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Top hybrids 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.....

23 May 2019 09:40

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.

Hybrid cars compilation image

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

Honda NSX

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.

10: Honda NSX - interior

Honda NSX - interior

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 supercars and there's a five-year waiting list to own one.

9: Lexus LC 500h

Lexus LC 500h

You can buy Lexus's flagship coupé with a V8 petrol engine, but it's the V6 hybrid version that's more in keeping with the brand's values – and the car's sci-fi looks.

9: Lexus LC 500h - interior

Lexus LC 500h - interior

The LC is just as spectacular inside, oozing quality and craftsmanship, and more than 30mpg is possible in real-world conditions, without you even trying.

8: Lexus ES 300h

Lexus ES 300h

Modern luxury saloons tend to use diesel engines, but the ES is different, combining a 2.5-litre petrol unit with an electric motor.

8: Lexus ES 300h - interior

Lexus ES 300h - interior

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.

7: Lexus RX 450h L

Lexus RX 450h L

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.

7: Lexus RX 450h L - interior

Lexus RX 450h L - interior

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.

6: Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid

Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid

Toyota's answer to family SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Arona actually handles better in conventional 1.2-litre petrol form.

6: Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid - interior

Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid - interior

But it's the hybrid model that makes far more financial sense, thanks to its tiny CO2 emissions.

5: Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid

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.

5: Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid - interior

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid - interior

And it has the best urban fuel economy figure of any car we've put through our True MPG test.

4: Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi

Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi

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.

4: Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi - interior

Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi - interior

What's more, it's even more fuel-efficient than its predecessor.

3: Honda CR-V Hybrid

Honda CR-V 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.

3: Honda CR-V Hybrid - interior

Honda CR-V Hybrid - interior

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 an attractive proposition.

2: Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid

Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid

The Hyundai Ioniq is an ideal hybrid choice, combining low running costs and a relatively low price with a reassuringly normal driving experience.

2: Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid - interior

Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid - interior

It's also available as a plug-in hybrid, if you fancy a better electric range, or even as a fully electric car.

1: Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla

Toyota clearly knows something about building great hybrid cars, because the Corolla is the fourth model from its maker to appear on this list.

1: Toyota Corolla - interior

Toyota Corolla - interior

It's a fine family car, with a comfortable ride, good reliability record and lots of standard kit, but the hybrid versions truly impress with their low running costs.

If you're looking for a hybrid car which you don't have to plug in, this is the one to go for.

So what about the non plug-in hybrids you want to avoid?

Ford Mondeo Hybrid

Ford Mondeo Hybrid

In most forms, the Mondeo is a pleasure to drive, but the hybrid version disappoints, because its petrol engine and electric motor struggle to work smoothly together and the ride is poorly controlled.

Ford Mondeo Hybrid - interior

Ford Mondeo Hybrid - interior

It's also the least practical Mondeo you can buy, being a saloon rather than a hatchback.

Infiniti Q50 3.5h

Infiniti Q50 3.5h

The hybrid Q50 executive saloon puts performance before maximum efficiency, and with a combined output of 359bhp from its V6 petrol engine and electric motor, it’s certainly fast.

Infiniti Q50 3.5h - interior

Infiniti Q50 3.5h - interior

Unfortunately, the steering is horribly inconsistent and the ride too firm, while poor resale values make it a painfully expensive private buy.