Best hybrid cars you don't have to plug in

Like the idea of a hybrid, but don't want to faff around with power cables? If so, these are the top 10 cars for you. We also name the models that look good on paper but are actually best avoided...


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Best hybrids you don't have to plug in

If you do mostly short journeys and have a wall charger at home, driving a plug-in hybrid can save you a fortune in fuel. But what if you don't have a driveway or would just rather not wrestle with a dirty, ungainly cable at the end of each journey? Well, in that case, traditional hybrids still make plenty of sense.

No, they can't go as far on electric-only power, but they still promise diesel-rivalling fuel economy without the environmental concerns. And because their batteries are small enough to be charged by the petrol engine, you never have to plug them in.

The thing is, though, knowing which to consider and which to avoid can make the difference between a fuel-sipping investment and a costly mistake. So, here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the traditional hybrids that are best to steer clear of.

10

Toyota Yaris Cross 1.5 Hybrid

The Yaris Cross is outstandingly efficient, returning an average of 60.1mpg in our real-world tests and an incredible 103.3mpg on our urban route. That's the kind of figure you'd expect to see from a plug-in hybrid car, without the faff of dealing with cables when it's time to charge it. Elsewhere, the Yaris Cross impresses with an interior that's well put together and easy to get comfy in, plus you shouldn't have any concerns about things going wrong; Toyota is consistently a top performer in our annual Reliability Survey.

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Pros

  • Very efficient
  • Lofty driving position
  • Uncluttered dashboard is easy to use

Cons

  • Could be more spacious in the back seats
  • Vocal engine when accelerating
  • Not as fun to drive as the Puma
9

Honda CR-V 2.0 I-MMD Hybrid

There's no diesel version of the latest CR-V, so it's fortunate that its 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor combine to deliver diesel-like fuel economy. Add in steering that lets you place the car accurately on the road, a comfortable driving position and plenty of space in the rear, and the CR-V Hybrid is a seriously attractive proposition.

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Pros

  • Vast passenger and boot space
  • Economical hybrid system
  • Comfortable ride

Cons

  • CVT gearbox makes engine scream when accelerating
  • Poor infotainment system
  • No seven-seat option
8

Lexus NX 350h

Hybrid versions of the Lexus NX SUV combine a 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, and when the two work in unison they provide substantial shove to get you moving. The NX should be cheap to run, too, and it makes especially good sense if you're a company car driver, thanks to its low C02 emissions. You get lots of kit for your money, too, with 18in wheels, heated faux-leather seats and a 9.8in touchscreen infotainment system all standard on hybrid models.

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Pros

  • Strong performance
  • Promise of stellar reliability
  • PHEV has an impressive electric range

Cons

  • Petrol engine isn’t the smoothest
  • Choppy high-speed ride on F Sport versions
  • Takumi versions are pricey
7

Ford Kuga 2.5 FHEV

You can have the Ford Kuga large SUV in three distinct flavours: a regular petrol car, a full hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. In full hybrid FHEV form, it gets a 2.5-litre petrol engine and a single electric motor, which can take you for short distances without using any petrol. It's also an especially good choice if you're planning on towing regularly; it can haul 1600kg, which is the same as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid can manage.

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Pros

  • Competitively priced against rivals
  • Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) offers a long electric range and low company car tax
  • FHEV hybrid is cheaper than equivalent diesel, yet has similar economy

Cons

  • Interior quality doesn't impress
  • Relatively small boot
  • Infotainment system isn't the slickest
6

Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDi Hybrid 230

With 227bhp, this hybrid version of the Hyundai Tucson family SUV is no slouch; it can hit 60mph in just 6.8sec, and that's faster than rivals can manage. It can also use electric power alone for short bursts, helping to take the edge off your fuel bills. The Tucson is especially good if you regularly need to carry tall passengers in the rear; two six-footers will be comfortable on its rear bench, even with the front seats slid well back.

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Pros

  • Frugal hybrid is a worthy alternative to diesel
  • Well-made interior
  • Spacious for passengers and luggage

Cons

  • So-so handling
  • Ride can get choppy at times
  • No sliding rear seats
5

Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid

This version of the five-star Kia Sportage SUV combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, allowing it to run for short distances using only electric power. It works so well that it's our pick of the Sportage range, offering all the performance you could want. Indeed, it can hit 60mph in as little as 7.2sec – faster than some rivals. Factor in that it has enough space for your family and all the luggage they might want to take with them, and it's an easy recommendation.

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Pros

  • Lower spec models are great value
  • Smart interior
  • Generous rear legroom and boot space

Cons

  • Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained
  • Rear headroom compromised with panoramic roof
  • No clever rear seat functions
4

Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid

Toyota – and its premium division, Lexus – clearly know a thing or two about building great hybrid cars, because the Corolla is the third model from its maker to appear on this list. It offers super-low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions that make it an excellent choice for both private and company drivers. What's more, the Corolla's ride is cosseting and its standard spec generous, while even the cheaper, 1.8-litre version offers all the performance you need.

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Pros

  • Low CO2 emissions and great fuel economy
  • Comfortable ride
  • Loads of standard kit

Cons

  • Cramped in the back
  • So-so infotainment system
  • 12.3in digital instrument cluster could be easier to use
3

Kia Sorento 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid

Like every car on this list, the Sorento is powered by a combination of a regular combustion engine – in this case a 1.6-litre petrol – and an electric motor, which both assists the engine, and allows the car to run for short distances using only electric power. In this form, the Sorento is nippy enough, reaching 60mph in 8.7sec, and it can tow up to 1650kg behind it, so handling a caravan will pose no trouble.

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Pros

  • Seven seats fit for adults
  • A massive boot
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Cheaper trims no longer available
  • Hybrid engine isn't as fuel efficient as a Honda CR-V's
  • Interior quality not as good as similarly priced premium rivals
2

Honda Jazz 1.5 i-MMD Hybrid

Honda's latest Jazz is the small car to beat for passenger and luggage space, and its unique and incredibly flexible rear seating only adds to its practicality. It isn't the most fun car in the class (that’s the Ford Fiesta) or the most comfortable riding (that’s the Peugeot 208), but its excellent visibility helps make it easy to drive, while its economy, resale values and equipment levels also impress.

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Pros

  • Very spacious with great seating flexibility
  • Lots of standard equipment
  • Slow depreciation

Cons

  • Pricey by small car standards
  • Not the quietest cruiser
  • Disappointing infotainment system
1

Hyundai Santa Fe 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid

The Hyundai Santa Fe once played second fiddle to the Kia Sorento in the large SUV stakes, but now it's our reigning champion. And, when you take its all-round strength as a class leader and add the fuel efficiency of hybrid power, throwing in a decent turn of speed if you put your foot down, and the Santa Fe is the most recommendable hybrid car we've tried.

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Pros

  • Seven seats fit for adults
  • Loads of standard kit
  • Long warranty

Cons

  • So-so performance
  • Some wind noise
  • Ultimate trim is pricey

And the traditional hybrids to avoid...

Lexus UX 250h

On the upside, the UX offers good fuel economy, low company car tax bills and the promise of Lexus's excellent reliability. Unfortunately, the driving experience it serves up is so-so, and its infotainment system is poor, but worst of all, it scores poorly for pra... Read our review