Viewed with scepticism when the Toyota Prius first launched back in 1997, hybrids are now a mainstay of the motoring world, with most manufacturers offering at least one hybrid model. And there are several good reasons for this – mainly that hybrids reduce fuel consumption and running costs without compromising on performance.
But as all-electric cars steadily become a more viable option for the everyday motorist, and the government announces plans to ban the sale of new hybrids by 2035, is buying a hybrid a good idea in 2020? And, if it is, which hybrid car should you buy?
In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best hybrid cars to buy in 2020, with information on the different types of hybrids and whether they’re a good option for those who want a more environmentally-friendly car.
- What is a Hybrid Car?
- What are the Different Types of Hybrids?
- Should I Buy a Hybrid Car?
- What Are the Best Hybrid Cars to Buy in 2020?
A hybrid is a car that, as well as having a traditional diesel or petrol engine, also features an electric motor and battery pack. This means it is able to optimise power and recover energy when braking.
There are now a handful of different types of hybrid cars available, including full hybrids, mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEV), and range-extender hybrids. They each have an electric motor and a standard engine, but they work differently: range-extender hybrids use the engine only to charge the electric motor, while other hybrids use both the engine and electric motor to power the wheels or to reduce emissions in some driving conditions.
Here’s a closer look at hybrid car types, including full, mild, plug-in and range-extender.
What is a Full Hybrid Car?
A full hybrid car runs on both a petrol/diesel engine and an electric motor, either at the same time or separately. You can’t charge the electric motor, with electricity provided by kinetic energy as the engine powers the car.
Full hybrids aren’t designed for full zero-emissions electric range driving. Instead, the electric motor supplements the power generated by the engine, reducing emissions in day-to-day driving conditions.
Examples of full hybrid cars include the Toyota Prius and the BMW 330e.
What is a Mild Hybrid Car?
A mild hybrid car can’t run on its electric motor alone. Instead, a small battery pack is used to assist the standard petrol/diesel engine, reducing emissions and saving fuel in some driving conditions.
Mild hybrids are designed to maximise the fuel efficiency of a petrol or diesel engine. On some models, electric charge is attained through deceleration; a start-stop function is also considered a form of mild hybrid technology, with electric charge keeping vehicle systems working while the engine is in standby.
Some cars which feature mild hybrid technology include the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda 2 and Range Rover Evoque.
What is a Plug-in Hybrid Car?
A plug-in hybrid or PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) benefits from both a standard petrol/diesel engine and a rechargeable electric motor. Because PHEVs can be charged, it’s possible to drive them as you would an electric car, with the engine only being used when you run out of range.
For example, say you’re planning a 50-mile journey. The average PHEV is able to drive in full-electric mode for around 30 miles, meaning you’d only need to use the engine for 20 miles – more than halving fuel costs and emissions for the journey.
This might sound good on paper, but plug-in hybrids do have their disadvantages. First, they don’t charge as well during everyday driving as standard full hybrids, so they’re very inefficient in petrol/diesel mode. They also need charging regularly to benefit from the electric motor, which might be tricky if you don’t have a private drive or garage.
Some of the best-selling plug-in hybrids include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In.
What is Range-Extender Hybrid Car?
A range-extender hybrid is a car whose petrol/diesel engine is only ever used to charge the electric motor – not to send power to the wheels. These hybrids were developed as a way to boost the range of pure-electric cars, giving drivers peace of mind that they aren’t going to run out of power.
Range-extender hybrids normally feature a small combustion engine, either petrol or diesel, that’s usually under 1l in capacity. Its job is to supplement the electric motor, generating power to keep it charged and provide better overall range and mileage.
Few manufacturers still make range-extender hybrids because they’re considered inefficient compared to the next generation of pure-electric vehicles. Typical models for this hybrid category are the BMW i3 Range Extender and the Chevrolet Volt.
If you’re thinking of buying a hybrid car in 2020, there are a couple of things to consider before you hit the forecourt. Here, we go through the pros and cons of opting for a hybrid.
Advantages of a Hybrid Car
- Efficient – hybrid cars are more efficient than the equivalent petrol or diesel, providing good overall MPG and with a much greater range than a pure-electric car.
- Eco-friendly – hybrids emit considerably less CO2 than petrol and diesels, especially around town when the electric motor is doing a lot of the work.
- More affordable than an electric – while all-electric cars are becoming more popular, they still come with an inflated price tag. Hybrids, which have been around for well over a decade, are much more reasonably priced, so you can benefit from the technology without paying a considerable premium.
- More choice – given all the types of hybrids we listed above, there’s a lot of choice out there if you’re thinking of making the switch to a hybrid car – especially compared to pure-electric cars, of which there are currently only a handful of feasible models on the market.
Disadvantages of a Hybrid Car
- Inefficient if used incorrectly – one of the drawbacks of hybrid cars has always been the fact they have two engines, which means a greater weight. On a PHEV, for example, the electric motor is essentially dead weight if it’s not charged regularly, meaning that you’ll be getting fewer MPG than you would from driving a standard petrol or diesel.
- A stopgap option between petrol and electric – a lot of car experts would tell you that hybrid technology is destined for the scrapheap, with pure-electric technology now offering similar range and a whole host of other benefits. And this would seem to be the case, with the government promising to axe sales of new hybrids by 2035.
- Expensive compared to the equivalent petrol or diesel – it’s important to do the sums before you invest in a hybrid, because they’re nowhere near as affordable as a standard petrol or diesel. Consider how you drive, your typical journeys, and how much running costs are likely to be in the long term.
- Tepid performance – hybrids aren’t as fun to drive as a petrol or diesel, and lack the straight-line acceleration of a pure-electric. They can feel heavy through the corners because of the extra weight, and they’re not usually as powerful as petrol or diesel variants, which can make motorway trips a real chore.
Are you in the market for a hybrid? Here are the best hybrid cars to buy in 2020.
1. Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid
For: Spacious and refined, the Hyundai Ioniq is one of the most practical PHEVs on the market. In electric mode, the car is capable of around 32 miles, and is efficient enough in standard mode to warrant the price tag.
Against: No prizes for guessing that the Ioniq isn’t the most fun hybrid to drive, but its comfort and practicality does make up for these failings.
2. Toyota Prius
For: The Prius is the granddaddy of hybrid motoring, and it’s still one of the best petrol-electric cars on the road. The newest addition has a completely new chassis, which makes it much peppier through the corners. Add to that a new 1.8l petrol engine and the Prius feels like a normal car, albeit a very efficient one.
Against: The full hybrid offering of the Prius is starting to look a little dated, and some critics would say it’s too close to a standard car to be considered an eco-friendly option.
3. Mercedes A250e EQ Power
For: Mercedes has dabbled in hybrid technology for a few years now, but this is the first variant available in the brand’s hatchback A-class format. Pairing a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, the car generates 215bhp – more than enough poke to entice younger drivers to make the move to hybrid.
Against: The price. No one expects a Mercedes to come cheap, but the quoted £32,000 price tag for the A250e EQ Power – a car not much bigger than a Ford Fiesta – may be a little too much for some motorists to swallow.
4. VW Passat GTE
For: If you’re after a hybrid you can ferry the family around in, take a look at the VW Passat GTE. With a 13kWh electric motor providing 36 miles of all-electric range, as well as a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, the Passat GTE is a refined machine that balances performance and practicality.
Against: Suffering similar drawbacks as the Ioniq, the Passat GTE will win no awards for driver excitement and experience.
5. Toyota Corolla Hybrid
For: ‘Properly fun’ isn’t something we could say about many hybrids, but it’s definitely true of the Toyota Corolla. Even the 1.8-litre variant feels light and punchy compared to its rivals, while the 2-litre turbo has genuine poke which will leave you wondering why you didn’t make the switch to hybrid sooner.
Against: The grey, unoriginal interior doesn’t reflect the car’s fun-to-drive appeal and excellent on-board technology.
If you’ve switched to a hybrid, or are thinking of doing so, and still want to save fuel while your engine is running, then view our range of Hybrid Additives – the first fuel additives specially formulated for hybrid cars. Visit the Redex site to find out more.