Hybrid cars are now available in all shapes and sizes. There are posh SUVs, streamlined sports cars and swish saloons, all boasting the environmental credentials of a hybrid power system. But what about smaller cars?
One big challenge manufacturers face when creating hybrid cars is the cost of the technology. Although this has reduced from the eye-watering numbers once involved, a hybrid power supply is still more expensive to design and manufacture than a regular petrol or diesel engine and manual gearbox.
These extra costs are more easily absorbed into the price of a luxury saloon or SUV than that of a small hatchback. As a result of this, relatively few manufacturers have taken the step of releasing hybrid-engined versions of their smaller models. Those that have, though, can enjoy the pioneering reputation their small hybrids deserve, although buyers will find themselves paying extra for hybrid functionality.
It’s perhaps ironic that so few small hatchbacks are available as hybrids – it’s generally smaller cars that spend much of their lives cooped up in urban environments, and it’s in congested conditions that the benefits of hybrid cars are most pronounced. Traffic moving silently and cleanly on electric power is far better news for pedestrians than the plume of dirt and soot that some cars produce when accelerating away from the lights.
We expect that hybrid technology will over time become less expensive and on the back of that a greater choice of small hybrid cars should become available. For now, here’s our five favourite small hybrids that you can buy right now.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid hatchback
As one of the champions of hybrid technology, Toyota is unsurprisingly one of the few companies to offer a supermini-sized car with a hybrid powertrain. The Toyota Yaris Hybrid offers the same attributes of compact size, spacious interior and ease of driving that buyers of the regular Yaris enjoy, but adds fuel economy of up to 85.6mpg. The Yaris Hybrid is also zero-rated for road tax as long as you buy one before the new road-tax system comes in and models with the smaller, more efficient 15-inch alloy wheels are exempt from the London Congestion Charge. It’s just a shame the Yaris isn’t more rewarding to drive – particularly when a Ford Fiesta diesel can be more fun, more affordable and not hugely less economical.
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