Real MPG: most economical hybrid cars

Petrol prices remain extortionately high, but our independent fuel economy tests reveal the most efficient hybrid cars out there...

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by
Alasdair Rodden
Published14 February 2024

These days, many drivers are thinking of going green, and if you don't fancy plugging in your next car, the next best thing is a hybrid car.

Most hybrid cars have an electric motor that works alongside a traditional combustion engine to help lower your fuel bills, especially if you mainly drive on urban roads. However, while most models use similar technology, the gap between the best and worst performers can be vast.

Real MPG: most efficient hybrid cars

And, to add to the confusion, the official WLTP figures don't always accurately reflect what a car can achieve in the real world – that's where we come in. Our unique Real MPG data shows you what you can expect from your car.

Here, we're using the results of our Real MPG tests to reveal the hybrids that will cost you the least to run – most notably the Toyota Yaris Cross, which won this test – as well as the models that, despite being hybrids, do relatively badly for efficiency.

How we test for a car's Real MPG

Our Real MPG tests are based on a real-world route that simulates town, country and motorway driving. Our tests are also repeatable, meaning we can directly compare one car with another.

After weighing each car and checking its tyre pressures, we fit an exhaust connection to accurately measure emissions. We then set the climate control in each test car to 21 degC, or the midway point if it has manual air conditioning, with the fan speed on its lowest setting. We also turn off the car's headlights, as well as any other electrical equipment – such as the heated seats or stereo – so it doesn't interfere with our tests.

With the test under way, we sample the emissions from the car's tailpipe every second, and the average of those results is used to calculate the overall Real MPG score.

Find out more about how we test for Real MPG >>

Our pick: 1.5 Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 11.2 sec
MPG/range: 64.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 460 litres
Insurance group: 11E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

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

Real MPG Average 60.1mpg | Town 103.3mpg | Motorway 45.5mpg | Rural 70.5mpg

Take the ultra-efficient Toyota Yaris small car then make it taller and add some chunky body cladding, and – hey presto! – you've created a Yaris Cross. This small SUV is the most efficient car to ever go through our Real MPG tests, and returned an impressive 103.3mpg around town, where its electric motor was able to help the 1.5-litre petrol engine the most. 

There's more to the Yaris Cross than just the potential for low running costs, though. It's also pleasant inside, with an uncluttered dashboard layout that's easy to get along with, and a lofty driving position that gives you a good view over the road ahead. And while some rivals are more spacious and better to drive, none can match the Yaris Cross for sheer efficiency.

Read our full Toyota Yaris Cross review

Our pick: 1.5 Hybrid Design 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 9.7 sec
MPG/range: 68.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 91g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 286 litres
Insurance group: 14E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Excellent real-world fuel economy
  • Toyota's reliability record
  • Slow predicted depreciation

Weaknesses

  • Firm ride, especially on higher-spec models with bigger wheels
  • Poor rear passenger space
  • So-so interior quality

Real MPG Average 59.9mpg | Town 80.0mpg | Motorway 46.7mpg | Rural 74.1mpg

Hybrid cars don't come any cheaper than the latest Yaris, but in terms of efficiency it's second only to its taller sibling, the Toyota Yaris Cross. When you factor in Toyota’s excellent reliability record, it becomes clear that the Yaris is a great choice of small car if low running costs are your priority. It also offers perky performance, and you get lots of standard kit for your money, although there are plenty of small cars that are more spacious.

Read our full Toyota Yaris review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Spacious interior with flexible rear seats
  • Lots of standard equipment
  • Slow depreciation

Weaknesses

  • Very pricey by small car standards
  • Not the quietest cruiser
  • Some rivals are more fun

Real MPG Average 56.0mpg | Town 68.8mpg | Motorway 43.4mpg | Rural 73.0mpg

Don't let its small size fool you; the Jazz is one of the most versatile cars you'll find in any class. It's spacious, adaptable – thanks to its 'magic' rear seats, which can flip up to create more storage space – and cheap to run thanks to its hybrid system. Indeed, 68mpg should be possible around town, and even on a motorway that figure only dips to 43mpg – still more than most hybrids. However, the Jazz is on the pricier end of the small car spectrum.

Read our full Honda Jazz review

Our pick: 1.0 TCe 90 Techno 5dr

0-62mph: 12.2 sec
MPG/range: 54.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 284 litres
Insurance group: 11E

Strengths

  • Great safety tech
  • Practical boot
  • Smooth hybrid system

Weaknesses

  • Reliability complaints about hybrid model
  • Clunky manual gearbox
  • Laggy infotainment system

Real MPG Average 51.6mpg | Town 55.4mpg | Motorway 42.8mpg | Rural 64.2mpg

The Clio is a practical choice in the small car market. Its boot is large by the standards of the class, and if you regularly carry three people in your rear seats, they'll have more room to stretch out than they would in some rivals. This hybrid version returned upwards of 55mpg in the town portion of our test, but has since been replaced by the slightly more powerful E-Tech 145, which promises even greater efficiency.

Read our full Renault Clio (2019-2023) review

Strengths

  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Refinement around town
  • Comfortable ride

Weaknesses

  • Not the quickest thing
  • Grabby brakes
  • Poor rear head room

Real MPG Average 50.5mpg | Town 60.3mpg | Motorway 41.6mpg | Rural 60.1mpg

The Toyota Prius is the most famous hybrid of them all, and offers slightly better real-world economy than its main rival, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. It's popular with fleets and taxi firms, but while an all-new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Prius will be coming to the UK, you'll have to wait a few months, so right now you'll need to buy used instead. Prices start from around £13,000, but you'll want to budget around £15,000 for a car with average mileage and a full service history.

Read our full Toyota Prius 2016-2022 review

Our pick: 1.8 Hybrid Motion 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 9.4 sec
MPG/range: 62.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 102g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 596 litres
Insurance group: 17E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Low CO2 emissions
  • Comfortable ride
  • Cheaper than equivalent Corolla

Weaknesses

  • Can be rather noisy when pushed
  • So-so warranty compared with the Corolla
  • Limited choice of engines and trims

Real MPG Average 50.3mpg | Town 86.6mpg | Motorway 38.4mpg | Rural 58.4mpg

The Suzuki Swace is very closely related to the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, and as such it uses the same 1.8-litre hybrid system as entry-level versions of that car. While this is the only engine option for the Swace (you can upgrade to a 2.0-litre in the Corolla), it’s ruthlessly efficient – it returned 86.6mpg in the town portion of our tests, and 58.4mpg on faster country roads. It's also comfortable, and is cheaper like-for-like than the Corolla Touring Sports.

Read our full Suzuki Swace review

Our pick: 1.6 GDi 127 Hybrid 2 Nav 5dr DCT

0-62mph: 11.3 sec
MPG/range: 64.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 451 litres
Insurance group: 29A

Strengths

  • Cheaper than most hybrids to buy
  • Low plug-in running costs
  • Well equipped

Weaknesses

  • Firm low-speed ride
  • Normal hybrid not that efficient
  • Anonymous inside and out

Real MPG Average 50.1mpg | Town 49.0mpg | Motorway 44.0mpg | Rural 60.2mpg

We're huge fans of the electric car version of the Niro (the Kia e-Niro) – in fact it makes more sense than this Niro Hybrid. Still, 50.1mpg in the real world isn't to be sniffed at, and because the model range has been updated, you're more likely to get a good discount on a used example of this model. It may not be the most futuristic hybrid to look at, but it’s spacious, well-equipped and comfy at motorway speeds.

Read our full Kia Niro (2016-2022) review

Our pick: 1.8 Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 9.4 sec
MPG/range: 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 101g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 596 litres
Insurance group: 17E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Impressively low CO2 emissions on hybrids
  • Comfortable ride
  • Great reliability record

Weaknesses

  • More wind and road noise than in rivals
  • So-so infotainment system
  • 12.3in digital instrument cluster could be easier to use

Real MPG Average 49.4mpg | Town 68.1mpg | Motorway 39.8mpg | Rural 57.0mpg

It shouldn't be surprising to see the Corolla Touring Sports on this list alongside the Suzuki Swace – after all, the two cars are almost identical underneath. The Corolla Touring Sports mixes estate car practicality with hybrid power, so you can move flat-pack furniture while still enjoying greener motoring. We like the comfy ride and the fact that it gets lots of kit as standard, but the infotainment system is only so-so and some rivals have bigger boots.

Read our full Toyota Corolla Touring Sports review

Our pick: 1.5 Hybrid Design 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 9.7 sec
MPG/range: 68.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 91g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 286 litres
Insurance group: 14E

Strengths

  • Spacious
  • Hybrid option
  • Very reliable

Weaknesses

  • Not an exciting drive
  • Dull interior
  • Several recalls to check off

Real MPG Average 49.2mpg | Town 80.0mpg | Motorway 37.7mpg | Rural 57.5mpg

This is the previous-generation Yaris which, like its successor, is an impressively frugal small car option. Its electric motor can work at its best if you stick to town roads; this Yaris returned an impressive 80mpg in such conditions. It makes a good all-round used buy, too – it’s roomier in the rear than the current model, and later versions get plenty of kit as standard. There's more good news if you're seeking out a used Yaris, because prices start from just £3000.

Read our full Toyota Yaris (2011-2022) review

Our pick: 2.5 VVT-i Hybrid Design 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 8.1 sec
MPG/range: 48.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 580 litres
Insurance group: 28E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Exceedingly frugal
  • Regular hybrid has slow predicted depreciation
  • Strong reliability record

Weaknesses

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

Real MPG Average 49.0mpg | Town 91.9mpg | Motorway 37.9mpg | Rural 54.0mpg

The latest Toyota RAV4 is fine to drive, rather than great, while its infotainment system is as slow as it is fiddly. However, when you factor in its impressive kit tally, Toyota’s stellar reliability record and the fact that it – the largest car on this list, and the only family SUV – returned an astonishing 91.9mpg in the town portion of our test, it becomes easier to recommend. If you’re able to charge at home, you might be interested to know that a plug-in hybrid variant is also available.

Read our full Toyota RAV4 review

And the least economical hybrid cars...

Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid

Real MPG Average: 37.1mpg. The previous-generation RAV4 SUV is far less efficient than the current model, although it should still offer you lower fuel bills than some purely combustion-engined rivals. Read our review

Toyota Highlander 2.5 Hybrid

Real MPG Average: 34.6mpg. For something so large, the Highlander is very efficient. In most other respects, though, it's no more than average in the large SUV class. Read our review

Lexus RX 450h L

Real MPG Average: 30.8mpg. While the RX L offers impressive reliability and lots of kit, it's not especially efficient and its engine sounds coarse when revved. Read our review

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