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23 Oct 2020

Latest hybrid cars vs petrol and diesel rivals: which really come out on top?

Which? experts assess the latest hybrid cars and conventionally powered small hatchbacks and SUVs to find out if one engine type really has the edge over the other

Car manufacturers are splurging on ads for their latest hybrid cars, but there are plenty of conventional cars being released too. So is it still better to opt for a petrol or diesel car in 2020 or will you be missing out if you don't switch to a hybrid? Our experts put the latest cars through their paces to find out.

Our professionals get behind the wheel of the all-new Renault Clio E-Tech to find out if its snazzy new self-charging hybrid engine enhances the stylish small hatchback, or whether you'd be best sticking to a petrol-only version. We also take the rival all-new Toyota Yaris out for a drive to see if Toyota is streets ahead, or whether Renault has beaten it at its own game.

However, the latest conventionally powered car releases might make you think twice about switching to a hybrid. There is plenty on offer - from the nippy Hyundai i10 city car, to compact SUVs such as the all-new Peugeot 2008, more premium offerings such as the Mercedes-Benz GLA or the sleeker Audi Q3 Sportback.

Our experts give their verdict on whether sticking with a conventional engine for your next car is a worthy choice.

See our reviews in the links below to find out if hybrid power is getting the edge, or if there's still plenty of promise in a good old petrol or diesel.

Best cars for 2020 - whatever car you're looking for, our lab and road tests reveal the best-driving, practical, fuel efficient and low-emission cars on the market

Latest hybrid cars for 2020

The hybrid cars listed here are a mixture of full hybrids (also known as self-charging hybrids) and plug-in hybrids.

Full hybrids can be driven like a traditional car and don't need plugging in.

Plug-in hybrids are getting more common, especially with larger, heavier cars that require more electrical energy. As the name suggests, these need to be plugged in to for the best fuel economy (although, depending on the model, they can also recharge through regenerative braking and via the engine, like a full hybrid). Most owners, if they have the space, will want to install a home wallbox charger.

Renault Clio E-Tech, £19,595

It's a landmark moment in the 30-year history of the Clio as Renault offers the popular hatchback as a hybrid for the first time. And it's no slouch, either: the Clio E-Tech promises both economical and powerful driving. In fact, it's currently the most powerful in the Clio range.

Unusually, this is a full hybrid (or self-charging hybrid - the type Toyota is best known for). So choosing the Clio E-Tech wouldn't be a big change from buying a petrol or diesel car as you don't need to bother about plugging it in to charge. Instead, it charges itself, including by recovering energy when the car brakes.

Does hybrid power make for a superior driving experience? Our experts couldn't wait to find out in our first look Renault Clio E-Tech review.

Toyota Yaris, £19,910

Toyota is so confident that hybrid cars are the future, the Yaris is only available as a hybrid in the UK. This fourth-generation model launched this year.

You'll need to dig deeper into your pockets than with the rival Clio, as even its entry-level price is a touch more expensive than the high-powered Clio E-Tech.

The good news is you get what you pay for. Even the lowest Icon trim is well equipped, with alloy wheels, a 7-inch multimedia display, reversing camera, automatic headlights/wipers, climate control and heated door mirrors.

Toyota has been at it for decades with self-charging hybrid technology, so you'd assume its cars are tough to beat.

So how does the Yaris's drive compare to the Clio E-Tech and does its hybrid technology stand out from the pack? We put it through its paces in our first look Toyota Yaris review.

Renault Captur plug-in hybrid, £30,495

Renault's opted to offer its popular Captur small crossover as a plug-in hybrid, which combines a battery pack and two electric motors with a 1.6-litre petrol engine. Renault claims it has a 30-mile electric power driving range, so for short, regular trips you shouldn't need to use any petrol at all - which should mean low emissions and running costs.

Renault claims you'll get fuel economy of up to 188.3mpg, although fuel economy varies greatly with plug-in hybrids depending on how you actually drive the car. Spend more time on motorways, or forget to charge the batteries, and your fuel economy will drop considerably, so it's important to bear that in mind.

Do our experts think the Captur is one of the best plug-in hybrids on the market? Read their verdict in our first look Renault Captur plug-in hybrid review.

Latest petrol and diesel cars for 2020

Keep reading to find out what our experts thought of the latest combustion cars. If you've already decided you want to opt for a hybrid model, find out which performed the best in our tough lab and road tests - see our hybrid car reviewsand our plug-in hybrid car reviews.

Hyundai i10, £12,441

If all you need a car for is short urban trips, you might wonder whether it's worth bothering with the expense of an electric car. Step in the all-new Hyundai i10, which keeps things simple on the engine front, with a choice of three petrol engines.

Despite its affordable price, it's well-equipped for a city car too, with Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, all-around electric windows and mirrors, cruise control, plus a whole raft of the latest safety equipment.

Like all Hyundai cars, it's covered by a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, too. Not bad for the cheapest car we've just tested.

Find out if it's great to drive, fuel efficient and reliable too in our full Hyundai i10 review.

Peugeot 2008, £20,590

Hybrids tend to come at a bit of a premium, which puts its prices in a similar bracket to plush SUVs. The petrol Peugeot 2008 small crossover is a huge saving over the Captur plug-in hybrid, which costs £10,000 more and looks like a stylish, practical choice.

The entry-level Active model gives you a choice of a 1.2-litre petrol engine offering 100hp with a manual gearbox, or the same engine tuned to 130hp with an automatic gearbox. Upgrade the trim to Allure and above and you can get the 130hp engine with a manual gearbox.

Alternatively, things are simpler for diesels: there's only a manual gearbox option and it's a 1.5-litre diesel engine giving 100hp.

Every trim level can also be bought as an all-electric car too (we haven't reviewed the electric versions yet), with that providing 136hp and a claimed range of up to 206 miles. Although the price then jumps to £29,065 (including the government grant saving) for the entry-level electric version.

Look like the perfect car for you? See how it performed in our independent lab and road tests in the full Peugeot 2008 review.

Mercedes-Benz GLA, £31,460

The Mercedes-Benz GLA is the entry point into Mercedes' wide offering of crossovers and SUVs. Many of its options are shared with the popular Mercedes-Benz A-Class medium hatchback.

The GLA aims to appeal to those who like the high-riding feel and added practicality of an SUV, without the huge sizes of some full-sized off-roaders seen out on the road.

There's a wide range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, as well as a petrol plug-in hybrid model (which we haven't reviewed yet).

As you'd expect from a premium brand, lots comes as standard, including alloy wheels, selectable driving modes, LED lights, a reversing camera, roof rails, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, DAB radio, a 7-inch digital cockpit display and 7-inch touchscreen multimedia system.

Find our if this car is ahead of the pack in our Mercedes-Benz GLA review.

Audi Q3 Sportback, £34,010

SUVs can seem quite boxy, so Audi offers this Sportback variant to its Audi Q3, with more dynamic, sportier coupe-like styling and down-sweeping roofline.

Launched in 2019, the Audi Q3 Sportback's engine offerings largely mirror the Q3, with a range of petrol and diesel options. This includes a special sports petrol version, the RS Q3 Sportback, with a 2.5-litre petrol engine and 400hp - most other engines offer around half that horsepower.

No hybrid version is offered - clearly Audi is confident with its modern conventional engines here.

All bar the entry-level 35 model come with Audi's famous quattro four-wheel-drive system, offering extra traction over the 35's front-wheel-drive setup.

Is this your ideal car? See how it fared in our lab and road tests in the Audi Q3 Sportback review.

We've reviewed more than 800 new and used cars currently on the market - find all the results by reading our car reviews