Not so long ago, hybrid cars were the reserve of minicab drivers looking to save a bit of money on fuel, and people living or working in London’s congestion charge zone.
However, with an ever-growing number of models on the market, they’re now very much a mainstream alternative to conventional petrols and diesels, with many people preferring them to fully electric cars because there’s no range anxiety.
The thing is, though, knowing which to consider and which to avoid can make the difference between a fuel-sipping investment and a costly mistake. So, here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the hybrid that’s best steer clear of.
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10: Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid
The Corolla’s rear seats are cramped for six-footers, but this hybrid family hatchback offers super-low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions that make it an excellent choice for both private and company car drivers. In addition, the Corolla’s ride is cosseting and its standard spec generous, while even the cheaper, 1.8-litre version offers all the performance you need.
9: Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate
Volkswagen recently treated the plug-in Passat to a host of updates, including a longer all-electric range. Plus, it’s quiet at all speeds, has lots of passenger space and is available in an estate bodystyle that gives it a very practical boot. The batteries do take up the spare wheel well, though.
8. Ford Kuga PHEV
In our tests, the Kuga went almost 50% farther on electric power than similarly priced plug-in hybrid SUVs. But it also trounced them when petrol power took over, returning 52mpg. Being a large SUV, the Kuga gives you a lofty view of the road ahead. And the supple suspension makes it very comfortable, both at speed and when trundling around town.
7. BMW 530e
The 530e is another car that can complete many journeys without needing to wake its engine at all. But even when this smooth 2.0-litre petrol unit does fire up, the car is quiet enough to put full-on limousines to shame. Specify it with adaptive suspension for the best ride, and the 530e becomes the supreme luxury package, without the price tag to match.
6: Skoda Superb iV
In iV form, the Superb combines a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a battery big enough for an electric-only range of 34 miles. It’s essentially the same guts that you get in the Volkswagen Passat GTE, yet the Superb is cheaper and even more spacious.
5: Audi A3 40 TFSIe
If you’re in the market for a relatively compact plug-in hybrid with a premium badge on its nose, we’d recommend taking a look at the Audi A3 40 TFSIe. Yes, a Mercedes A250e has a slightly cheaper purchase price and a marginally better electric-only range, but it’s not as refined, it doesn’t handle as well and at times its ride is more fractious.
4. Honda Jazz 1.5 i-MMD
The Jazz is the small car to beat for passenger and luggage space, while its unique and incredibly flexible rear seating only adds to its practicality. Visibility is excellent, too, which helps make it easy to manoeuvre and park, while generous standard equipment, strong resale values and low running costs offset its rather high list prices.
3: BMW X5 xDrive45e
BMW’s plug-in hybrid X5 is every bit as comfortable and luxurious as the petrol and diesel versions, and you barely notice the extra weight of its batteries, even in corners. You can’t have seven seats, but that’s the only significant downside. Indeed, it has a much longer electric range than the rival Volvo XC90 Recharge T8, a far more user-friendly infotainment system and attracts significantly lower company car tax bills so, unless you need those extra seats, it’s the better car.
2: BMW 330e
The thing that makes the 330e so special is that, aside from a shallower boot, it’s much like any other 3 Series, meaning great fun to drive. There’s simply nothing in the way it handles to suggest you’re carrying around enough batteries for 36 miles of zero-emission motoring. What’s more, every material feels suitably expensive, the infotainment system is a cinch to use and there’s a good amount of space in the back.