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Best used hybrid cars

Hybrid cars are no longer the preserve of the wealthy; there are plenty of reasonably priced ones to buy used, too. Here are our top picks...


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by
Mark Pearson

With the Government proposing to allow only the sale of electric cars from 2030 onwards, those anxious to dip their toes in the future can either opt for a full-fat electric vehicle now or experiment first with a little petrol-electric hybrid action, that is to say a car powered by a petrol engine combined with an electric motor. 

There are basically two types of hybrid: 'self-charging' models, which mix petrol and electric power in an effort to maximise efficiency, and plug-in hybrids that can travel many miles purely on electricity before their engines need to cut in. 

There are plenty of either to buy used now, so many in fact that picking your way through the maze isn’t as easy as it once was. So here we bring you our guide to the best used hybrid cars. Read on to find out if there's one for you.

10

Mini Countryman PHEV

The Mini Countryman PHEV offers a good combination of space, style and desirability, with a beautifully finished interior and an excellent infotainment system. The plug-in hybrid model adds an electric motor (driving the rear wheels) to the Cooper’s petrol engine, making it four-wheel drive. It also boosts power to 217bhp for a 0-62mph time of just 6.8sec. More pertinently, perhaps, the PHEV can run on an electric motor alone for up to 30 miles.

We found: 2018 Mini Countryman 1.5 Cooper S All4 PHEV, 18,000 miles, £24,995

Pros

  • Neat handling
  • Potent engines
  • Large boot

Cons

  • Unsettled ride
  • Average rear space
  • Expensive to buy
9

Toyota Corolla

This latest Corolla was a major step forward for Toyota. It's a great family hatchback and a great hybrid car, the only one on our top 10 list here that's actually only a self-charging rather than plug-in hybrid. The 1.8 version we've found here even racked up a True MPG figure in our tests of 60.6mpg, and on top of that it offers a good driving position, plenty of kit and a comfortable ride, while Toyota's reliability record is second to none. You can also choose between a regular family hatchback or an impressive estate version known as the Touring Sports. 

We found: 2020 Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid Icon tech, 9000 miles, £25,995

Pros

  • Great economy in the hybrid cars
  • Good to drive
  • Top-notch reliability record

Cons

  • Rear-seat space a little tight
  • Infotainment not the best
  • The 1.8 not as refined as 2.0-litre version
8

Mercedes C350e

Short-range motorists who like the idea of a refined, upmarket compact executive saloon with a low-emission twist might like the Mercedes C350e. It's a well-equipped C-Class at a competitive price that's also a plug-in hybrid, and capable of up to 20 miles on a full charge. That's not as good a figure as one or two rivals here but the C-Class makes up for it with its high-quality feel and relatively good used prices. On top of that, the Merc’s 208bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine makes it one of the few four-door PHEVs of its kind capable of a sub-six-second 0-62mph time. 

We found: 2017 Mercedes C350e Sport, 50,000 miles, £19,995

Pros

  • High-quality interior
  • Efficient engines
  • Plenty of kit

Cons

  • Engines are unrefined
  • Ride can be fidgety
  • Relatively expensive to buy
  • Lots of recalls to be aware of
7

Audi A3 e-tron

This generation of Audi A3 was one of our favourite family hatchbacks, and in this plug-in hybrid e-tron form it works very well indeed. It shares much of its underpinnings with the VW Golf GTE, but the e-tron is slightly more softly sprung, making it even more comfortable. Plug it in and it's good for up to a claimed 31 miles on a full charge. The only struggle you might encounter is finding one on the used forecourts because they’re relatively rare. 

We found: 2018 A3 1.4 TFSI e-tron, 40,000 miles, £16,995

Pros

  • Strong engines
  • Beautifully finished interior
  • Great to drive

Cons

  • Not as spacious as the VW Golf in the back
  • Firm low-speed ride
  • Lower trims sparsely equipped
6

Volkswagen Golf GTE

Intended to be a sporty hot hatch in the vein of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but with the added bonus of hybrid power, the Golf GTE is a great option for the hybrid buyer. It’s a plug-in, so you can run it purely on electric power if you choose; what’s more, it’s good to drive, is endowed with a great interior and offers all the other good points of the regular Mk7 Golf. The only downside is that it isn’t cheap – but if you can stretch to it, the GTE is worth the premium it demands.

We found: 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance, 80,000 miles, £15,000 

Pros

  • Stylish looks
  • Good to drive
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Diesels offer better real-world economy
  • Smaller boot than the regular Golf
5

Volvo XC90 T8

The T8 offers all the quality and practicality of the regular XC90. It's good to drive and well equipped, too, with a wonderfully stylish and comfortable interior. What’s more, unlike some hybrid and plug-in hybrid SUVs, the T8 doesn’t lose its third row of seats, meaning it's still a full seven-seater. It can drive on its electric motor alone, and do so for around 25 miles - useful if you travel in town. 

We found: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum, 60,000 miles, £34,795 

Pros

  • Classy interior
  • Seven-seat versatility
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Ride slightly unsettled
  • Road and suspension noise
4

BMW 330e

The 330e takes all that's good about the 3 Series saloon - and that's quite a lot - and adds a plug-in hybrid capability that gives it, in this previous-generation form, up to 25 miles of electric-only motoring. It goes without saying that it handles beautifully, rides well and is comfortable inside. It's also endowed with a great interior and a class-leading iDrive infotainment system. On top of that, it's not bad value, although if you've got money burning a hole you can spend more on the latest post-2019 version, which is even nicer.

We found: 2018 BMW 330e M Sport, 53,000 miles, £19,000

Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Classy interior
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Hard ride on M Sport suspension
  • Offset pedals in manual version
  • 2015 onwards have an improved diesel engine
3

Hyundai Ioniq

The Hyundai Ioniq was the first car to be offered on sale with three forms of electrification: as a hybrid model that combines a petrol engine with an electric motor, a plug-in hybrid version with a bigger battery that you can charge externally or an electric vehicle (EV). The plug-in version gives a good potential electric-only range of up to 30 miles in earlier models and 39 miles in post-2019 cars - which really helps the overall fuel consumption, especially if your journeys are mostly short. It's good to drive, well equipped and roomy inside, too. 

We found: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV Premium SE, 18,000 miles, £17,000

Pros

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

Cons

  • Poor rear head room
  • Unsettled ride around town
  • EV model expensive
2

Volkswagen Passat GTE

Available in both saloon and estate forms, the Passat GTE is a smooth, quiet plug-in hybrid executive car with a smart, capacious interior. It can cover up to 31 miles on a full charge (39 miles in later versions), leading to potentially impressive fuel economy. It’s great to drive and impressively practical too, especially so in estate car form. With a strong reliability record and a long list of standard equipment it's a great all-round package. 

We found: 2018 Volkswagen Passat 1.4 TSI GTE Advance, 15,000 miles, £22,950

Pros

  • Very refined
  • Low running costs

Cons

  • Real-world economy not so great
  • Still quite expensive to buy
1

BMW 530e

We love the BMW 5 Series – especially the plug-in hybrid version – so it’s no surprise to find the latter grabbing the top gong here. Like the rest of the range, the 530e is great to drive and wonderfully refined. It’s also able to see off the 0-62mph dash in less than six seconds and polish off motorway cruises in spectacular style. The 530e can officially cover up to 36 miles on electric power, leading to potentially low running costs for such a large, luxurious car. Inside, the 530e is spacious, comfortable and classy, with the most user-friendly infotainment system on offer. 

We found: 2018 BMW 530e M Sport, 45,000 miles, £24,990

Pros

  • Delightful to drive
  • Well equipped
  • Extremely economical

Cons

  • A little pricey
  • Average rear seat space
  • Dubious reliability