Electrification is a headline trend in the car industry at the moment, but not all of us can afford to buy a brand new electric car – or even a used one, as these models are still so new that prices are still high second-hand. That’s where one of our best used hybrid cars comes in.
Hybrids have been around for decades now, and they have plenty of benefits. They use a small electric motor and battery pack that can be used to drive the wheels for a short amount of time. This boosts efficiency, lowers emissions and allows for very quiet running at low speed.
Some hybrids, which we call traditional hybrids as it’s what came first, have batteries that can only be charged using the engine. Some, called plug-in hybrids or PHEVs, can be charged up using a plug, meaning you can actually use them like an electric car that happens to have an engine if you need it. They tend to have much smaller batteries than pure electric cars, so can only drive for around 30 miles or so on a single charge.
PHEVs tend to be less efficient than traditional hybrids when using the engine, as they’re often heavier. Yet if you stick to charging regularly, it’s possible to never use the engine at all, which means they’re as cheap to run as an electric car.
There are also hybrids call range extenders, though they are rare – the only model here is the BMW i3 Rex. This is essentially an electric car for the most part, but it has a tiny motor that can charge up the battery using petrol in an emergency. The engine can’t drive the wheels, only charge up the battery.
Which one works for you depends on your lifestyle. A range extender works for those who rarely do long trips and need a commuter car. PHEVs work for commuters who occasionally do long trips, and normal hybrids are a solution for those who either can’t charge up at home or tend to do plenty of longer trips.
Read on to find out best used hybrids for 2021…
Best used hybrid cars to buy
- BMW 330e
- Hyundai Ioniq PHEV
- Toyota Prius
- Kia Niro
- Toyota C-HR
- BMW i3 Rex
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
- Volkswagen Golf GTE
1. BMW 330e – Used Hybrid Car of the Year
- Our pick – 330e M Sport (2016/16, 59K miles, £13,500)
The BMW 3 Series has always been among the most accomplished compact executive saloons around,due in no small part to its wide range of both four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Its appeal only grew with the introduction of a plug-in hybrid; the 330e gave buyers the flexibility and convenience of a 2.0-litre petrol engine, yet the electric motor added benefits that include the ability not to emit any tailpipe pollutants when driving in town, and the possibility of slashing fuel bills – especially on short journeys.
BMW equipped the 330e with a 7.6kWh battery, which gives an EV-only range of 25 miles. Performance is smooth and adequate in electric mode thanks to an 87bhp motor, but when more power is needed, the 182bhp petrol unit intervenes to deliver a sprightly 6.1-second 0-62mph time.
That means its real-world performance isn’t far shy of that of a six-cylinder diesel-powered 330d of the same age, while its practicality is largely similar to that of the combustion alternatives, too. Passenger space front and rear is just as accommodating as it is throughout the rest of the 3 Series line-up. The battery is stored beneath the boot floor, and although the overall luggage capacity has dropped as a result, the 370-litre load volume is still reasonable.
Elsewhere, the 330e maintains all the qualities that make the 3 Series great. Out on the road, it will engage keener drivers thanks to its agile yet stable chassis balance, sharp steering and excellent grip. However, these sporty dynamics don’t come at the expense of comfort, because the 3 Series offers great long-distance refinement.
Inside, the cabin is logically laid out and as solidly screwed together as anything else in its class. BMW has consistently been at the forefront of infotainment systems, and even its previous-generation tech doesn’t feel all that old. The rotary-style iDrive click wheel and physical shortcut buttons make it an incredibly intuitive set-up to use.
See the latest BMW 330e prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
2. Hyundai Ioniq PHEV
The Hyundai Ioniq PHEV (plug-in hybrid) is a great alternative to the Toyota Prius if you want a comfortable, quiet and easy car to drive to work in. It has a range of around 39 miles if you charge the battery up, which is more than enough for the average commute.
It has a 1.6-litre petrol engine too, so if you do need to do a longer motorway trip there won’t be an issue. In our experience – we ran one as a long termer when new – it proved very efficient even with the battery run dry.
The Ioniq is a little dull inside but it has all the kit you could want, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which both work really well on the large touchscreen display on the dash. There’s plenty of room inside and models under five years old will still be covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty.
See the latest Hyundai Ioniq prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
3. Toyota Prius
The Prius has a fine reputation for environmentally-friendly motoring. It’s a great option if you’re looking to minimise your fuel bills without sacrificing other features, such as comfort or technology.
That’s because this fourth-generation Prius, which was introduced in 2015, moved to an all-new chassis, based on Toyota’s New Global Architecture platform. A sophisticated suspension set-up delivers a refined ride and impressive body control, so while the Prius focuses on sipping fuel, it’s actually surprisingly good to drive.
The 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor set-up claimed sub-100g/km emissions at launch, meaning earlier models are free to tax.
The CVT gearbox means the engine can drone if you ask for maximum acceleration, but this is at odds with the Prius’s relaxed and efficient character. Keep things settled, and it’s perfectly refined and comfortable.
You can add practicality to its broad list of attributes too. The platform was designed with hybrid powertrains in mind, so the batteries don’t eat into space in the rear, while the 343-litre boot is still fair.
Just watch for high-mileage examples. Many Priuses have been used as taxis thanks to their efficiency. The batteries are known to be reliable, but we’d hold out for a lower-mileage model as it’s more likely to be a privately-owned car.
See the latest Toyota Prius prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
4. Kia Niro
The Kia Niro is related to the Hyundai Ioniq. Both were available in fully-electric form as well as PHEV and traditional hybrid models. It’s the latter we’re looking at here for the Niro, which has a 1.6-litre engine and a small electric motor. Notably, it uses a dual-clutch automatic gearbox instead of a CVT, which means it’s more refined than models such as the Prius when you’re accelerating.
It’s not quite as smooth, comfortable or quiet as the Toyota in general driving, though. The Niro has looks on its side, as SUV fans will like its high-sided appearance. It’s relatively practical as a result too, with a 382-litre boot capacity.
It’s well equipped – all models have cruise and climate control, a multifunction steering wheel and sat-nav – and the infotainment set-up is good. The Niro should be efficient – expect over 50mpg at least, though a Prius or Ioniq will be even cheaper to run as they’re more aerodynamic.
See the latest Kia Niro prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
5. Toyota C-HR
If you want a stylish SUV that’s also a hybrid then the Toyota C-HR is a top choice. It uses similar running gear to the Prius, with a 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, using a CVT gearbox. It has a similar chassis set-up as well, so the C-HR is good to drive and comfortable.
The interior is a little cramped, as the rear roofline cuts into headroom and it feels a little dark in the back seats. Yet there’s still enough room for a family and the boot is decent, so it has plenty of appeal.
The C-HR is one of the best mid-size SUVs to drive that you can buy, despite the heavy battery. It’s nice and quiet at low speed and deals with potholes very well. It’s a great used buy because the Toyota engineering means it’s bound to be really reliable and cars under five will still have warranty left.
See the latest Toyota C-HR prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
6. BMW i3 Rex
The BMW i3 is an electric car, and there are versions with no engine at all – so those versions aren’t hybrids at all. However, until 2018 the cars was available as a range extender, or Rex as you’ll see in the classified ad titles. This means it has a tiny petrol engine on board that can charge the battery up in a pinch.
It has a small fuel tank so you can’t get far on petrol power, but it does mean that if you can’t find a public charge point on a longer trip, you can always top up with some fuel and add a few more miles while you’re driving.
It’s a great solution for those wanting an electric car, but without the range anxiety. The i3 is a fantastic car in its own right and for around £10,000 second hand it’s a bargain – the interior still looks fresh today and it’s great to drive as well.
See the latest BMW i3 Rex prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
7. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
There are plenty of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs available second hand because when the car launched, it was popular with company car buyers. This means it’s a good value used proposition for those wanting a larger SUV that has some electric propulsion.
The best part about the Outlander PHEV is its practicality, as it has a big boot and lots of room inside for passengers. It’s not so great in other areas, as it’s a bit noisy, not all that comfortable, dull to drive and not as efficient as you probably expect.
That said, the electric motor means that running costs are as low as you want them to be – if you prefer not to pay for fuel, simply charge up on a regular basis and use the electric motor only. You won’t get far, though – it can only manage about 30 miles even if you’re careful. The engine’s there for backup if you have to go further, though.
It should be reliable, though, so makes a good choice as a practical and rugged hybrid used car.
See the latest Mitsubishi Outlander prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
8. Volkswagen Golf GTE
If you want a hybrid car but still want to have some fun on the drive to work the Volkswagen Golf GTE could be the car for you. Okay, it’s nowhere near as fun as the Golf GTI, but the GTE is still enjoyable on a twisty road, has plenty for performance and that all-important electric motor.
It means you can use the engine for the fun parts of your drive to work, then let the near-silent electric motor take care of the bits around town. The GTE is a Golf, so it’s practical, comfortable and packed with kit as well – all the traits of a great all-rounder.
The Golf GTE can be bought for around £10,000 at the moment, which looks good value for a car with this wide a spread of ability. Unlike many other types of car, models that have been used mostly for commuting at low speed could be a good investment, as they won’t have as much engine wear as ones that have been used on the motorway. That goes for all the other cars on this list, too.
See the latest Volkswagen Golf GTE prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
Find out more about the best used cars you can buy in each market sector with our Used Car Awards…