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? Then these are the top 10 cars for you – and the models that look good on paper but are actually best avoided...


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What Car? team

If you do mostly short journeys – and have a wall charger at home – then driving a plug-in hybrid can save you a fortune in fuel. But what if you don't have a front drive 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

Honda NSX

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£149,985

RRP from £149,985 to £149,985

This hybrid supercar has a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, boosted by a couple of turbochargers, plus a trio of electric motors – one helping the engine drive the rear wheels, the others driving a front wheel each. So it’s four-wheel drive to help make the combined 574bhp manageable, and the NSX can run around town for short stints on electric power alone. Shame it's not as agile as conventional rivals and there's a five-year waiting list to own one.

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Pros

  • Rapid pace
  • Quiet around town
  • Good driving position

Cons

  • Slower than its rivals
  • Doesn't ride and handle as well as the best
  • Poor infotainment system
9

Lexus RX 450h L

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£47,705

RRP from £51,575 to £64,525

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While most luxury SUVs lose their third row of seats if you specify them with hybrid power, the RX L is available only as a hybrid and has seven seats across the range. True, the rear two are very cramped, and the RX L's V6 engine sounds coarser than you might expect at higher speeds, but around town there's a serenity that simply can’t be replicated by conventionally powered cars, no matter how thick their sound deadening and double glazing.

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Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Impressive reliability
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Rivals are better to drive
  • Engine coarse when revved
8

Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid

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£19,729

RRP from £19,920 to £24,015

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Hybrid cars don't come any cheaper than the Toyota Yaris, yet it's well equipped and offers perky performance in town. As a bonus, if you opt for 15in wheels, the CO2 output is low enough to make the Yaris exempt from the London Congestion Charge. And it has the second best urban fuel economy figure of any car we've put through our True MPG test. Just bear in mind that it's forgettable to drive and a replacement is due later this year.

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Pros

  • Decent performance
  • Fuel-sipping hybrid system
  • Tidy handling

Cons

  • Below-par infotainment system
  • Jarring on 17in wheels over scruffy urban roads
  • Boot a bit small
7

Lexus ES 300h

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£33,925

RRP from £35,210 to £45,690

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Modern luxury saloons tend to use diesel engines, but the ES is different, combining a 2.5-litre petrol unit with an electric motor. This approach makes for a car that's whisper-quiet around town and when cruising on the motorway but a bit noisy under acceleration. The ride is comfortable and company car tax bills are comparatively low.

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Pros

  • Low running costs, especially for company car drivers
  • Excellent rear leg room
  • Surprisingly agile handling

Cons

  • Hybrid powertrain can be noisy and frustrating if you’re in a rush
  • Small boot with no folding rear seats
  • Frustrating trackpad controlled infotainment system
6

Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi

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£23,446

RRP from £24,885 to £29,545

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The latest Prius represents a significant step forward for the world’s best-selling hybrid car, both in terms of practicality and the way it drives, allowing it to compete directly with conventional rivals such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. What's more, it's even more fuel-efficient than its already frugal predecessor.

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Pros

  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Urban refinement
  • Low company car tax

Cons

  • Sluggish on the open road
  • Grabby brakes
  • Poor rear head room
5

Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVTi Hybrid

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£29,779

RRP from £30,980 to £39,670

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Despite being a large and practical SUV, the RAV4 is the most efficient town car we've ever tested, managing an incredible 91.9mpg during the low-speed, stop-start section of our True MPG test. Plenty of rivals are better to drive and the infotainment system is fiddly to use, but that sensational fuel economy makes the RAV4's shortcomings easier to forgive.

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Pros

  • Seriously low CO2 emissions
  • Slow predicted depreciation
  • Strong reliability record

Cons

  • Terrible infotainment system
  • Rivals are better to drive
  • No seven-seat option
4

Honda Jazz 1.5 i-MMD Hybrid

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£18,745

RRP from £18,995 to £22,645

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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’s not the most fun car in the class (that’s the Ford Fiesta) or the most comfortable riding (that’s the Peugeot 208), but excellent visibility helps make it easy to drive, while the economy, resale values and equipment levels also impress.

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Pros

  • Very spacious with great seating flexibility
  • Lots of standard equipment
  • Superb all-round visibility

Cons

  • Lumpy ride in town and so-so handling
  • Harsh engine note when accelerating hard
  • High list prices
3

Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid

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£21,793

RRP from £23,850 to £35,950

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The Hyundai Ioniq is an excellent entry point into electrified motoring, combining low running costs and a relatively low price with a reassuringly normal driving experience. It's also available as a plug-in hybrid, if you fancy a better electric range, or even as a fully electric car.

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Pros

  • Good-quality interior
  • Low running costs
  • Hybrid is good to drive

Cons

  • Limited rear-seat head room
  • Unsettled ride around town
  • EV model expensive
2

Honda CR-V 2.0 I-MMD Hybrid

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£24,773

RRP from £27,270 to £39,060

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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 rear-seat space (on five-seat models)
  • Good-sized boot (on five-seat models)
  • Comfortable driving position

Cons

  • Rough-sounding engine under load
  • Poor infotainment system
  • Seven-seat versions hard to justify over rivals
1

Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid

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£22,799

RRP from £24,195 to £31,440

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Toyota clearly knows a thing or two about building great hybrid cars, because the Corolla is the fourth 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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Read our review

Pros

  • Seriously low CO2 emissions
  • Comfortable ride
  • Loads of standard kit

Cons

  • Cramped in the back
  • Below-par infotainment system
  • Lots of road noise

And the traditional hybrids to avoid...

Ford Mondeo 2.0 Hybrid
Ford Mondeo

In most forms, the Mondeo is a joy to drive, but the hybrid disappoints, because its petrol and electric motors struggle to work smoothly together and the ride is poorly controlled. It's also the least practical Mondeo being a saloon rather than a hatchback. Read our review

Lexus UX 250h
Lexus UX 2019 front tracking shot

On the upside, the UX offers good fuel economy, cheap company car tax bills and the promise of Lexus's excellent reliability. Unfortunately, the driving experience is so-so and the infotainment system poor, while practicality is shocking for a family SUV. Read our review

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