Like the idea of a hybrid, but don’t want to faff around with power cables at the end of every journey? Then these are the top 10 cars for you – and the models that look good on paper but are actually best avoided
If you do mostly short journeys – and have a wall charger at home – then driving a plug-in hybrid can save you a fortune in fuel. But what if you don’t have a front drive or would just rather not wrestle with a dirty, ungainly cable at the end of each journey? Well, in that case, traditional hybrids still make plenty of sense.
No they can’t go as far on electric-only power, but they still promise diesel-rivalling fuel economy without the environmental concerns. And because their batteries are small enough to be charged by the petrol engine, you never have to plug them in.
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 traditional hybrids that are best to steer clear of.
Top 10 hybrids
10. Lexus GS 300h/450h
Modern luxury saloons tend to use diesel engines, but the GS is different, combining a 2.5-litre or 3.5-litre petrol unit with an electric motor. This approach makes for a car that’s whisper-quiet around town and when cruising on the motorway but rather noisy under acceleration. The ride is comfortable and company car tax bills are comparatively low.
9. Lexus IS 300h
Another Lexus takes ninth place, this time the IS executive saloon. Like its bigger brother, the GS, it costs less to run as a company car than its diesel rivals and is beautifully built. But it’s also like the GS in that it’s not as practical or enjoyable to drive as the class leaders.
8. Kia Niro 1.6 GDi Hybrid
The Niro SUV is different from most of the cars in this top 10, in that it’s available as both a plug-in and a conventional hybrid, but it’s the latter that makes the most sense, because it’s significantly cheaper to buy and still impressively efficient. Strengths also include low CO2 emissions, a long warranty and reasonable space for your family and their luggage.
7. Honda NSX
This hybrid supercar has a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, boosted by a couple of turbochargers, plus a trio of electric motors – one helping the engine drive the rear wheels, the others driving a front wheel each. So it’s four-wheel drive to help make the combined 574bhp manageable, and the NSX can run around town for short stints on electric power alone. Shame about the five-year waiting list.
6. Lexus LC 500h
You can buy Lexus’s flagship coupé with a V8 petrol engine, but it’s the V6 hybrid version that’s more in keeping with the brand’s values – and the car’s sci-fi looks. The LC is just as spectacular inside, oozing quality and craftsmanship, and more than 30mpg is possible in real-world conditions, without you even trying.
5. Lexus RX 450h L
While most luxury SUVs lose their third row of seats if you specify them with hybrid power, the RX L is available only as a hybrid and has seven seats across the range. At higher speeds, its V6 engine sounds coarser than you might expect, but around town the RX L delivers a serenity that simply can’t be replicated by conventionally powered cars, no matter how thick their sound deadening and double glazing.
4. Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid
Toyota’s answer to family SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai actually handles better in conventional 1.2-litre petrol form, but it’s the hybrid version that makes far more financial sense, thanks to its tiny CO2 emissions.
3. Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid
Hybrid cars don’t come any cheaper than the Toyota Yaris, yet it’s well equipped and offers perky performance in town. As a bonus, if you opt for 15in wheels, the CO2 output is low enough to make the Yaris exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
2. Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi
The latest Prius represents a significant step forward for the world’s best-selling hybrid car, both in terms of practicality and the way it drives, allowing it to compete directly with conventional rivals such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. What’s more, it’s even more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.
1. Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid
As good as the Prius is, it has to settle for second place, because the rival Hyundai Ioniq is better equipped, more practical and smarter inside. Indeed, it’s an ideal hybrid choice, combining low running costs and a relatively low price with a reassuringly normal driving experience. At a time when diesel pollution is under scrutiny like never before, the Ioniq is the alternative car buyers have been looking for.
Hybrids to avoid
Ford Mondeo Hybrid
In most forms, the Mondeo is a pleasure to drive, but the hybrid version disappoints, because its petrol engine and electric motor struggle to work smoothly together and the ride is poorly controlled. It’s also the least practical Mondeo you can buy, being a saloon rather than a hatchback.
Infiniti Q50 3.5h
The hybrid Q50 executive saloon puts performance before maximum efficiency, and with a combined output of 359bhp from its V6 petrol engine and electric motor, it’s certainly fast. Unfortunately, the steering is horribly inconsistent and the ride too firm, while poor resale values make it a painfully expensive private buy.