is pretty low
It seems obvious to blend city-friendly zero-emissions local driving with diminutive supermini dimensions, yet there’s only one truly small, true hybrid. Unsurprisingly, it’s from Toyota, and comes in the form of the Yaris; a Fiesta-sized, fun car that’s been popular the world over. In hybrid form, it’s closely related to the original Prius self-charging hybrid, but with vastly improved batteries and technology; the NiMH battery pack has no impact on the Yaris Hybrid’s interior packaging, and the 1497cc Atkinson-cycle engine, plus 60bhp motor, combine to provide 98bhp, 62mph in under 12 seconds and 1.2 miles of pure-EV driving.
It works, too – we achieved 78mpg in real-world driving, and it’s a fantastic city car, easy to drive with a planted, robust feel, though it’s far from a hot hatch. An already futuristic interior suits the transition to hybrid instrumentation, and the T-Spirit even has reasonably luxurious trim. A popular car new, there’s a good selection of used examples to choose from.
Compare CAR’s opinions of the original Toyota Yaris with the 2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid (also Mazda 2 Hybrid) and related Yaris Cross in these reviews.
Used price: £7,000 – £19,000
Suzuki Swift DualJet/BoosterJet (2019-)
The Suzuki Swift Sport’s frugal cousin is on the best value hybrids
PROS: Over 50mpg and a spiritual relative to the Mini
CONS: The interior reminds you you’re saving money
Suzuki’s Swift has always been a car that appeals to two distinctly opposing forces in the motoring world; serious but open-minded petrolheads, and people who really don’t care about cars but just want cheap, reliable transport. It’s not even about marketing – Suzuki has no trouble reaching enthusiasts – but it’s been the case for as long as the Swift name has been applied to both super-cheap three-cylinder ‘Sky’ economy models and hot-hatch slaying 16-valve GTis.
Today’s Swift Sport keeps up the big thrills, small budget legacy, but the lower-cost mild-hybrid Boosterjet and DualJet models can comfortably exceed 50mpg, have an attitude that feels more like a classic Mini than, well, a MINI, and can be found with AllGrip four-wheel drive. As with the Fiesta, it’s a 48V mild-hybrid that takes the high-consumption sting out of stop/start traffic and overtaking – and combined with a manual box, it’s simple and effective. Used models offer a real saving over new as well – Suzuki’s finance deals are high APR and obscurity keeps demand (and used values) low.
Read CAR’s Swift full review and long-term test of the Swift 1.0 BoosterJet SHVS and Swift Sport
Used price: from £11,000
Ford Fiesta mHEV (2020-)
Ford’s plucky three-cylinder gets a 48V boost
PROS: Driver involvement and good power
CONS: Still very new, so not many deals around
It’s a new entrant in the hybrid stakes, but it’s one that shows how spicy ‘mild’ hybrid can be if you can find the 153bhp EcoBoost 155. The three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo is already a delightful engine, but with a 48V battery and starter-alternator it has an extra reserve of power for overtaking, and the ability to cut consumption dramatically at cruising speeds. The result is a simple, yet engaging small car that would rank higher if it weren’t so expensive – in part due to being so new to the used market.
For many buyers a new Fiesta on finance may work out cheaper than buying used, but time is running out as the Ford Fiesta’s story comes to an end in June 2023. When production ends, the Fiesta, and Ford’s small hatchback leaves forever; current plans suggest an electric Ford based on VW’s MEB take its spot in the Cologne factory, and the Puma will be Ford’s entry-level car. Unless something dramatic happens, that means the cheapest new Ford will be nearly £25,000 at the end of 2023 – so buy a used Fiesta or Puma hybrid before prices rise further.
Read CAR’s full review of the facelifted Ford Fiesta Mk8.5 range
Used price: from £20,000
Honda CR-Z (2010-13)
Driver involvement, electronically-assisted 1.5-litre VTEC – and look at it!
PROS: Fast and Furious looks
CONS: See above
It’s not as practical as a Yaris, and it’s also not that small given the direct links it has to two iconic Honda models – the CRX, and the original hybrid Insight. However, this 2+2 coupé is one of the most interesting used hybrid cars you’ll find, with a 1.5-litre VTEC engine boosted by Honda’s IMA – integrated motor assist – mild hybrid system.
There are no other Hondas in this list, because IMA is, frankly, not worth the bother. But the CR-Z is, purely because this 21st century car feels delightfully retro in how it handles and delivers driver involvement. Not only does it look quirky and quick, it’s got a manual gearbox, low stance and wide track. Outright performance is not the goal, with 124bhp and 10.1 seconds to 62mph. Rather, the CR-Z’s grin-inducing nature on British country roads comes from the sharp handling and race-car seating, plus the electric motor’s ability to even out the gaps in VTEC power delivery.
Emissions aren’t great at 116g/km, and there’s no EV-only mode, but this is one hybrid worth buying for how the car looks and drives, rather than the tax advantages and green credentials.
Read CAR’s Honda CR-Z long-term test (2012)
Used price: £3,500 – £9,000
Best used hybrid family cars
Lexus RX450h (2009-2015)
Just £4k for this time capsule of Japanese luxury
PROS: Still carries the quality of its original £50k asking price
CONS: Very few
One of the first SUVs to be seen silently creeping around London, the 2003 RX400h is now a £4,000 hybrid banger – but the later RX450h still looks fresh, despite being introduced a decade ago, and the 3.5-litre V6 petrol ensures performance from this large SUV is more than adequate. Two miles of pure EV, up to 25mph, give the RX its signature ‘large car creeping up on people’ move, and also allow zero-emissions motoring for the last mile.
Inside, the interior trim befits a £50,000 SUV, though the design is more futuristic than traditional luxury, and it’s better to choose the less-sporty models for an impression of floating comfort to carry throughout the car; sports suspension, with active anti-roll spoils the ride without any real benefit. SE-L Premium models have air suspension, which is the best of both worlds but an added layer of complexity to deal with on a used car.
All-wheel drive is part of the package, but it’s not an off-roader – it’s more about improved traction in bad weather. Refined, capable and reasonably economical for the size of car, the RX450h is a great used luxury SUV worth seeking out
First impressions count? Here’s what CAR thought in our 2009 Lexus RX450h review
Used price: from £9,000
Toyota Prius (2004-2009)
The OG hybrid is still a solid buy
PROS: Tried and tested hybrid is a bargain that won’t fail you
CONS: Looks like an Uber: drunks may try and get in
The original, and arguably one of the best used buys if you want to get an affordable hybrid car. Although the technology isn’t quite as impressive as the initial claims suggested – a good diesel car of similar size and performance will use less fuel. However, there’s a backlash against diesel, and restrictions on city-centre driving either implemented or ‘coming-soon’, and the Prius – so far – has continued to qualify for use in these zones.
Tens of thousands of minicabs around Britain suggest that a used Prius is a potentially sound buy, and also that a used Prius must be bought incredibly carefully to be sure it hasn’t been bashed and abused. We found one example with over 250,000 miles, though that meant getting a 2010 model for the same price as a 2004 with 70K on the clock.
Don’t expect driving thrills, but smooth progress is assured. If in doubt, just try a provincial minicab. Later models of Prius are worth exploring; there’s a seven-seat Prius Plus, and a plug-in variant as well, but the best value is to be found in the successful regular Prius. The Hyundai Ioniq (read our full review) is also worth a look, but lacks the practicality of a hatchback.
Toyota retired the Prius for the UK market in 2022; before buying used, see how CAR got on with a long-term Prius in 2018
Used price: £4000 – £8,000
BMW 5-series ActiveHybrid (2012-2015)
Not as fun as its contemporary offspring, but still worth a look used
PROS: 5-series quality throughout, stealthy saloon
CONS: Not as exciting as its modern ancestor
The BMW 5-series is, arguably, one of the best cars you can buy for combining family needs and still enjoying your time behind the wheel. Most buyers will lean towards the diesel, but not all models are ULEZ-friendly, and older diesels can get expensive to maintain. So the existence of a hybrid BMW 5-series is suddenly very interesting in 2023, even if it wasn’t that exciting in 2013. Notably the ActiveHybrid 5 previewed a technical solution more premium hybrids are offering now, with a conventional automatic gearbox carrying an integrated motor instead of the CVT that dominates early hybrid efforts.
Performance is impressive, meriting a 535-badged hint at 3.5-litre equivalence; the 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six is not quite the tiny engine plus big electric motor you expect of a modern hybrid; all the effort is focused on improving economy and reducing emissions – it’s quite powerful enough as it is. And this is where the ActiveHybrid makes sense as a used car – you get BMW 535i performance, but much lower running costs in urban areas and in congestion. The biggest downside is that it’s only available as a saloon. Oh, and it’s quite rare.
Read our review of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 review from 2012
Used price: from £17,0000
Toyota Auris Touring Sports (2013-2018)
Not fun, but big and very clever
PROS: Lots of space and a solid hybrid system
CONS: Not the most fun to drive
If Toyota set out to make the Prius distinctive and futuristic, the Auris set out to replace the Corolla without scaring loyal customers away. Which makes the Auris Touring Sports, the compact estate variant, with Hybrid Synergy Drive such an interesting machine.
There’s little to separate the Auris and Prius technically; both feature the 1.8-litre petrol engine, short-range EV capability and CVT transmission, and claim fuel economy and performance comparable to a 2.0-litre diesel in a car of the same size but without the emissions. Where the Auris wins out is in space – the Touring Sports has 530-litres of luggage capacity, expandable to 1,658 litres with the rear seats folded, and the load sill is lower too. A more restrained interior design makes taking the plunge into the 21stcentury less scary, and as the Auris isn’t a plug-in, just add fuel and let the tech do the work.
Sounds dull, and frankly, it is. It’s a very practical family car, and like the Prius, it just works. The electric motor and regenerative braking reduce servicing costs and improve longevity of the car overall. Make sure the Auris you’re looking at has a good service history though, and we recommend buying from a Toyota dealer for the best used car warranty and after-sales support for the hybrid system.
Check out how this car fares in CAR’s Toyota Auris Hybrid Touring Sports full review. For a lower-cost option there’s also the original Auris HSD hatchback (read our full review).
Used price: from £3,400
Lexus CT200h (2011-2019)
Still one of the most sought after hybrids in 2023 – at least on Google
PROS: Robust hybrid specs and Lexus-esque quality
CONS: Ten seconds to 60mph…
A more conventional upright-hatchback shape and Prius underpinnings combine with Lexus premium finishes for an upmarket hybrid rival to the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. It should be a winning formula, but the rather dated and dowdy styling ensured the cutting edge tech was more appealing to the older generation; an advertising campaign starring Kylie Minogue further alienated Gen X’ers and millennials. Pitching a near-£24K, 1.8-litre petrol car that took over 10-seconds to reach 60mph as ‘sporty’ may also have been a touch wide of the mark.
Sales make have been equally slow, but it’s been around so long there’s a decent selection on offer; you can get leather, fancy stereos and sat nav but all share the same powertrain. As a second hand buy, the Lexus CT200h makes more sense than new, and nearly-new examples with low mileage offer impressive savings compared to other hybrids.
Don’t be fooled – this Lexus is definitely more Partridge than premium. But it’s damn good value, well made and well-equipped.
Read our Lexus CT200h review
Used price: £7,000 – £31,000
Should I buy a used hybrid car in 2023?
Choosing a used hybrid car makes sense for anyone looking for the refinement of a petrol car and the economy of a diesel, and compared to older or higher mileage modern diesels they’re usually more reliable and cheaper to run and maintain.
Most drivers will have bought enough used conventional cars to have an idea of what they’re comfortable with, in terms of checking things are as they should be and trusting the seller. Hybrid technology raises a few questions still, as it’s harder to see what’s going on – better OBD-II diagnostic cables can help but don’t reveal all the manufacturer-specific secrets.
What are the benefits of a hybrid?
Thankfully, it turns out that hybrids – like their EV counterparts – can be kinder on consumable items than conventional vehicles, and most will display very obvious warnings if there’s an issue with the electronics. The original Toyota Prius proved the validity, and the longevity, of EV tech to boost economy.
CVT gearboxes, optimised and reduced engine running, and regenerative braking mean component wear is slower than on conventional cars. Specialists can repair battery packs, and firms like Toyota and Lexus are looking after their self-charging hybrid buyers with transferable extended warranties (up to ten years) and fixed-price repairs, keen to ensure the next generation of hybrid owners aren’t scared off.
Second-hand hybrid cars’ lower CO2 usually means cheaper VED (road tax), lower-cost access to many Clean Air zones, and most offer significantly improved economy in congested, slow-speed traffic. More recent designs focus on performance as well, with mild hybrids providing a turbo-style boost without the penalty at the pumps.
If you want to look at good-value new hybrid cars, check out our advice here.