With the Government proposing to allow only the sale of electrified cars from 2040 onwards, the spotlight has been thrown onto electric and hybrid cars. But nowadays, you don’t have to buy new to benefit from the lower emissions, cheaper road tax and better fuel efficiency of a hybrid.
Indeed, the proliferation of hybrid cars has resulted in their filtering down onto the used market – slowly, but surely. As a result, buying a used hybrid is genuinely an option and shouldn’t be too hard to do, especially if you’re prepared to travel a little to find the best example.
But with quite a few different makes and models now available, picking your way through the hybrid maze isn’t as easy as it once was. So here we bring you our guide to the best used hybrid cars; read on to find out which takes the top spot.
Best used hybrid cars
10. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid, which means it has a battery that can be charged either by the 2.0-litre petrol engine, or by plugging the car in. A full charge takes five hours from a conventional socket and gives an electric-only range of 32.5 miles. It’s worth doing this, because running the petrol engine makes the Outlander thirsty. But the Outlander is big, spacious, well equipped and good value, so it’s worth a look if an electrified SUV is what you’re looking for.
We found: 2014 PHEV GX3h, 33,000 miles, £15,498/$20,148
9. Toyota Prius
It’s rather bland to drive and a little plasticky inside, but there are good reasons why the Toyota Prius is so plentiful: it’s reliable, efficient and spacious enough to serve as everyday family transport. Not to mention, it’s the hybrid that popularised the term. Its ubiquity makes it an easy option to buy used, too, because you’re more likely to find a tidy example locally. You can choose between traditional hybrid and plug-in variants, and whichever model you go for, equipment is plentiful.
We found: 2014 T Spirit, 11,000 miles, £16,000/$20,800
8. Lexus IS300h
Want your hybrid car to come in the shape of an executive saloon? Then the Lexus IS300h is your best bet. For one thing, this is the best version of the IS saloon, a car whose handsome looks and beautiful build quality stand it in good stead. The IS300h also offers punchy performance, and most versions come with plenty of equipment, even in the relatively lowly Executive Edition, which is our favourite model. And while engine noise can be a problem if you try to push it hard, the IS300h is smooth, comfortable and quiet the rest of the time.
We found: 2014 Executive Edition, 28,000 miles, £15,445/$20,079
7. Mercedes-Benz E300 Bluetec Hybrid
A surprise hit with London minicab drivers thanks to its congestion charge-dodging abilities, the Mercedes E300 Bluetec Hybrid’s relative ubiquity on the used market makes it ideal if you want an electrified luxury car. Because its internal combustion engine is diesel, rather than petrol, it can be rather clattery when it’s pushed hard, but in all other respects it retains the excellent comfort, impressive space and premium image of other Mercedes E-Classes, from which there’s no way to tell it apart other than the badge on its rump.
We found: 2014 SE, 33,000 miles, £18,998/$24,698
6. BMW i8
With its wild looks and radical powertrain, consisting of a three-cylinder turbo petrol engine and an electric motor, the BMW i8 caused a stir when it was launched, and it’s no less dramatic a sight today. It’s a plug-in hybrid, and you can do 22 miles on electric-only power if you want. What’s more, you get two tiny rear seats, meaning it can even rival a Porsche 911 for practicality. Well, sort of. Prices have only dropped gradually, though, so the i8 is still quite expensive, but put simply, there’s nothing quite like it on the used market.
We found: 2014 i8, 30,000 miles, £62,995/$81,894
5. Honda CR-Z
A small, sporty coupe isn’t the normal place you’d find a hybrid powertrain, but you will in the Honda CR-Z. And unusually for a hybrid, it comes with a manual gearbox, meaning it’s ideal if you want a sporty electrified car in which you can ‘swap cogs’ yourself. A slightly fidgety ride and lots of road noise deny it perfection, but it’s delightfully agile and dependable and comes with plenty of toys. There’s just enough space in the back for two kids, too, and the boot is a sensible size.
We found: 2013 GT, 35,000 miles, £7500/$9750
4. Toyota Yaris Hybrid
Hybrids work best in town, so it’s a bit surprising that there are so few hybrid small cars around. The Toyota Yaris is the best of them, though, and is usefully economical and very cheap to run. A tacky interior lets it down somewhat, and it isn’t quite as comfortable or as fun to drive as the best small cars, but light steering and good visibility make it a doddle to park, while the smooth hybrid powertrain makes it a cinch to drive.
We found: 2014 Trend, 17,500 miles, £10,350/$13,455
3. Volkswagen Golf GTE
Intended to be a sporty hot hatch in the vein of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but with the added bonus of hybrid power, the Golf GTE is a great option for the hybrid buyer. It’s a plug-in, so you can run it purely on electric power if you choose; what’s more, it’s good to drive, is endowed with a great interior and offers all the other good points of the regular Golf. The only downside is that it isn’t all that cheap to buy – but if you can stretch to it, the GTE is worth the premium it demands.
We found: 2015 GTE, 21,000 miles, £21,250/$27,625
2. BMW i3 Range Extender
Rather than a conventional hybrid, the BMW i3 is a range extender – which means it’s an electric car with a petrol engine that serves as a back-up generator when the batteries run out. That makes it very cheap to run, and thanks to its tall profile, it’s remarkably spacious for its size. It’s lightweight, too, so it’s both fast and good fun to drive, and as a used buy, it’s surprisingly good value. Only a firm ride and tricky-to-use rear doors dampen its appeal, but otherwise this is a clever, efficient and environmentally friendly car that looks and feels special and works as family transport.
We found: 2014 Extended Range, 19,000 miles, £18,995/$24,694
1. Audi A3 e-tron
The Audi A3 is one of our favourite family hatchbacks, and in this plug-in hybrid e-tron form it works very well indeed. It shares much of its underpinnings with the VW Golf GTE, but the e-tron is slightly more softly sprung, making it even more comfortable. What’s more, it’s actually a little cheaper the Golf – and when you take into account the A3’s smarter interior and standard satellite navigation, that makes it a better deal. The only struggle you might encounter is finding one, because they’re relatively rare. But if you can, it’s currently the best used hybrid out there.
We found: 2014 A3 e-tron, 11,500 miles, £19,900/$25,870
And the used hybrids to avoid…
Citroen DS5 Hybrid4
The Citroen DS5 isn’t a bad hybrid, but the underlying car rides horribly firmly, handles sloppily and feels cramped in the back. It’s best avoided.
The Infiniti M35h (later rechristened Q70h) is big and unwieldy, and even in hybrid form it isn’t all that efficient, making it expensive to run. It’s also nigh on impossible to find one.