Best hybrid cars 2022

Andrew Brady

Written by

Andrew Brady

Lexus NX Review 2022: NX350h cornering

It wasn't that long ago that hybrids were bought by the dedicated few. Now, car companies sell millions of hybrid cars around the world each year. But what are the best hybrid cars you can buy today? 

If you want to buy or lease a hybrid car you've never been more spoilt for choice.  Car brands from Vauxhall all the way to Bentley now offer some sort of hybrid car for sale, with efforts to reduce emissions and boost fuel economy now front-and-centre of many makers' priorities. 

Importantly, hybrid cars are also a useful stepping stone for those who aren't fully ready to commit to an electric car, or are unable to charge at home. You'll find examples in almost every car type, from affordable hybrid small cars to seven-seat SUVs and luxury cars that can run on electric power. 

The best hybrid cars marry a punchy petrol and diesel engine to an electric motor and battery pack. Many drivers will find that this offers the best of both worlds: the ability to cruise around town in near silence and with zero pollution or fuel burned, but the peace of mind of knowing you can fire up the engine for those longer runs. 

There are two very different types of hybrid, however, so it's worth checking out our guide to hybrid cars to get a better idea of what suits your needs and journeys.

Pick from one of the best plug-in hybrid cars (known as PHEVs for short) and they can be charged up at home in a few hours and provide an electric range of more than 30 miles in many cases. While that might not seem like a lot, if you're just doing short drives like the school run or popping into town, then you might not need the petrol engine to start up at all. Simply plug the hybrid car in at the end of the day to to charge (just as you would with an electric car), and have the engine there for your bigger journeys.  

PHEVs offer huge company car tax benefits, too. But the downside is that they are usually more expensive to buy or lease, and back seat or boot space can be reduced to squeeze in a heavy battery pack. Furthermore, once that electric range is depleted most are no more efficient than the equivalent petrol or diesel version. 

Some brands offer simpler, cheaper self-charging (full) hybrids, which charge a smaller battery from the engine itself or by regenerating energy from braking or coasting. While these can only go a small distance on electric power alone, by blending both petrol and electric power together they can offer impressive efficiency. They don't offer the same short distance fuel savings or tax benefits as PHEVs, however. 

You might want to take a look at our guides to the best small hybrid cars and the best hybrid SUVs if you've got a clearer idea of what you want. Otherwise, read on to discover what made our top 10 list of the best hybrid cars in the UK.

Best hybrid cars

BMW 530e

PHEV

BMW 5 Series Exterior Front
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The BMW 5 Series is one of only a handful of vehicles that have been awarded a 10 out of 10 heycar rating – which means it's one of the best cars you can buy today. And, while you might associate the 5 Series with petrol and diesel engines, BMW also offers it with a choice of excellent plug-in hybrid drivetrains.

The BMW 530e is particularly popular amongst company car drivers, but it also makes a great choice for the discerning used car buyer. The BMW 530e combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to produce a combined 292PS and 420Nm of torque. More importantly, it can travel up to 37 miles under electric power alone – great for tackling the school run in silence while saving the petrol engine for trips further afield.

For the ultimate plug-in hybrid smoothness, look for a BMW 545e. Its creamy six-cylinder 3.0-litre petrol motor combines with an electric motor to produce 394PS and a huge 600Nm of torque, while standard xDrive four-wheel drive helps it to rocket to 62mph from a standstill in just 4.6 seconds. That could take a lot of people by surprise. The BMW 5 Series is certainly one of the best hybrid cars you can buy today.

Toyota Corolla

Self-charging hybrid

Toyota Corolla Review 2022 Left Side View
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If there's one brand that could claim to be experts in hybrid car tech, it's Toyota. The Japanese carmaker has been selling its popular Prius for decades, while its current line-up is almost entirely electrified.

The Toyota Corolla is easily one of the best hybrid cars on the market. It's a 'self-charging' model, by which we mean it doesn't need to be plugged in to extract the best from it. Instead, it uses the petrol engine and regenerative braking to charge the battery, meaning it'll officially return up to 56.4mpg. That should be pretty achievable in the real world, too, according to data from HonestJohn.co.uk's Real MPG database.

Unlike the older Auris or even the Prius, the Corolla doesn't represent a compromise in terms of interior quality, either. Its cabin as pretty much as plush as a Volkswagen Golf's, while it's also very practical. And there's a roomy estate model, too, badged the Corolla Touring Sports. Overall the Toyota Corolla is one of the best affordable hybrid cars you can buy. 

Skoda Octavia Estate

PHEV and self-charging hybrid

Skoda Octavia Estate side
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It's hard not to be impressed with the Skoda Octavia Estate. Comfortable and with a good-sized cabin, the Octavia's boot should easily be large enough for most families needs. The latest model is also nicely equipped and, considering what you get, it represents great value for money. 

The Skoda Octavia Estate is available in a variety of petrol and diesel flavours, but there's also the choice of mild hybrid and PHEV power. The self-charging hybrid pairs a 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver a claimed 51.9mpg, though our pick is the 1.4-litre TSI iV PHEV that combines a 1.4 petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack. This sees the Octavia iV able to cover 43 miles under electric power alone, while the combined power output of 204PS means it's pretty quick, hitting 62mph in 7.8 seconds. 

If that's not quick enough for you, there's also a hot vRS model which, like the standard estate, also comes as a plug-in hybrid with 245PS and an electric-only range of 38 miles. 

Mercedes-Benz C 300 e

PHEV

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review 2022 front-three quarter
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Compact executive cars with hybrid engines are big business. This shouldn't be surprising, because so many are company cars and hybrids offer huge Benefit-in-Kind tax savings. The Mercedes C-Class is the posh small saloon of choice for this very reason.

You see, the C300e plug-in hybrid offers up to 62 miles of smooth, silent battery power before the petrol engine kicks into life. That's nearly double that of the BMW 330e, and means the Merc is by far the cheapest for business users. 

But there's plenty of appeal to everyone, as the long EV range means impressive economy as long as you  charge it up regularly, and punchy performance thanks to 312hp with the petrol engine and electric motor working in unison. A comfortable ride combines with excellent refinement to make every journey relaxing, too. 

What more, you get a plush cabin loaded with fancy technology, more space than most rivals and a reel feeling that you're driving around in a mini S-Class

Kia Sorento

PHEV and self-charging hybrid

Kia Sorento static side
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If you're in the market for a hybrid car that can comfortably carry up to seven people, look no further than the new Kia Sorento. The upmarket SUV (yes, Kia knows how to do upmarket these days) is available as a self-charging hybrid or plug-in hybrid (as well as a diesel), with both combining a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a battery pack and electric motor.

It's not a cheap option, with petrol or diesel versions of the SEAT Tarraco and Skoda Kodiaq undercutting it on price. It's fully loaded, though, with an 8-inch media system, heated seats and LED headlights standard across the range. We'd suggest looking for a '2' model or above for leather seats and generally plusher cabin.

Unless you're a company car driver, we'd probably recommend the slightly more affordable self-charging hybrid model over the PHEV. There aren't many used examples on the market yet but we've seen nearly-new models on sale from around £36,000.

Toyota Yaris

Self-charging hybrid

Toyota Yaris Review 2022 tracking
00/10

The Toyota Yaris is a small car that's earned a reputation for indestructibility, loved by everyone from elderly motorists to takeaway delivery drivers. Much like the bigger Corolla (further up our guide to the best hybrid cars), the latest Yaris is the result of many years of hybrid car expertise, and it's easily one of the best small hybrid cars on the market – as an all-round package, it's up there with the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.

Under the bonnet you'll find a little 1.5-litre petrol engine that's boosted by an electric motor to produce 116PS, enough to saunter to 62mph in around 9.7 seconds. Like many hybrid cars, the Yaris uses a CVT automatic transmission – not known for their smoothness, this one's actually surprisingly responsive and not too unrefined. The Yaris also has a well-sorted chassis to make it genuinely good to drive. 

Of course, in a small car like this, the purchase price is particularly important. A new Yaris starts from a smidgen below £20,000, but we've seen pre-registered examples offered with savings of more than £3000.

Volvo XC40

PHEV and self-charging hybrid

Volvo XC40 Review 2022: Left Side View
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With its bold exterior design and Scandi-cool interior, the Volvo XC40 is one of our favourite small premium SUVs on sale today. It's available with a wide range of engines – including a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid and even all-electric power.

It's the plug-in hybrid Volvo XC40 Recharge we're focussing on here. There are actually two XC40 PHEV models available: the T4 and T5. Both use a 1.5-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor to provide 211PS in the T4 and 262PS in the T5. Both can travel up to 28 miles on a charge.

Unless you really need hot hatch performance from your plug-in hybrid SUV, we'd save the cash and go for an XC40 Recharge T4. The sporty R-Design trim is perhaps its most appealing, with standard kit including 19-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate and part-leather seats.

Volkswagen Golf GTE

PHEV

Volkswagen Golf GTE
00/10

Looking for a bit of excitement from your hybrid car? The Volkswagen Golf GTE is a hot hatch, much like the iconic GTI, sharing its underpinnings with the equally impressive Skoda Octavia vRS iV and Cupra Leon eHybrid.

The Volkswagen Golf GTE combines a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, helping to spring the GTE to 62mph in a pretty rapid 6.7 seconds. Take it more gently, though, and the plug-in hybrid has an electric-only range of 40 miles. Sure, it's not quite as fun as the full-fat GTI, but the GTE is still quick, composed and refined when you want it to be.

A brand new Volkswagen Golf GTE starts from more than £36,000 (making it pricier than the Mercedes A250e further up this list), although you can save a good £3000 or so by looking at nearly-new ex-demonstrator models.

Honda Jazz

Self-charging hybrid

Honda Jazz Review 2022 profile
00/10

The Honda Jazz might not be desirable to everyone, but those that buy them tend to love them. It's traditionally very reliable, incredibly versatile and represents good value for money – and the latest model is no exception. 

One big change is that the latest Honda Jazz is now available solely with hybrid power – meaning it's more efficient than ever before. The new Jazz combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with a pair of electric motors and a single-speed gearbox. 

It drives just like an automatic petrol car, albeit one that can set off in silence. It’s not a plug-in hybrid, so you don’t have to faff around charging the Jazz, yet fuel economy should be very good. Officially it can return 62.8mpg, while 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds means it feels pretty eager. 

We reckon the Jazz in mid-range SR trim represents the sweet spot in the Jazz line-up, with the smaller (and therefore more comfortable) alloy wheels, the nine-inch media system and some nice interior touches to make it feel a bit more special. You can pick up a nearly-new example in this trim for around £18,000.

Range Rover Evoque

PHEV

Range Rover Evoque Review 2022: side exterior
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While it's easy to dismiss Range Rovers as gas guzzlers, the more compact Evoque really isn't any worse for the environment than a standard family hatchback – especially if you buy the P300e plug-in hybrid model. This uses the brand's new 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine to power the front wheels, while an electric motor takes care of the rear axle.

As such, the Evoque PHEV boasts 34 miles of engine-off range, and can even travel up to 84mph before the petrol motor needs to kick in. Acceleration is impressively rapid, covering 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds. Refinement is good, while this being a Land Rover it'll still go further than rivals off-road - having electric power on the rear axle actually improves its ability in the rough stuff. 

Land Rover says that charging the Evoque P300e using a domestic three-pin socket takes around seven hours, meaning it can be fully topped up overnight. We'd recommend using a professionally installed home charge point, though, which can charge the Evoque in as little as two hours. 

Lexus NX

PHEV and self-charging hybrid

Lexus NX Review 2022: NX350h side profile
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The new Lexus NX might look quite a bit like the old Lexus NX, but it's a much better car underneath. Plus, whereas the old model was only a self-charging hybrid, you now get the choice of a plug-in hybrid too, so there's something for every situation. 

Behind the NX's angular body is an interior of peerless quality, while the normally fiddly Lexus infotainment has been greatly improved. It's more spacious, too. But it's the driving experience that's the biggest revelation. 

The old NX wasn't remotely fun to drive and had a pretty poor ride quality, meaning it was totally outclassed by the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. The new car is much better at balancing a comfortable ride with tidy handling, while delivering better performance, too. 

Both the hybrid choices are good, but if you're doing bigger miles then it's the NX350h self-charging hybrid that makes the most sense with an overall 47.9mpg economy figure. The NX450h+ is quite a bit more expensive, but significantly faster, and capable of impressive economy thanks to an electric range of up to 47 miles. 

What is a hybrid car?

A hybrid car is one powered by both a conventional petrol engine and an electric motor. A self-charging hybrid car features batteries which can be charged from the engine, as well as via energy captured when the car's slowing down. Plug-in hybrid cars, meanwhile, feature bigger batteries which need to be charged by plugging the car in, but also means that they can travel upwards of 40 miles on electricity alone and are great for short commutes. 

Why are hybrid cars more economical?

In simple terms, a hybrid car uses an electric motor and battery pack to reduce your reliance on the petrol or diesel engine. In a self-charging hybrid car an electric motor and small battery pack constantly assists the petrol engine, or allows some electric-only running for short distances. It charges itself as the engine puts out power, as well as via regenerative braking or coasting. Some self-charging hybrids use the engine as a generator to put electric power to the wheels instead, which makes it more efficient than using the engine alone. 

A plug-in hybrid - or PHEV for short - needs charging up by plugging in. That's the downside, the upside is you can get more than 30 miles of driving without troubling the petrol engine once. They do cost more to buy, however, plus they're a lot heavier than standard versions. Read our guide to hybrid vs PHEV here.

What's the best hybrid car?

The best hybrid car on sale today depends on your requirements. If you're looking for an urban runaround, both the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris are excellent hybrid cars that represent good value for money and will be very cheap to run. For buyers needing more space, look at the bigger Toyota Corolla or SUVs like the Ford Kuga. Otherwise, the BMW 5 Series has to be one of the best hybrid cars available today. 

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