Best hybrid family cars 2021
The best hybrid family cars on the market deliver low running costs and unbeatable practicality. Here are our top picks for 2021...
What's the perfect family car? For most people, it would be spacious enough to fit everybody inside as well as all their stuff in the boot, yet also with ultra-low running costs to save as much money as possible.
A hybrid family car is a great option if those are your two main priorities, as they bring strong efficiency without sacrificing practicality – and unlike an electric car, they're able to conveniently travel long distances at short notice. There's also the option of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), although these tend to be less efficient if you don't have the ability to plug in regularly.
Traditional hybrid cars use a small electric motor and battery, which means there's little intrusion on passenger space. They're also designed to make the engine more efficient above all, so end up being really efficient without the driver having to make any change to their driving style. This is because the electric motor typically kicks 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? Here are our top picks for 2021...
Majoring on comfort, refinement and build quality, the Honda CR-V is a mid-sized family SUV boasting 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid power and a choice of front or four-wheel drive. It’s not an entirely normal set-up, as for most of the time the petrol engine doesn't directly drive the wheels – but it's easy to drive and works well.
Average economy officially tops out at a fairly disappointing 43mpg, but we managed as much as 45mpg in tests. It’s not the most efficient car on this list, but the CR-V is a very comfortable and quiet family car that’s sure to be reliable and very easy to own. Read our Honda CR-V review here.
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 61-63mpg and CO2 emissions of 102-105g/km.
While the exterior is rather generic-looking, the Ioniq Hybrid is spacious inside and will comfortably seat a family of five, with 443 litres of boot space. The Ioniq is easy to drive and very smooth, so it's relaxing. It's also a reliable choice with a five-year warranty. Read our Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid review here.
Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
The Hyundai Tucson Hybrid is an affordable and practical family SUV with 50mpg economy and very distinctive looks. It uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with a small electric motor and battery to make an impressive 227bhp, so performance is strong.
It's also good to drive and has a lot of standard kit, plus it's well built and should be really reliable. It's not as much fun to drive as some of its rivals, such as a Ford Kuga, but it's a great all-round family car. Read our Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review here.
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 110-120g/km and economy of 53-59mpg. The Niro isn't as efficient as the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid it shares parts with, but it's practical and has a more stylish image that some will prefer. Read our Kia Niro review here.
Kia Sorento Hybrid
The Kia Sorento Hybrid is a big family SUV with loads of room inside, a pleasant driving experience and lots of standard kit. It's a little expensive and not as comfortable as it could be, but the Sorento is one of our favourite hybrid family cars overall.
It uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine alongside the electric motor, and returns 38-41mpg and emits 158-168g/km of CO2. The in-car technology is top-notch and there's all the equipment you could want on all but the lowest trim levels. Read our Kia Sorento Hybrid review here.
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.
The NX 300h delivers 37-40mpg and emissions of 161-175g/km of CO2. The batteries provide enough charge for around a mile of driving without the engine running, which means the NX 300h copes well around town. It's good to drive, if not particularly exciting, and it's comfortable and well-built. It's a little noisy when accelerating but the luxurious cabin adds a lot of appeal. Read our Lexus NX review here.
The Suzuki Swace is a Toyota Corolla with Suzuki badges and some other small tweaks. That's no bad thing, because the Corolla (below) is an excellent car, and while the Swace isn't as good value as the Toyota, it's still a great-driving, comfortable and practical family car with great efficiency.
It'll return around 64mpg and emits 103g/km, so it's cheap to run. Unlike in the Toyota there's no 2.0-litre option, you can only choose the 1.8-litre motor – but that's okay, because it does the job and is quiet. Read our Suzuki Swace review here.
Toyota revived the Corolla name for its Auris replacement in 2018, and the latest car is a great all-rounder and a fine alternative to the non-hybrid establishment. Power comes from a 1.8 or 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to a small battery. Around 50-66mpg is achievable and CO2 emissions are 101-120g/km.
The Corolla’s well sorted chassis strikes a great balance between handling and comfort, while an array of bodystyles means there’s a car in the range for just about everyone. Clunky infotainment and a less-than-perfect CVT gearbox are slight issues, but not enough to spoil what's a great recipe overall. Read our Toyota Corolla review here.
The Toyota Prius is the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid’s main rival, and while it’s a little more expensive than the South Korean car, running costs should be lower in the long run. A 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor join up to produce 121bhp, and the claimed fuel economy of 59-68mpg is easy to achieve in the real world.
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. It's roomy, comfortable and good to drive, too. Read our Toyota Prius review here.
If you like the idea of a rugged-looking, practical, hybrid-powered SUV, then the RAV4 should be all the car you need. Its 2.5-litre petrol-electric drivetrain is connected to a CVT gearbox, much as you’ll find on models from Toyota’s sister brand Lexus, and despite the SUV’s considerable size, it’ll return 49-50mpg.
The RAV4 is one of the best-handling cars of its type yet it's also comfortable and roomy inside, so it's a fantastic choice if you really want an SUV as your next family car. Read our Toyota RAV4 review here.
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