The hybrid and plug-in hybrid revolution is just getting into gear, with increasing numbers of Brits leaving their conventional petrol and diesel cars behind. But which hybrid cars are best?
Looking to pay less in fuel or lower your carbon footprint? A hybrid or plug-in hybrid could be for you, but which are the best hybrids, how will the 2017 VED changes affect them and how much cheaper and cleaner are they to run compared with a diesel?
Sadly the answer is never straightforward because emissions are created during manufacturing so no car can ever be truly green. Plus the battery of a hybrid is heavy and becomes a burden when out of juice.
But there are numerous benefits. For instance, a car that emits a mere 49g/km is going to be cleaner than a full-on diesel or petrol over a ten-year period, not to mention ease the reliance on fossil fuels and reduce emissions, which are killing tens of thousands of Brits.
A hybrid and plug-in hybrid can also be topped up with fuel whenever you want to, as opposed to being hamstrung by range anxiety like an all-electric car, which makes them as easy to run as any vehicle.
Hybrids typically offer higher fuel economy figures, too, and that could mean a lower annual fuel bill. But with a higher initial price and the fear of the battery needing replacement, they are not for everyone.
We decided to see exactly what hybrids are worth buying and give an insight into how well they perform, try and dispel some of the common misconceptions and then provide a list of the best hybrids on sale today.
Best hybrid cars: Does a hybrid make sense for me?
Depends on the type of hybrid, your driving habits and situation. If you do a lot of short journeys and can recharge a plugiin hybrid’s battery easily, it could work out cheaper than a petrol or diesel when it comes to fuel costs.
But for those who do much longer journeys or lack access to charging facilities on a nightly basis, the answer is probably no. Why? Because without electric power the engine is having to lug around a heavy battery, which means you could be getting worse fuel economy than a comparitive diesel.
Some hybrids only have a combustion engine for the sake of recharging the battery, not powering the wheels, and as a result are more flexible. The Vauxhall Ampera is one such example.
Best hybrid cars: Are hybrids about to get more expensive to run?
Thanks to George Osborne’s change to the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) system, the answer is yes. From the 1st of April 2017, all cars – besides zero-emission electric cars – will have to pay a first-year rate based on their CO2 emissions output.
Then there is the £130-a-year after that if classed as an alternative fuel vehicle, which most hybrids and plug-in hybrids are. Hybrids that cost more than £40,000 will also be subjected to an extra £310-a-year nice things tax.
That means a Hyundai Ioniq will cost £1,390 in car tax over a ten-year period, making it less attractive as a way of saving money on motoring costs. The rising cost of fuel should also be taken into consideration, although that applies to hybrids and non-hybrids alike.
Plus residual values are an issue as somebody will have to inherit the replacement cost of the battery during the car’s lifespan unless it goes wrong during the warranty period.
Best hybrid cars: What about the government plug-in grant?
As of March 2016, the government plug-in grant took a bit of a hit. It is almost as if the government is somewhat unkeen on making hybrids too tempting, eh? Where it was up to £5,000, the maximum is now £4,500 and is typically factored into the price of a vehicle before you buy it.
To get the maximum £4,500, a car needs to achieve at least 70 miles on zero emissions and emit less than 50g/km of CO2. To get the £2,500, which most hybrids and plug-in hybrids will be eligible for, it needs to travel 10 to 69 miles on electric-only and emit less than 50g/km of CO2.
£2,500 is also given to cars that can do at least 20 miles on electric alone and emit between 50 and 75g/km of CO2. As for vans, being under 75g/km of CO2 and achieving at least 10 miles on electric gets you the full £8,000 grant.
Best hybrid cars: Anything else to note?
The UK government said it will ban all petrol and diesel car sales from the year 2040. Guess what is included? Hybrids. So while it could make sense to buy one now or as your next car, you are probably going to have to convert to electric cars at some point within the next 23 years.
Best hybrid cars 2017: Hyundai Ioniq
The Hyundai Ioniq takes more than a leaf or two out of the Toyota Prius book, but in many ways it is the better car. Not only is it cheaper and comes with a lengthy seven-year warranty, the proper gearbox and better steering make it a nicer drive.
Okay, so the looks are a bit bland but you would buy this car because you want to save money and reduce your carbon footprint, which is something the hybrid and plug-in hybrid variant can do, thanks to CO2 emissions and fuel economy of 79g/km and 83.1mpg, respectively.
The Premium spec is rather generous and will suffice for a lot of motorists, but the Premium SE upgrade is only slightly more and includes electric seat adjustment and parking sensors at the front and rear.
Cheap to run and relatively cheap to buy. Pretty good to drive, too.
The aerodynamic profile ensures it is no oil painting.
Best hybrid cars 2017: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
A brand new version of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has arrived, which builds on the formula that has seen it becomes the most popular hybrid vehicle in the UK. It now gets a 33-mile electric-only range and all models can engage the EV-priority mode at anytime.
Fuel economy comes in at a whopping 166mpg and, on short journeys, it will certainly use little or zero fuel so long as you keep the battery charged. Luckily a Chargemaster home charging unit is included free. Meanwhile CO2 emissions come in at 41g/km, making it the cleanest large SUV around.
It is a tad ugly outside and the interior is less pleasing than its rivals, but the sturdy build quality and level of space make it worth checking out for those with big, eco-minded families.
Ooodles of space and off-roading potential for not a huge amount of cash.
Not the best drive and no way near as desirable as its rivals.
Best hybrid cars 2017: Toyota Prius
The 2017 Toyota Prius is the fourth-generatio, car and has much nicer handling, meatier steering and less body roll than its predecessor. It can be had as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid.
Toyota has adjusted the CVT gearbox to make it less revvy and more inclines to run on electric power only for around 30 miles if you opt for the plug-in version. For the first time, it can also pull a trailer albeit a small one.
The Prius offers 94.1mpg so it has the Ioniq potentially beat (although in the real world we doubt there will be much in it) and is cheaper to tax, thanks to a first-year rate of just £15.
Just try to avoid looking at it for too long – that styling really isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Cheap hybrid motoring that is tried and tested. Safe car, too.
You will never, ever look back at it or tell people you own one.
From £24,115 | Toyota Prius configurator
Best hybrid cars 2017: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine
The Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine is expensive, admittedly, but then it is the only proper seven-seater SUV that offers such impressive luxury and comfort without melting the ice caps quite so dramatically. Even with a maximum of 407hp at its disposal.
It is also extremely safe, extremely quiet and capable of going off-road, not to mention able to drive itself and looks much less imposing than most of its rivals.
The interior is about as good as it gets these days. We also appreciate the fact it can manage up to 134.5mpg if you keep the battery charged and emit just 49g/km of CO2 so it really is a great school run machine.
Just don’t expect a return on it for a very long time, if at all.
Big, well-off families can sleep better at night. Looks and drives well.
An all-electric Tesla Model X is within reach and that is even cheaper to run.
Best hybrid cars 2017: BMW i3 94Ah Range Extender
The BMW i3 is well equipped, fun to drive and has a strong level of practicality, plus those quirky looks attract attention wherever it goes. But you do a premium for the BMW badge, which means it will take longer to see a return on your investment.
Admittedly the i3 is an electric car, but there is the option of a ‘REX’ range extender that adds a small petrol engine tasked solely with recharging the battery.
Go for this and the i3’s range is boosted to 180 miles (EPA) for the 94Ah model and you can fill it up the conventional way on longer journeys, but at the expense of CO2 emissions rising from 0g/km to 12g/km. So expect to pay more to tax it.
A solid mix of practicality, premium motoring and a taste of the future.
The all-electric version is less polluting and it is a relatively small car.
Best hybrid cars 2017: Volkswagen Golf GTE
A VW Golf GTE may lack the same performance as its GTI sibling, but it is still a speedy machine with capable handling and one said to emit just 39g/km of CO2. Not only that, it can go 31 miles on electric alone, which is useful for really short trips to get the milk.
Based on the seven-generation Golf, the GTE offers the sturdiness and dependability you would expect in addition to unique aesthetic revisions – such as the blue stripe outside the car – that let people know you do care a little about the environment. Or saving money. Or both.
The Golf is tried and tested so you know what you are getting.
You pay a premium for reducing your eco-guilt.
From £32,135 | VW Golf GTE configurator
Best hybrid cars 2017: BMW 7 Series
Even important people who prefer to be chauffeur driven can join the plug-in hybrid movement with the big and luxurious BMW 7 Series, which was recently given a hybrid powertrain. It comes in two main flavours, 740e and 740Le.
In doing so, BMW has made an already quiet car even quieter and smoother and that is quite impressive when you have 326hp under the bonnet.
The BMW 7 Series is available in standard and long wheelbase forms in case you want more leg room. It can go up to 29 miles on electric power only, making it useful in slow-moving traffic, while CO2 emissions of 54g/km keep it from gassing everyone in the local area.
As hybrids go, this is about as luxury as it gets. Talk about good life choices.
The hybrid powertrain makes it a tad sluggish.
Best hybrid cars 2017: BMW i8
The BMW i8 is a strange choice for a ‘best hybrid acars’ list, but then it is a truly memorable machine to drive. The fact it offers supercar performance in an eco-friendly package should be commended and nothing else can hold a candle to those eye-catching futuristic looks, both inside and out.
The i8’s low seating position emphasises the sensation of speed, while a touch of synthetic engine noise helps the 1.5-litre engine roar as it accelerates from 0-60mph in just four seconds.
Impressive when you consider supercar performance can be had with up to 134.5mpg and CO2 of 49g/km. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?
Truly memorable drive and everyone will think you are as cool as Tony Stark.
Other supercars make a nicer noise.
The Recombu Cars best hybrid cars 2017 list is ongoing and will be updated as and when new models go on sale. Feel free to get in touch with your experiences of hybrids in the comments.