►UK’s best hybrid cars on sale in 2022
►Our pick of the top part-electric buys
►Plug-in and ‘self-charging’ hybrids covered
With the future looking so determinedly electric, is there even a place for hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars anymore? We say most definitely yes, as we’re still a long way from the point at which 100% electric cars are suitable for everybody.
So, until the tech is cheaper and the charging as straightforward as chucking liquid fuel into a tank, there are a lot of buyers who will be better served by a hybrid. These not only offer a little salve to your eco conscience while requiring less logistical planning when travelling long distances, the electric motors often also boost performance.
To help you make the best decision, we’ve picked 10 of the best across every category. Whether you’re looking for a supermini or a supercar, there’s a hybrid here to suit you.
Hybrid or plug-in hybrid?
We’ve got a full explainer page on hybrid car tech, but the simple difference here is that regular hybrids – these days often referred to as ‘self-charging’ hybrids – don’t need to be plugged in at any point. Instead, the batteries that power their electric motors are recharged by energy recuperation when slowing down.
As this suggest, they also have only small batteries, which means self-charging hybrids can only run on electric power alone for short periods. However, the best of them switch between petrol and electric power constantly, making the latest-generation models remarkably real-world efficient.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have much larger batteries. While most of these can be charged by the engine under the bonnet, this isn’t very efficient. To make the most of them, you therefore need to plug them into the mains – as with a pure electric vehicle.
The larger batteries give plug-in hybrids much greater electric-only driving capability than self-charging hybrids – to the extent that many shorter journeys won’t need to trouble the internal combustion engine at all. But they are also heavier and more expensive.
Top 10 best hybrid cars and plug-in hybrids
What’s the best hybrid car in the UK? The answer depends on the kind of car you want, so we’ve picked 10 of the best to cover as many bases as we can. All of the below offer hybrid or plug-in hybrid power, and features that place them above their immediate rivals.
1) Toyota Corolla
Toyota has long been the self-charging hybrid champion, and the Corolla is an excellent family all-rounder, available as a hatchback, Touring Sports estate and even a van, and with a choice of two hybrid engines. It isn’t quite as sharp to drive as it is to look at, but the current model can deliver big real-world mpg.
We’ve already driven the 2023 facelift, which introduces an even more efficient fifth-generation Toyota hybrid system that makes a big difference to the driving experience, too. Seriously, don’t scoff. It’s a great place to start.
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2) BMW 330e
Speaking of excellent all-rounders… combining a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with an 111bhp electric motor and a battery big enough for up to 37 miles of claimed electric driving, the 330e plug-in hybrid does the eco thing and the BMW 3-series fun driving thing with admirable aplomb.
With up to 289bhp available from the powertrain for short periods – XtraBoost ramping it up from the usual 249bhp when required – it’s very fast. The option of a Touring body makes it practical.
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3) Lexus LC500h
Not an obvious eco-champion, perhaps. But if you want a part-electric jaw-dropping style statement, few cars contend with the 354bhp Lexus LC500h.
The stunning looks are combined with a stunningly complex drivetrain – which features a three-speed E-CVT that spends its time pretending to be a 10-speed automatic (not always successfully) – and while the 3.5-litre V6 and electric motor aren’t as fun as the alternative 5.0-litre V8, your fuel economy will definitely be better.
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4) Hyundai Santa Fe
Though the latest Santa Fe might not be as outstandingly exciting to look at as some other recent Hyundais, it is a properly seven-seater SUV that’s available as both a self-charging hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.
Most impressive about the latter is not so much the claimed 36-mile electric range – knock about 10 off that in the real world – as the fact that you don’t lose any space in the rear row. The closely related Kia Sorento is a good hybrid option, too.
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5) Peugeot 308 Plug-In Hybrid
Winner of the CAR ‘Formula PHEV’ giant test, beating plug-in hybrid versions of the VW Golf and Mercedes A-Class, this punchy Peugeot 308 delivers a decent 222bhp in combination with near 40mpg real-world economy and around 27 miles of electric-only capability.
It’s also stylish and fun to drive – and if not quite so much the latter as a standard 308, the refinement compensates. Note that you can now get a Vauxhall Astra that uses the same tech, and the Golf proved even more efficient.
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6) Toyota Yaris
The best of a surprisingly good bunch of small hybrids is the Yaris. Another tasty-looking Toyota, unless you drive like a hooligan this little thing can deliver a realistic 60mpg despite only being a self-charging model. And like other Toyotas you get up to 10 years of warranty cover.
Hard to argue against – but if you want a little more space the Yaris Cross and the Honda Jazz CrossStar both offer more room inside and bit of a tiddly SUV vibe.
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7) Mercedes-Benz E-Class hybrid
You’re offered a choice of E-Class plug-in hybrids, but we’ve gone for the increasingly unusual E 300 de – the d standing, yes, for diesel. Before you start crossing yourself and casting out the demons, remember that diesel is still a great long-distance fuel.
Combine that with the claimed 33- or 34-mile electric range for urban pottering, and you’ve got the best of both worlds – not to mention a real-world 60mpg. A petrol alternative is available, if you really can’t do the diesel anymore, but that one isn’t available as an estate. And the big boot is brilliant on these.
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8) BMW X5 xDrive45e
Our pick of the premium hybrid SUVs is this plug-in hybrid version of the BMW X5. Pairing a 3.0-litre straight-six with an electric motor and all-wheel drive, it’s powerful (388bhp) and fast (0-62mph in 5.6sec, 146mph), and maintains that typical BMW driving edge that makes almost all of its cars so exciting.
The xDrive45e also has a chunky maximum claimed electric driving range of 54 miles; with a maximum EV speed of 83mph, the petrol engine can take plenty of time off.
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9) Mercedes-Benz S580e L
With an asking price of around £110k before options, this S-Class hybrid isn’t cheap. But it also offers the longest claimed EV range of any plug-in hybrid in this list – 65 miles – and features DC charging compatibility, so you can top that back up to 80% in just 20 minutes.
Plus, it’s packed with all the usual luxuries of Mercedes’ conventional flagship. Not sporty enough for you? Then consider the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid if you can live with something that isn’t quite a limo-like.
10) Ferrari 296 GTB
We did mention supercars right at the beginning, and there are a few to choose from, including the new McLaren Artura. But while the Macca still seems to be facing some teething troubles we’ve opted for the majestic, magical Ferrari 296 GTB – the car that proves a prancing horse no-longer needs a minimum of eight cylinders to thrill.
This electric motor-boosted 3.0-litre V6 makes 819bhp, does 0-62mph in 2.9sec and has a top speed of 205mph, and is simply sensational to drive.
What’s the most reliable hybrid car in the UK?
While we’d be happy driving any of the above, for some buyers reliability is the primary consideration when choosing a car. And if that’s the case for you, we’d strongly advise turning to Japanese or Korean brands if you’re after the most reliable hybrid.
The Corolla and Yaris hybrids in our top 10 should be well up there, for example. But you could also consider the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V hybrid, the Lexus UX hybrid, the Lexus NX hybrid from Japanese brands, plus the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and the Kia Niro Hybrid.
Buying second hand? We have a round-up of the best used hybrid cars, too. or
Are hybrid cars cheap to run?
Buying hybrid means you avoid the high purchase price of a pure battery electric vehicle (BEV) and potentially benefit from less expensive company car tax, VED and Congestion Charge tolls. Hybrids can carry lower insurance premiums, too.
Opting for a plug-in hybrid can make driving even cheaper. Since these tend to offer 30-40 miles of emission-free travel, they can reduce multiple monthly trips to the fuel station, especially if you mostly do short journeys.
On the other hand, self-charging hybrids won’t need access to an electric car charger to make the most of them, and the latest models run on electric power alone a considerable amount of the time.
As ever, your driving style is a big factor, too. If you’re foot to the floor everywhere you’ll end up with high running costs no matter what you drive. Plan ahead and be measured with your inputs, and your running costs will fall accordingly.
Check out our list of the cheapest hybrid cars if you’re on a tight budget.