The hybrid and plug-in hybrid revolution is just getting into gear, with the UK expected to clear 100,000 plug-in vehicles by mid-2017. But which hybrid is best? Recombu Cars investigates.
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 are they to run compared with, say, a diesel?
Well the answer is never straightforward because emissions are emitted during manufacturing so a car can never be truly green, but there are many 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 period of ten years, not to mention ease the reliance on fossil fuels.
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, which makes them better for unplanned journeys.
They also emit very low levels of CO2 and other harmful particulates and typically offer higher fuel economy figures – so long as the electric motor has charge. 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 and then £130-a-year after that if classed as an alternative fuel vehicle, which most hybrids and plug-in hybrids are.
Once in effect, 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. That means there is an incentive to buy a hybrid before the cut-off date.
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: 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.
Best for: Families on a budget
From £19,995 | Hyundai Ioniq review
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 home charging unit is included free. Meanwhile CO2 emissions come in at 41g/km, making it the cleanest large SUV.
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.
Best for: People who want lots of space and off-road credentials
From £34,749 | 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review
Best hybrid cars: 2017 Toyota Prius
Like with the new Outlander, a new Toyota Prius is about to be launched so it is probably worth holding biding your time if this is hybrid you want. But that does mean the current car will soon drop in price.
In terms of the new Prius, it has much nicer handling, meatier steering and less body roll, while the CVT gearbox has been changed to make it less revvy and more capable of running on electric power only. 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 it will be cheaper to tax after April 2017, thanks to a first-year rate of just £15. Just try to avoid looking at it for too long.
Best for: Cheap motoring
Best hybrid cars: Volvo XC90 T8
The Volvo XC90 T8 is expensive, 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. It is also extremely safe, extremely quiet and capable of going off-road.
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 the perfect school run machine. Just don't expect a return on it for a very long time, if at all.
Best for: Big, well-off families
From £60,455 | Volvo XC90 T8 review
Best hybrid cars: 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 range extender that adds a small petrol engine tasked solely with recharging the battery. The range is boosted to 180 miles (EPA) and it means you are can fill it up the conventional way on longer journeys, but at the expense of CO2 emissions rising from 0g/km to 12g/km.
Best for: People who want a premium small car
From £35,740 | BMW i3 94Ah news
Best hybrid cars: 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 that is 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.
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.
Best for: People who love the Golf
Best hybrid cars: 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. In doing so, BMW has made an already quiet car even quieter and smoother.
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.
Best for: CEOs with a heart
From £68,940 | Best luxury car 2016
Best hybrid cars: 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.
Its low seating position emphasises the sensation of speed, while a touch of synthetic engine noise helps the puny 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.
Best for: Fans of futuristic supercars
From £104,660 | Rory Reid's BMW i8 review
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.