Best hybrid family cars

The best hybrid family cars on the market deliver low running costs and unbeatable practicality. Here’s our top five…

Family cars must tick two key boxes: they need to be economical to ensure running costs are kept to a minimum, and they need to be practical enough to cope with the rigours of family life.

And on these two points, hybrid cars a great, because they can improve the former without hindering the latter. Where a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) might have reduced boot space and legroom due to a sizeable battery, a standard hybrid doesn't have to make the same compromise.

This is because hybrid systems take up far less space than their PHEV equivalents, and while they aren't able to drive as far on electric power alone, they're adept at making a petrol or diesel car as economical as possible.

Hybrid cars achieve this by employing either a starter-generator or a small, self-charging battery to power an electric motor, typically kicking in at low speed when an internal-combustion engine is at its least efficient.

This means you can navigate stop-start traffic and tricky parking manoeuvres without using any fuel, but when travelling long distances, you don’t also have the drawback of carrying around a heavy, idle PHEV system that's no longer contributing to the car's performance.

So what are the best hybrid family cars on the market at the moment? Our top five is as follows…

5. Lexus NX 300h

The Lexus NX 300h is one of the more striking five-door SUVs to look at thanks to its bold, angular design. It’s powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine assisted by an electric motor, helping to maximise fuel efficiency. Officially, the NX 300h delivers 48.7mpg in front-wheel-drive form, but it’s also capable of brief spells running on electric power alone. The batteries provide enough charge for around a mile of driving without the engine running, which means the NX 300h copes really well around town.

4. Toyota Auris Touring Sports

The Toyota Auris Touring Sports is a great choice if you’re after practicality and low running costs, especially as prices start from £22,870. Powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine, Toyota claims the Auris Touring Sports will return 65.6mpg, while the electric motors allow it to travel a mile or two on battery power alone. The automatic gearbox is a little noisy at times and the styling certainly looks a little dated, but a decent amount of equipment and a large boot ensure this is a very family-friendly car.

3. Kia Niro

In a section of the market where so many vehicles have opted for exuberant styling, the hybrid Kia Niro has gone for a more understated look. This translates into the character of the car: it’s roomy inside, well equipped and relaxing to drive, although the ride could be a little more forgiving. A 1.6-litre petrol engine combines with an electric motor to produce 139bhp, CO2 emissions of 88g/km and 74.3mpg, according to official figures. Prices start from £23,490, and Kia’s seven-year warranty ensures you’ll get a good deal regardless of which trim you choose.

2. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid has a 1.6-litre petrol engine that produces a total of 139bhp when working in conjunction with an electric motor. Unlike some of its rivals, the Ioniq Hybrid isn’t capable of driving on electric power alone, although the self-charging system helps it to achieve official figures of 78.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 84g/km. While the exterior is rather generic, the Ioniq Hybrid is spacious inside and will comfortably seat a family of five, with 443 litres of boot space to factor into the equation. It’s competitively priced too, starting from £21,790…

1. Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid’s main rival, and while it’s a little more expensive than the Ioniq, running costs should be lower in the long run. A 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor join forces to produce 121bhp, with claimed fuel economy of up to 83.1mpg. This means the Prius should go a little further than the Ioniq Hybrid between trips to the fuel station, and a small amount of electric-only driving range means you’ll be better off in traffic as well. As a hybrid family car, the Prius will serve you well.