If you're not quite ready to make the leap to a pure electric car, a hybrid might be right up your street.
Hybrids, which are partially electrified vehicles and still use an internal combustion engine, are a good compromise between 100% electric cars with limited range and traditional petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.
Not only do they use less fuel, but they have lower CO2 emissions, there's no range anxiety and you can also potentially dodge congestion charges and lower your tax bills if you're a business user.
Broadly speaking, there are three types of hybrid:
- Mild hybrids use a small electric motor and/or battery to harvest power during deceleration to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, and to also boost engine performance.
- Self-charging hybrids use an electric motor and a small battery pack to seamlessly assist a conventional diesel engine and can be driven for a mile or two in electric-only mode, saving fuel and reducing exhaust emissions. Again, the battery is charged during braking.
- Plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs, have larger battery packs which can be charged during braking and coasting, as well as at home or via public charge points. They can usually be driven for some 30 miles in pure electric mode.
The key difference between a mild hybrid and a self-charging/plug-in hybrid is that the former is only able to assist the engine, while the latter duo can power the car for limited periods.
The joy of plug-in hybrids, in particular, is that if you have a short daily commute you can potentially drive in EV mode for the whole journey, meaning you haven’t used any fuel.
And, of course, with any hybrid there’s no more range anxiety than driving a conventional car – an issue which plagues electric car owners, though with real-world ranges heading towards 300 miles, that may soon be a thing of the past.
If you’re wondering how much electric car insurance might cost and if it’s more expensive than insuring a petrol or diesel-powered vehicle, take a look at our guide to the five cheapest hybrid and electric cars to insure.
We've chosen 10 of the best hybrids from all three categories to give you some idea of what's available. Happy eco-friendly motoring...
1. Suzuki Swift SVHS (Mild hybrid)
Launched in 2018, the third generation Suzuki Swift is proof positive that you don't have to spend much to get your hands on a stylish car that's economical, fun to drive and spacious.
The range starts at just £12,999 and both engines (a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo and a four-cylinder 1.2-litre) are also available in mild hybrid form (SHVS, which stands for Small Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki).
Suzuki's system effectively combines the starter motor with a small lithium-ion battery, so it acts as a generator harnessing energy during braking and boosting the engine when demanded, helping to reduce CO2 emissions and improve fuel efficiency.
You can also specify a 4x4 version, and remember, Suzuki has a great reputation for dependability.
2. Range Rover Evoque (Mild hybrid)
The second-generation Range Rover Evoque has just been launched and it's a real step-up from its award-winning predecessor which was Land Rover's biggest-selling model in the UK.
Priced from £31,295, it may not seem any different at first sight, but look closer and you'll see that it's taken design cues from its bigger brother, the Velar – inside and out – and is now even cooler. The car generally is more spacious, packed with the latest tech, very refined and offers a surprisingly dynamic driving experience.
All Evoque models, apart from the entry-level diesel, are fitted with a new, 48V mild hybrid (MHEV) system. A first for Land Rover, MHEV works by harvesting energy normally lost under deceleration and storing it in a lithium-ion battery. When pulling away, the stored energy is redeployed seamlessly to assist engine acceleration and reduce fuel consumption.
An even more efficient plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model with a new three-cylinder petrol engine will also join the range next year.
3. Toyota RAV4 (Self-charging hybrid)
Toyota has been leading the way with hybrids ever since 1997 when the original Prius was launched. Self-charging hybrids are now available across the range from the Yaris to the Corolla, to the Prius, CH-R and Camry.
Newest out of the box is the fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 – and it's something of a revelation because it's big, good looking, spacious, comfortable, refined and packed with the latest safety features.
Take it easy and the 2.5-litre hybrid will return 50+ mpg on a journey and it can run in electric-only mode for short periods.
Priced from £29,940, it's up against tough rivals including the Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan X-Trail, and you can choose all-wheel-drive or front-wheel drive versions.
4. Honda CR-V (Self-charging hybrid)
Now in its fifth generation, the CR-V has come a long way since it was launched in 1995 as a ‘Comfortable Runabout Vehicle’.
One of the biggest-selling SUVs in the world, the new version is the best-looking, most practical and advanced ever. It's a self-charging hybrid, though Honda calls its system an Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) hybrid, and it comprises of a 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine, two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery.
At low speeds the battery powers the electric motors that drive the front wheels, and the engine is kept out of the equation (the pure EV range is about 1.2 miles). When switching to Hybrid mode the engine supplies power to the electric motors, which then drive the wheels – plus it can charge the battery.
Finally, there’s Engine Drive, which comes into play at higher speeds. This allows the engine to directly drive the wheels, bypassing both the battery and the electric motors. Priced from £30,130.
5. Lexus UX (Self-charging hybrid)
The classy new Lexus UX is the baby of the Japanese premium brand’s SUV family, slotting in below the RX and NX in the range and priced from £29,905.
The UX is marketed as a “self-charging hybrid”, which means that it can’t be charged overnight like a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) – instead, you simply drive it like a conventional car and the system does all the clever stuff smoothly and out of sight. In real-world driving, Lexus claims it can use electric power for some 55% of the journey.
When cruising or gently accelerating the electric motor at the front (there’s an additional unit at the rear on 4×4 models) can propel the car silently with electricity supplied from the battery.
At higher speeds, under heavy acceleration or on uphill stretches of road, the 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine imperceptibly kicks in, while still receiving a boost from the electric motor/s when needed.
Under braking, or when you take your foot off the accelerator, regenerative braking charges up the battery. The result is fuel economy of up to 53.3mpg.
6. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in hybrid)
Originally launched in 2014 and treated to updates in 2018, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the world's first plug-in hybrid SUV and has been the UK’s best-selling plug-in vehicle of any type since its introduction.
With its 2.4-litre regular petrol engine, plus two electric motors (one at the front, the other at the back), it has a theoretical average fuel economy of 139mpg (though the longer the journey the less efficient it becomes), while CO2 emissions are still just 46g/km.
As well as recharging overnight at home or at your workplace, you can charge up the PHEV’s batteries while driving via “regenerative braking”. You can adjust the amount of regenerative braking via paddles behind the steering wheel, and after a bit of practice, it’s possible to use the paddles as brakes when coming up to junctions or downhill, for instance. So the Outlander encourages a whole new way of eco-driving and appeals to those of us with an inner Scrooge. Priced from £36,755.
7. Mini Countryman (Plug-in hybrid)
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly, relatively compact estate with four-wheel drive, then look no further than this MINI.
Priced from £31,895, its 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and rear-mounted 65kW electric motor produce 221bhp together making it capable of 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds.
As you'd expect, it’s quirky (just like its traditionally powered siblings), fun to drive and has an all-electric range of up to 26 miles.
Well-equipped and boasting superb build quality, it has claimed fuel economy of up to 156mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 43g/km. There are three different driving modes available via a switch toggle, allowing the driver to best utilise the electric power on offer.
8. Hyundai Ioniq (Self-charging hybrid/plug-in hybrid)
Launched in 2016, the Ioniq was the first car available as an electric, plug-in hybrid or hybrid. Futuristic-looking, comfortable, easy to drive and well equipped, the range gets updates for 2019.
Priced from £21,795 for the self-charging Hybrid and £28,395 for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV), both versions use a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to an electric motor, which provides a combined power output of 139bhp and 265Nm of torque.
The hybrid model's electric motor works with the petrol engine to improve fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions and maximise acceleration when required, while the switch between pure electric, hybrid and petrol-only driving modes is seamless in the PHEV. For extra peace of mind, the Ioniq comes with a generous five-year warranty.
9. Volvo XC60 T8 (Plug-in hybrid)
Volvo committed itself to a greener future when it announced that every new car launched from 2019 onwards will have an electric motor.
The Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine is one of the newest arrivals, joining hybrid saloon, estate and SUV siblings. Using the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor set-up as the XC90 T8, the combined power output is a very decent 400bhp.
Priced from £55,005, the XC60 is one of the more expensive PHEVs, but you're getting superb build quality, badge appeal and stacks of Scandi chic.
With CO2 emissions as low as 47g/km and theoretical fuel economy of 134.5mpg, it's also extremely swift with 0-62mph taking just 5.3 seconds.
10. Kia Niro (Self-charging hybrid/plug-in hybrid)
Like its South Korean cousin, the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro crossover is available as a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric car.
Priced from £24,590 for the hybrid and £31,945 for the plug-in, both combine a 1.6-litre petrol engine with varying electric back-up – they are also blessed with a superb seven-year warranty.
The basic hybrid has claimed fuel economy of up to 58.9mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 110g/km, while the plug-in can manage up to 201.8mpg, CO2 emissions of just 31g/km and a 30-mile electric only range.
Practical, well equipped and competitively priced, the Niro PHEV should definitely be on your shortlist.