The most efficient hybrid cars in the real world

What Car?'s independent fuel economy tests show what MPG you can really expect from a car. Here, we reveal the best performing hybrids we've ever tested...

The official government MPG figures published in sales brochures can tempt you into buying a particular car, but those results are often misleading.

True MPG most efficient hybrids

So, What Car? has its own  True MPG figures which reveal what fuel economy you can expect in the real world.

To ensure accuracy and repeatability, we use strictly controlled conditions, with the tests simulating a mix of town, rural and motorway driving.

As a result, they reflect what's achievable if you’re driving gently and sticking to speed limits but aren’t resorting to any unrealistically slow acceleration or special 'hypermiling' techniques.

In this slideshow we're counting down the top 10 the hybrids we've tested that you don't have to plug in, culminating in the most efficient choice we have tested so far.

10. Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 2.5

True MPG 37.1mpg

The previous-generation RAV4 makes quite a bit of sense as a used buy, because it's frugal, practical, well priced and has an excellent reliability record. Just bear in mind that it handles more like an old-school 4x4 than a Mazda CX-5 of the same vintage.

Read our full Toyota RAV4 used review >>

Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid (cont.)

Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid - interior

Pros
Spacious and comfortable
Easy to drive
Long warranty

Cons
Latest RAV4 much nicer to drive
Engine sounds coarse when you accelerate 

9. Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid 2WD

Toyota RAV4 front and side

Test MPG 42.3mpg

To drive, the latest RAV4 is fine 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 nothing on this list is as efficient around town, there's still plenty to recommend it.

Read our full Toyota RAV4 review >>

Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid 2WD (cont.)

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - interior

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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

8. Honda CR-V 2.0 i-MMD Hybrid

Honda CR-V Hybrid

Test MPG 43.3mpg

The main reason for not choosing the RAV4 is that Honda's CR-V Hybrid offers similar strengths, along with better comfort, refinement, passenger space and real-world economy.

Read our full Honda CR-V review >>

Honda CR-V 2.0 i-MMD Hybrid (cont.)

Honda CR-V Hybrid - interior

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

Cons
The rough-sounding engine under load
Poor infotainment system
You can't have seven seats with the hybrid model

7. Lexus ES 300h

Lexus ES front - 20 plate

Test MPG 44.7mpg

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. Company car tax bills are comparatively low and fuel economy is competitive.

Read our full Lexus ES review >>

Lexus ES (cont.)

Lexus ES dashboard - 68 plate

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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. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Hyundai Ioniq

True MPG 46.9mpg

Hyundai's Ioniq is a former What Car? Hybrid Car of the Year, because it's spacious, well priced and feels reassuringly normal to drive. What's more, it's been refreshed since our True MPG test, so should be even more efficient now.

Read our full Hyundai Ioniq review >>

Hyundai Ioniq (cont.)

Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid Premium - interior

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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 on bigger wheels
Plug-in hybrid model is expensive

5. Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid

Toyota Yaris Hybrid

True MPG 49.2mpg

The previous-generation Yaris Hybrid's average True MPG is good rather than great for a small car, but it's urban figure is one of the best around: 80.0mpg. Throw in light controls, a tight turning circle and a supple yet well controlled ride, and it makes a fine used city car.

Read our full Toyota Yaris used review >>

Toyota Yaris (cont.)

Toyota Yaris Hybrid - interior

Pros
Spacious
Hybrid is unique in the small car class
Very reliable

Cons
Not an exciting drive
Dull interior

4. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid

Toyota Corolla Touring Sport 2020 RHD front cornering

Test MPG 49.4mpg

If you're in the market for a new family estate, the Corolla should definitely be on your shortlist, regardless of whether or not you're specifically looking for a hybrid. It's more efficient in the real-world than many diesel rivals, comes loaded with safety kit, and offers a very comfortable ride. 

Read our full Toyota Corolla Touring Sports review >>

Toyota Corolla (cont.)

Toyota Corolla Touring Sport 2020 RHD dashboard

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Pros
Impressively low CO2 emissions on hybrids
Comfortable ride
Lots of standard kit

Cons
1.8-litre engine can be a little noisy
Below-par infotainment system
Relatively small boot by traditional class standards

3. Kia Niro Hybrid

Kia Niro front three quarters

True MPG 50.1mpg

We're huge fans of the Niro's fully electric sister, the e-Niro, naming it our overall Car of the Year in 2019. But the hybrid version doesn't make as much sense because it costs more than conventional rivals and isn't as practical or good to drive. Still, 50.1mpg in the real world isn't to be sniffed at.

Read our full Kia Niro review >>

Kia Niro (cont.)

Kia Niro Hybrid - interior

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Pros
Ultra-low company car tax for the Niro PHEV
Well equipped
Seven-year warranty

Cons
Other family SUVs are cheaper
Not much fun to drive
Small boot

2. Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT-i

Toyota Prius 2020 RHD front cornering

True MPG 50.5mpg

The Prius is the most famous hybrid of them all, and offers slightly better real-world economy than its main rival, the Ioniq. However, overall we rate the Hyundai slightly higher, because it's quicker, better equipped and more fun to drive.

Read our full Toyota Prius review >>

Toyota Prius (cont.)

Toyota Prius 2020 RHD dashboard

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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

1. Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid

Toyota Yaris 2021 front

Test MPG  59.9mpg

Hybrid cars don't come any cheaper than the latest Yaris, yet it has the best average fuel economy figure of any car we've put through our True MPG test. It's also well priced and offers perky performance, although there are plenty of small cars that are more spacious.

Read our full Toyota Yaris review >>

Toyota Yaris (cont.)

Toyota Yaris 2021 Dashboard

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

Cons
Below-par infotainment system
Firm ride – especially on models with 17in alloys
Cramped in the back

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