Best cars & vans

Top 10 best hybrid cars to buy 2021

Hybrid power is the way forward if the car industry is to be believed so we've found the top 10 best hybrid cars to buy now...

Electrified cars are becoming an increasingly common sight on our roads thanks to political and environmental pressures. Hybrids in mild, standard and plug-in form are increasingly well-regarded by many drivers as a ‘best of both worlds’ approach to eco-friendly motoring. As this technology is rolled out across more and more models, the choice is broader than ever, with the best hybrid cars ranging from superminis to family SUVs.

It’s not hard to see the appeal. Conventional hybrid technology is able to improve the fuel efficiency of a variety of cars, meaning there are real financial savings to be made. Hybrids also make a lot of sense for lower-mileage or urban-based private buyers, as well as for fleet users looking to decrease company car tax bills. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) need to be regularly plugged in to deliver their best but they can offer real electric-only range of 30 miles or more.

Mild-hybrid vehicles will appeal to those not wanting to worry about charging up as they incorporate a small electric motor that is used solely to assist the engine and not work independently from it. Mild-hybrids are usually the cheapest way into hybrid ownership but there’s no pure-electric driving. 

With manufacturers achieving an ever-improving balance between performance and efficiency, hybrids of all types are playing a key role in bridging the gap between internal-combustion and all-electric cars.

How to choose the best hybrid car to buy

Choosing a hybrid car of any kind rather than a conventionally powered alternative needn’t be the big step that many might fear.

As with any new vehicle purchase it’s sensible to assess your annual mileage, and to consider what you’ll use your car for. If you’re a lower-mileage driver, the running costs of a conventional petrol hybrid could make it a sound alternative to a petrol or diesel car, but if you plan to rack up motorway miles, a regular diesel or even a diesel hybrid may make more financial sense.

The choice is easier for company car users, however; the lower CO2 emissions of hybrids mean they qualify for much more palatable Benefit-in-Kind rates than most non-electrified models.

Plug-in hybrids tend to be more expensive than self-charging models but you could well recoup the extra if you regularly travel shorter distances purely on electric power, thanks to their bigger batteries. If your budget allows, a PHEV makes a lot of sense as a zero-emissions, zero-fuel commuter, all the while offering the option for covering longer distances with acceptable fuel economy once the engine has kicked in.

Current industry trends mean that SUV buyers are spoilt for choice, but those after other forms of hybrid transport have a little less to choose from. Our list covers most bases but you won’t find many PHEV city cars or sports cars, for example.

As hybridisation spreads through more car makers’ ranges, it’s likely that choice will expand exponentially. But for now, if you’re buying your next family car and want to take a step towards a lower carbon footprint, or just lower running costs, there’s a lot to get excited about.

Below you’ll find our list of the 10 best hybrid cars on sale including a mix of our favourite plug-in and conventional hybrid models...

Top 10 best hybrid cars 2021

  1. Mercedes C 300 e
  2. Toyota Yaris
  3. Renault Captur
  4. Toyota Corolla
  5. Toyota Prius
  6. Skoda Octavia iV
  7. BMW X5 45e
  8. Mercedes E 300 e/de
  9. BMW 330e
  10. Kia Niro 

1. Mercedes C300 e

  • Price: from £44,995
  • Economy: 404mpg
  • CO2: 14g/km
  • Range: 62 miles

The new Mercedes C Class boasts the levels of technology and comfort you'd expect from this long-standing executive saloon, but the C300 e should boost the C Class’ appeal even further. There are potentially huge savings to be had for both private and business users.

This plug-in hybrid model claims to have CO2 emissions of just 14g/km, and average fuel economy of 404mpg. While these figures will likely differ in the real world, the real ace up the C300 e’s sleeve is its pure-electric range of up to 62 miles. This is a class-leading figure that's double that of several other PHEVs currently on sale.

Not only should the C300 e significantly cut your fuel bills, but company-car drivers will only have to pay a 7 per cent tax charge for the next tax year, a 21 per cent reduction over the diesel-powered C 220 d. Although a diesel PHEV is coming soon if you would still prefer to use the black pump.

Mercedes has acknowledged one weakness of most PHEV models, too. If the batteries are drained then your car’s efficiency suffers. Fortunately, A 100 per cent charge should take just 30 minutes thanks to a fast-charging rate of 55kW, so it's easy to charge up more of the time.

2. Toyota Yaris

  • Price: from £20,010
  • Economy: 57.6-68.8mpg
  • CO2: 92-98g/km

The latest Toyota Yaris retains the model’s ethos of being one of the more sensible superminis on the market - although if it’s mischief you’re after, the GR Yaris is hard to beat.

The sole engine available in the standard car is a 114bhp 1.5-litre petrol with Toyota’s tried-and-tested ‘self-charging’ petrol-electric hybrid technology. This setup is probably more at home around town, but will hold its own on the motorway, too. It’s a sensible all-rounder, just like the car itself.

Toyota claims the Yaris can be driven in pure electric mode for around 80% of the time while on urban journeys, and it can be driven at speeds of up to 80mph before the petrol engine will kick in.

Not only is the Yaris stylish on the outside, but equipment is pretty generous too, with even the base model featuring 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, air conditioning, a reversing camera and a multi-function leather-trimmed steering wheel as standard.

3. Renault Captur

  • Price: from £31,195
  • Economy: tbc
  • CO2: tbc
  • Range: 30 miles

In order to keep up with the ever-competitive small SUV market, the second-generation Renault Captur continued the winning combination that made the first model so popular - an attractively-styled body on top of proven Clio underpinnings.

The latest Captur is taller, longer and wider than the old model, making it a better option for families. The plug-in hybrid model is the range-topper and is only available on the higher-end S Edition and R.S. Line trim levels. The PHEV setup features a 158bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 9.8kWh battery and automatic gearbox. The purely-electric range of 30 miles should prove perfect for making school and shopping runs far cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.

The standard equipment offered with the Captur is plentiful - full LED lights, auto folding side, rear privacy glass, a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth and a DAB radio all come as standard across the range.

4. Toyota Corolla 

  • Price: from £24,855
  • Economy: 50.5-62.8mpg
  • CO2: 76-89g/km

Much like its Prius and Yaris relatives that also appear on this list, the Corolla is yet another model that is now powered by Toyota’s tried-and-tested ‘self-charging’ petrol-electric hybrid technology.

The British-built hatch is offered in 1.8 and 2.0-litre models, both of which automatically shuffle between their two power sources and use the car’s petrol engine to charge the battery. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) takes the place of a traditional automatic gearbox, and this helps to make the most of the drivetrain’s power.

Unlike the Prius, there’s no all-wheel drive version but that won’t matter for those looking to maximise fuel efficiency. The Corolla is available as a hatch, saloon or Sports Tourer estate, so there’s flexibility in the range to suit most family buyers, as well as business users.

The Corolla hybrid has been designed to do battle in the highly competitive family car market – it has to look good and be fun to drive while ticking all the practicality boxes – and Toyota has done a great job of making sure the car measures up. It’s miles ahead of the old Auris and is a genuine rival for established favourites like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.

Those craving a little more punch can pick the top 2.0-litre hybrid model. With 177bhp on tap, 0-62mph takes just 7.9 seconds in the hatch; fuel economy and emissions take a slight hit, but this model still offers a great balance of performance and low running costs. A hot GR Corolla is also expected to arrive in 2023.

5. Toyota Prius 

  • Price: from £24,880
  • Economy: 188-217mpg
  • CO2: 29g/km
  • Range: 34 miles

Unlike some other models, the Prius Plug-In has a very different look to the ‘self-charging’ hybrid model. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Plug-In might offer a more appealing look to some buyers. There’s no doubting its talent, though, as the headline figures suggest. Its 8.8kWh battery takes around four hours to charge from a domestic socket, or two and a half hours from a wallbox.

Combined power from its 1.8-litre engine and ‘Dual Motor Drive’ system is 120bhp, so performance isn’t startling. It’s more fun to drive than you’d expect, and sophisticated suspension means it’s pretty composed at speed, too. Like other PHEVs, it works best as a company car, and the number of them pressed into service as taxis speaks volumes for the reliability, practicality and real-world economy on offer.

6. Skoda Octavia iV

  • Price: from £33,175
  • Economy: 282mpg
  • CO2: 22-33g/km
  • Range: 34 miles

Much like the BMW and Mercedes offerings on this list, the Skoda Octavia iV is yet another motorway mile-munching saloon to receive the hybrid treatment. There are in fact two plug-in hybrid Octavias, both the vRS and the standard car, but we feel the latter to be the slightly better option as the Octavia iV makes more sense in this more comfortable and affordable guise.

The Octavia iV is fitted with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and a small electric motor working together to deliver 201bhp and 350Nm of torque. They give it 0-62mph acceleration in 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 136mph, which are both rather respectable figures for a car in this class.

Skoda claims a fully-electric range of up to 34 miles and fuel economy of up to 282mpg. As to be expected, business users will particularly benefit from the Octavia iV’s green credentials as the applicable Benefit-in-Kind tax band is just 11 per cent.

7. BMW X5 45e

  • Price: from £71,310
  • Economy: 201.8-235.4mpg
  • CO2: 27-32g/km
  • Range: 50-54 miles

The BMW X5 has been near to the top of the premium SUV class since its inception 20 years ago and the new plug-in hybrid 45e version proves the X5 can move with the times. 

Despite the X5 being a large SUV, its 24kWh battery is good for an impressive 54 miles of pure electric motoring - almost half the total range you can expect from a MINI Electric. The electric motor is paired with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine making a combined 389bhp and 600Nm of torque. As you’d expect from that kind of power, the X5 45e’s performance is decent. 0-62mph is dealt with in 5.6 seconds and it’ll reach a top speed of 146mph. 

8. Mercedes E 300 e/300 de

  • Price: From £46,230
  • Economy: 141.3-188.3mpg
  • CO2: 41-46g/km
  • Range: 30-33 miles

The plug-in E-Class retains everything we love about the standard car – hushed refinement, a smooth ride and a well equipped cabin – but boasts impressive fuel economy and major Benefit-in-Kind tax savings.

It shares the same plug-in hybrid powertrains as the C-Class PHEV, so the petrol option is good for regular short trips (it’ll cover around 30 miles on electric power alone), while the diesel-hybrid is a sensible option for those covering big miles, and is the only option if you go for the estate bodystyle.

Sure, the E-Class isn’t as sharp as a BMW 530e to drive; it was designed for comfort, and it delivers this, especially with optional air suspension fitted.

However, it suffers the same storage problem as the C-Class. The battery is awkwardly mounted in the middle of the boot, which robs it of 120 litres of space.

9. BMW 330e

  • Price: from £42,880
  • Economy: 166.2-201.8mpg
  • CO2: 31-38g/km
  • Range: 34-36 miles

The BMW 3 Series is one of the UK’s most complete cars: a high-quality, well built and practical saloon that’s great to drive, comfortable, packed with top tech and – in 330e guise – doesn’t cost the earth to run, yet boasts great performance.

The 330e isn’t alone in the hybrid compact executive saloon segment - the Lexus IS 300h and Mercedes C 300 e are also plug-in hybrids that can run solely on electric power and boast decent performance. 

While its badging may suggest a six-cylinder engine, the 330e has a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. Power is 249bhp – boosted temporarily to 288bhp in Sport mode – with 420Nm of torque, all fed through BMW’s superb eight-speed automatic gearbox.

A 12.0kWh battery supplies the motor and gives an all-electric range of around 35 miles; it’s a no-brainer for buyers and business users whose everyday motoring takes them over shorter distances or in an urban area.

The car’s punchy internal combustion engine is ably assisted by the motor for the rest of the time, producing a good compromise between performance and efficiency on longer runs.

10. Kia Niro

  • Prices: from £30,815
  • Economy: 201.8-217.3mpg
  • CO2: 29-31g/km
  • Range: 30 miles

Kia’s Niro SUV is available in impressive all-electric and plug-in hybrid versions but the standard, ‘self-charging’ PHEV model is still one of the best cars of its kind on sale. It has the same powertrain as its Hyundai Kona relative, and the car was designed from the outset for electrification; it’s cleverly packaged to maximise interior space, both for passengers and in its useful 427-litre boot.

It shines in its role as a family SUV, giving a plush ride and plenty of refinement at higher speeds. Plus the build quality inside and out should stand the tests of time and small children alike. Even entry-level 2 trim gets a great level of equipment, while Kia’s famous seven-year warranty further enhances the value on offer. It’s a shame that you miss out on the new and improved 10.25-inch infotainment system, but the eight-inch unit on 2 spec is still modern, responsive and comes with plenty of tech like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. 

Power is provided by a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor which together produce a fairly modest 139bhp. The car will be plenty fast enough for most, however, and thanks to the decent dual-clutch automatic gearbox, it’s easy to make the most of what’s there. The Niro PHEV may not be the most fun to drive, but what really matters are the fuel economy and emissions; for a car of this type, both are very respectable.

Next, read our list of the best small hybrid cars to buy

Get the latest electric car news, reviews and analysis on DrivingElectric.com

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