Best hybrid cars for 2019
By Oliver Trebilcock
Article 15 of 16
Hybrid cars can be an excellent choice for drivers who are looking to save on fuel costs, but who don’t want to plunge in the deep end with a fully electric car.
Demand for hybrids is rising rapidly, with more and more car manufacturers offering the choice of a hybrid engine alongside petrol and diesel. There are plenty of options available, whether you want a small hatchback or a full-size SUV – or anything in between.
However, not all hybrids are built equal. We've tested hybrids with disappointing reliability, surprisingly high emissions and many that simply won't give you the fuel economy they promise when you actually get them out on the road.
Below are the very best hybrid cars we've tested, including the best SUV hybrid, cheap hybrid and plug-in hybrid. These are fantastic hybrid cars. Not only have they sailed through the same tests as their traditional petrol and diesel rivals, they can also deliver an impressive saving on fuel costs.
We also reveal the hybrid cars you should avoid.
Scroll down to the tables below for our top hybrid car recommendations. If you want to find out more about hybrids, use the links below to jump to:
Best hybrid overall
The overall fuel economy achieved by this Best Buy hybrid car in our tough tests was an impressive 62.8mpg. But, as with all good hybrids, it’s urban drivers who benefit the most. In our urban driving tests, it achieved a bumper saving of 134.5mpg – being extremely economical as it powers along in electric mode. CO2 emissions are low, as well. It's also extremely reliable, with top five-star reliability rating for both new cars (aged 0-3 years) and older cars (3-8 years) in our owner's survey. This car is just coming off sale – so grab it while you can.
Best SUV or 4x4 hybrid
If you’re looking for an extremely well made luxury hybrid 4x4, this SUV will serve you well. It won’t match a Range Rover off-road, but it’s spacious, comfortable and incredibly refined. SUVs aren’t known for their fuel economy, and this SUV hybrid is no different, averaging 37.2mpg in our overall mpg tests. However, while it uses a lot of fuel on motorways, it can be surprisingly economical in town – averaging 74.3mpg in our urban driving tests. CO2 emissions for this car’s range start from 120g/km. This hybrid is also impressively reliable, with 87% of owners who own one less than three years old enjoying completely fault-free driving in our survey. This is well above the average fault-free rate for cars this age, which is 76.5%.
Best cheap hybrid
This Best Buy hybrid has all the practicality and ease of use of the standard car it's based on, but with much-improved fuel economy over the petrol version. If you’re an urban driver, expect to make significant savings – it averaged 122.8mpg in our urban driving tests, massively beating the diesel version, which averaged 58.9mpg. It’s one of the easiest small cars to get into and out of. It's also very reliable and ages well. Claimed CO2 emissions are just 75g/km for the facelifted model, and only 79g/km before. An impressive 89% of owners in our survey who own cars aged 0-3 years, and 81% of owners of cars aged 3-8 years, experienced no faults whatsoever (the average fault rate for cars 0-3 is 23.5%; it’s 35.6% for 3-8). It’s a fantastic hybrid Best Buy.
Best used hybrid
This used hybrid excels for fuel economy, and is good value, too. With careful driving, you’ll be rewarded with impressive fuel economy. Cars rarely match their official claims in our rigorous tests, but with the original pre-facelift version, this car did. The facelifted model almost matched this as well. CO2 emissions of the facelifted model are 96-99g/km, which is very good, although the latest eco-diesels from rival manufacturers can easily match this. It's also a car you can rely on, acing our reliability survey with a full five stars out of five from owners, with 87% remaining fault-free over 3-8 years - even for a brand new car this would be remarkable.
Best plug-in hybrid
This plug-in hybrid is an exceptionally refined strong-performing luxury SUV that’s expensive but well-equipped, with a spacious interior. It’s a worthy Best Buy. It makes sense to choose this plug-in hybrid if you do a lot of short journeys. Our tests show that you can travel around 28 miles in electric-only mode with zero tailpipe emissions - plenty for quick trips around town. This is not only one of our top-scoring hybrid cars, but one of the highest-rated overall. It’s a superb all-rounder, worthy of the plug-in hybrid crown.
Best Toyota hybrid
This Best Buy Toyota hybrid is a superb example of hybrid technology in action and the impressive benefits it can provide, particularly for urban drivers. It works very well to deliver good fuel economy, and it’s a decent all-round car, with the battery pack stored under the boot floor to improve load space. It’s soon to go off sale, so pick up this Toyota hybrid before it’s too late.
Hybrid cars to avoid
Not all hybrid cars are good. They contain both a conventional combustion engine and an electric motor, so they’re inherently more complex. This means there’s more that can go wrong.
We’ve found some hybrid cars with very disappointing reliability, with a large proportion of owners experiencing faults even on new cars that are less than three years old.
We’ve also found models with transmission issues. And there are others that have dashboard controls so complex you’ll need to keep the manual to hand even after years of ownership.
We reveal in the tables below some of the worst offenders – hybrid cars you should make sure you definitely avoid.
Which? members can log in now to see the hybrid cars you should avoid. If you're not already a member, join Which? to reveal the hybrids you should avoid and to access all of our expert, independent reviews.
Hybrid cars to avoid
This car aims to offer a good compromise between a fully electric car and a hybrid. However, it fails. It suffers from over-complicated controls, with you frequently needing to take your eyes off the road. And reliability is poor, with 40% of owners in our survey experiencing a fault as the car ages.
This diesel-electric hybrid model disappoints in the key area for hybrids – fuel economy. The manufacturer claims 68.9mpg overall, but we didn’t get anywhere close to this in our tests, averaging a dismal 58.9mpg. If, like most drivers, you spend any time on motorways, this car simply won’t give the mpg you expect from a hybrid. Motorway mpg is an awful 42.8mpg, with many conventional diesels easily beating this. This is one to stay clear of.
This big-brand hybrid has very disappointing reliability, with almost a third of all owners in our survey experiencing a fault within the first three years of ownership. It proves that you can’t rely on brand power alone to guarantee you get a great car – make sure you avoid this one.
What is a hybrid car?
A hybrid car combines a conventional engine (usually petrol, but diesel hybrids are also available) with electric power, ostensibly saving you on fuel costs and lowering exhaust emissions.
There are three types of hybrid:
Electric energy is generated and stored as you drive - such as with energy generated from braking. These hybrids do not require plugging in to charge. The Toyota Prius is a standard hybrid.
You need to plug these cars into the mains to charge their batteries. Plug-in hybrids typically have a short electric range that's suitable for short trips. If you make a longer journey, the batteries will become depleted and the car automatically switches to its conventional engine. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid.
Mild hybrids have a very small battery that can't power the car on its own. In some mild hybrids, the small battery will support the power of the conventional engine. In others, the small battery allows the conventional engine to be turned off when the car is coasting or stopping, yet also enable it to restart quickly. This category includes the Renault Scenic hybrid, Suzuki Swift hybrid and Suzuki Ignis hybrid.
What is the difference between an electric car and a hybrid car?
An electric car only has an electric motor. This means that all electric cars require you to plug them in to the mains to charge them.
Electric cars also have a more limited driving range than conventional cars. The exception to this rule are Tesla electric cars, but you'll pay a steep price for the privilege.
The availability of charging points can also be limited, and the battery can take hours to charge, depending on what connection point is available. You can have a charging point installed at your home so you can charge your car overnight, but you need to have off-street parking.
For more on electric cars, see our best electric cars guide.
Hybrids can be a useful compromise if you don’t want to worry about whether your car will have the range to reach your destination.
If you don’t want the faff of having to plug in your hybrid to charge, many standard hybrids can seem very similar to conventional cars.
There’s another kind of car on the horizon, too – hydrogen cars, such as the Toyota Mirai. These have an electric motor like an electric car, but are powered by hydrogen. This usually gives them a much longer driving range than many electric cars, and the only tailpipe emission is pure water. However, hydrogen refuelling stations are currently extremely limited in the UK.
Should you buy a plug-in hybrid?
Plug-in hybrids can have larger batteries than standard hybrids - this allows them to have longer electric-only ranges.
In theory, this should improve their fuel economy for reasonable-length journeys. However, we've found standard hybrids that beat similar plug-in hybrids for fuel economy - so check our car reviews before you buy.
You do have to plug them in to charge and also fill up the conventional engine with fuel. If you don't want to do both of these tasks, consider a standard hybrid or even an all-electric vehicle.
Which is better a hybrid or plug-in hybrid?
Standard hybrids don't need to be plugged in to charge their batteries. Plug-in hybrids can have larger batteries and longer electric driving ranges, so have the potential to have better fuel economy.
However, there are many exceptions. We've found some standard hybrids with outstanding fuel economy that even beat their plug-in hybrid counterparts. So check our reviews if you do lots of short journeys to find out which will deliver the best fuel economy.
How long does it take to charge a hybrid car?
Only plug-in hybrid cars require charging from the mains. The amount of time it takes to charge a plug-in hybrid car’s battery will depend on both the size of the battery and the speed of the electric charger.
If you're charging your plug-in hybrid car at home, it could take several hours to charge. At fast-charging stations it could take an hour or less for a small battery. Charging technology and speeds are improving all the time.
How much does it cost to replace a battery in a hybrid car?
Replacing a hybrid car's battery can be very costly. The price to replace a hybrid battery will vary, depending on the make and model of car, but is likely to be in the low thousands to replace.
Hybrid batteries are often included within the warranty when you buy a new hybrid car. So if you buy new, you shouldn't have to pay to replace the hybrid battery within the warranty period if it's covered.
Toyota also offers Hybrid Battery Extended Cover after its five-year warranty period. This covers you for an additional year or 10,000 miles (whichever comes sooner), and can be renewed up until the car is 10 years old.
Do hybrid cars use regular fuel?
The conventional engines of hybrid cars use regular petrol or diesel fuel, with petrol hybrids being far more common. The electric motor runs on electric energy from the battery, which is recharged as you drive. This could be using energy generated when you brake.
Plug-in hybrids also charge as you drive, plus you can plug them into the mains to top them up. Plug-in hybrids typically have larger batteries that offer longer electric driving ranges.
Are hybrid cars good for motorway driving?
For long-distance motorway driving, the average hybrid uses more fuel than the average diesel. This is because once the electric battery runs out, you’re lugging around the extra weight of the heavy electric battery.
However, there are exceptions – we've found some hybrids that perform exceptionally well for motorway driving. So if you pick the right model, you'll get great mpg on the motorway as well as in town.
For regular short journeys, you should expect to save on fuel costs by running on the electric motor - but only if the electric motor is sufficiently charged.
But what if you do a mixture of short- and long-distance journeys? Our combined mpg figures from our independent lab tests are based on typical driving habits – 70% driving in urban or near-urban areas, and 30% on motorways. We've found hybrids with excellent combined mpg, and those that are disappointing.
See our hybrid car reviews to find out which have the best mpg.
Do hybrid cars require more maintenance?
Hybrid cars include both a combustion engine and electric motor, so in principle there's twice as much that can go wrong. We've found some hybrid cars with disappointing reliability, including those from top hybrid car brands.
We've also uncovered hybrids that are exceptionally reliable. Make sure you avoid a costly mistake by checking our hybrid car reviews, which include real-world reliability data based on thousands of drivers from the Which? Car Survey.
Are hybrid cars more expensive to insure?
Car insurance for hybrid cars is often higher than for conventional cars. There are many reasons why this can be the case:
Hybrid cars often cost more than their conventional-fuel counterparts. They also often contain cutting-edge technology that can be expensive to replace. Garages also need specialist staff trained in electrical drive components.
Any additional car insurance cost should be weighed into your calculations, alongside fuel economy, for whether a hybrid car is the right choice for your budget.
Can you run the Toyota Prius without a battery?
The standard Toyota Prius doesn't need to be plugged in to the mains for it to charge. If its battery runs out in the course of a long journey, it can keep going on conventional fuel power alone.
The plug-in hybrid version of the Prius, the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, does require plugging in and offers a longer electric driving range.
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Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.
Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car we test.
Testing in controlled lab conditions means that the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better, and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs.
And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.
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