Best small hybrid car 2024

It's hard not to be impressed by the current crop of small hybrid cars. How are manufacturers able to cram so much tech into such a small package yet keep the cars affordable for the modern motorist? 

Better still, small hybrid cars offer incredibly low running costs, with an ability to tackle city streets using nothing but electric power. Yes, they're more expensive to buy than equivalent small cars with petrol or diesel engines, but it won't be long before you start seeing the benefit of lower monthly outgoings.

There are two types of small hybrid cars: ‘self-charging’ and plug-in. The latter is more expensive, but, if you remember to plug them in overnight, you should wake up to enough electric juice for a typical daily commute.

Here, we've picked some of our favourite ‘self-charging’ and plug-in hybrid cars.

 Best small hybrid cars



Toyota Yaris Hybrid

The popular Toyota Yaris is the Japanese company’s best-selling car in the UK, and a regular fixture of the monthly top 10 car sales chart. The latest version is better than ever, combining genuinely striking, hot hatch-like styling with sub-four-metre length and decent room inside. It has five doors as standard, along with a 286-litre boot. The 1.5-litre hybrid drivetrain is smooth and efficient, and owners report being amazed at how far this ‘self-charging’ hybrid will travel in pure electric mode. It’s not uncommon for more than half an average city trip to be driven in EV mode, with corresponding benefits to overall fuel economy.

Read our full Toyota Yaris review

Mercedes A 250 e

The Mercedes A 250 e – which is now available only as a saloon – combines 218PS and 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds with an official fuel economy of up to 353mpg, plus a pure electric range of up to 51 miles. A powerful 15.6kWh battery is behind this wizardry; if you’re able to charge it overnight, the 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine may rarely start up in everyday driving. The Mercedes is very popular with company car drivers, and for good reason. It’s so efficient, they can save a small fortune in Benefit-in-Kind tax payments.

Read our full Mercedes A-Class review

Honda Jazz

The latest Jazz infuses Honda’s long-running, ultra-practical five-door supermini with some of the cute, quirky styling of the pure electric Honda e city car. The Jazz uses an innovative twin-motor hybrid system, which is so clever, it doesn’t even need a regular gearbox. The petrol engine instead powers a generator, which drives another motor to turn the wheels. This means the Jazz has the ability to shut down its engine even at motorway speeds. Result: plenty of pure electric motoring and excellent fuel economy. It remains incredibly roomy inside, too, with acres of passenger space front and rear, plus the brilliant Honda Magic Seats that turn this compact hatchback into something akin to a small van.

Read our full Honda Jazz review

SEAT Leon e-Hybrid

The SEAT Leon e-Hybrid is a surprisingly affordable plug-in hybrid family hatchback with a dash of Spanish style. It uses a 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged engine in combination with an electric motor, plus a battery big enough to give a pure electric range of 40 miles. Company car drivers will love the resultant low tax bills, particularly as the system has an overall power of 204PS – almost hot hatch territory. If you have a wall box, the battery can be recharged from flat in four hours; but even if you have to rely on a three-pin plug, it can still charge in five hours. The sporty dynamics of the Leon mean it’s enjoyable to drive as well, particularly if you pick good-looking FR or FR Sport trim.

Read our full SEAT Leon review

Lexus UX

Opting for a small car doesn’t mean you can’t go premium, and when it comes to small hybrid SUVs, the Lexus UX is our premium pick. It’s a close battle though – the BMW plug-in X1 is also very good, but it’s a chunk more expensive. The UX 250h goes for full-hybrid power and should give you more than 50mpg from its petrol engine and electric motor combo. It’s also fantastic inside, with top-notch interior quality and really comfortable seats. The back seats drop down flat for extra practicality, giving you lots of flexibility in a relatively small package.

Read our full Lexus UX review

Renault Captur E-Tech

Renault offers the Captur in a choice of E-Tech variants – either conventional hybrid or plug-in hybrid. The former is cheaper, and provides a welcome lift in fuel economy over the conventional Captur. The E-Tech plug-in hybrid uses its bigger battery to significantly expand the car’s electric range to 30 miles. The 9.8kWh battery can be changed in a few hours using a regular domestic plug socket, too. But although the plug-in hybrid is much more efficient, it does cost significantly more upfront. It’s worth doing the sums to see which Captur is best for you.

Read our full Renault Captur review

MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

The plug-in hybrid version of MINI’s Countryman has been around for a few years now, but it continues to impress today. Few cars of this type have as much presence on the road thanks to its quirky looks and myriad customisation options, which means those who bought new were unlikely to see another one the same. It’s powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine and a battery that will give you around 30 miles on electric-only power. When it comes to practicality, the MINI eschews its brand name to offer impressive levels of space inside.

Read our full MINI Countryman review

Toyota Yaris Cross

The Toyota Yaris Cross is the small SUV alternative to the Yaris hatchback. It uses the same three-cylinder petrol engine and ‘self-charging’ hybrid system in combination with a CVT automatic gearbox. This gives everyday fuel economy touching 60mpg, plus the ability to travel for a surprising distance in pure electric mode – particularly around town. The Yaris Cross is another great example of Toyota space efficiency, with compact dimensions on the outside but a practical and flexible cabin within. It’s a stylish car, with more than a few SUV styling cues from the larger and more rugged RAV4 range.

Read our full Toyota Yaris Cross review

Renault Clio E-Tech

The Clio is available with an affordable hybrid system, which Renault calls ‘E-Tech hybrid’. It combines an efficient 1.6-litre petrol engine with a ‘self-charging’ hybrid setup. There’s also a snappy gearbox inspired by Renault’s involvement in F1 motor racing. It’s really clever technology, which feels good to drive, yet also serves up 50mpg or more in everyday use. If you’re easy on the accelerator, you’ll be surprised at how far you can travel without the engine kicking in. The technology further enhances the likeable Clio supermini, which is pretty and elegant to look at, and has a plush and comfortable interior.

Read our full Renault Clio review

Audi A3 TFSI e

The Audi A3 TFSI e is a premium plug-in hybrid version of the firm’s popular family hatchback. In 45 TFSI e guise, the combination of a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine and an electric motor produces 245PS for a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds. The battery has enough capacity for a driving range of up to 36 miles, so you could find that you need the petrol engine to complete your daily commute. Virtually indistinguishable from a regular A3, the TFSI e inherits the core car’s upmarket look, high-tech interior and impressive feeling of quality.

Read our full Audi A3 review

Are small hybrid cars worth it?

Proportionally, adding hybrid technology to a small, more affordable car does hike prices more than on a pricier vehicle. The effect is magnified further when you’re looking at more expensive plug-in hybrid technology. But even if you only cover an average mileage, the reduction in running costs will save you a small fortune on fuel. For many, small hybrid cars certainly are worth it overall.

What is the cheapest small hybrid car?

The cheapest small hybrid cars use regular ‘self-charging’ hybrid technology rather than a plug-in hybrid system. Such cars include the Toyota Yaris, Renault Clio and Honda Jazz, along with small SUV alternatives like the Toyota Yaris Cross and Renault Captur. All are affordable and notably more effective in terms of reducing fuel bills than more limited ‘mild hybrid’ technology.

Can I buy a small hybrid car as a plug-in hybrid?

The very smallest supermini hybrid cars are not yet available as plug-in hybrids. As mentioned, they would prove rather more expensive than is normal in this sector, due to the extra cost of the bigger batteries – prohibitively so in most cases. There are slightly larger options though, such as the Renault Captur, SEAT Leon, Mercedes A-Class, Audi A3 and MINI Countryman. However, they do tend to represent a jump up in price.

Ask HJ

Are hybrids eligible for Government grants?

What are the best small hybrids? Are hybrids subject to Government grants?
The Toyota Yaris Hybrid and Honda Jazz Hybrid are two very good small hybrids. Only cars with a list price of less than £50,000 with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and capable of travelling at least 70 miles without any emissions qualify for the Government's plug-in grant. That means, in reality, only pure electric vehicles.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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