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10 best hybrid vehicles in Australia

Hybrids have become the go-to choice of many Australians - so what are some of the best on the market?

The sale of hybrid electric vehicles continues to climb as automakers prepare to phase out vehicles powered solely by internal-combustion engines and buyers around the world embrace more efficient, eco-friendly options.

Research by JP Morgan suggests that by 2025 hybrid cars will represent a whopping 23 per cent of all vehicles sold worldwide.

The power of hybrids lies not just in the combination of their conventional engines with an electric motor, but their ability to provide that perfect safety net for those buyers still anxious about the range offered by purely electric alternatives.

They are like that pair of flats you carry in your bag for when your heels start to pinch on a night out.

So, how do hybrid electric vehicles work?

Hybrid Electrical Vehicles (HEV) use a conventional internal-combustion engine together with an electric motor to drive the vehicle.

For the driver, there is very little difference, as the systems tend to work independently, so the car drives like other vehicles and still uses either petrol or diesel (although hopefully significantly smaller amounts).

The wheels can be powered by the engine, the electric motor alone or by a combination of the two. The electric motor is charged by capturing energy generated during braking and by the combustion engine.

Generally, the electric motor helps acceleration from standstill and provides an extra boost when needed, while its battery powers the car at idle, which means a smaller combustion engine can be used.

This engine can also be tuned for efficiency rather than power or torque (using the Atkinson combustion cycle rather than the traditional Otto cycle), thus improving fuel consumption and saving money.

While hybrid electric vehicles are among the most fuel-efficient cars on our roads, they are less advantageous at highway speeds, where the additional weight of the vehicle and the reduced need for regenerative braking impact overall efficiency.

What about plug-in hybrids?


Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs) work in much the same fashion as regular hybrid vehicles, with the additional option of recharging the batteries via an external power source.

They have significantly larger batteries than HEVs and can be driven further in full-electric mode. They are the middle ground between conventional hybrids and fully electric vehicles.

Recharging is usually through a household powerpoint (taking around four to eight hours for a full charge), special faster wall boxes (two to four hours) and, rarely, some have the ability to use the super-fast public recharging network for charging times in half an hour or less.

PHEVs are quiet, efficient and, in electric mode, produce reduced emissions, but they are also expensive and require the inconvenience of both charging and refuelling to extract the optimum benefits.

Oh, and there's one more option...

You can also have a range-extender hybrid. In this case, the combustion engine never really propels the car. Instead, it is used to power a generator, which in turn recharges the batteries that power the electric motor that drives the wheels, like an EV. The now-discontinued BMW i3 range extender is an example of this, but Nissan’s current e-Power tech works on the same principle, driving the wheels only electrically, using the engine as a power source.

Choosing a hybrid vehicle

Hybrids make sense, and not just for the environmentally conscious. They allow you the best of both the combustion and electric-vehicle worlds in packages that rival their more conventional counterparts.

Range anxiety is no longer an issue as they can charge their own batteries and you can also choose between maximum efficiency and performance, depending on your preference and driving conditions.

The up-front costs are usually greater but electric motors are efficient converters of energy, offer excellent torque and zero tailpipe emissions, which means efficiency without compromising on power.

HEVs and PHEVs are best over shorter distances or for drivers that make multiple stops, like dropping the kids at school, then going to work, then the shops and activities and back home. This allows the best use of the regenerative-braking technology, increasing efficiency and overall benefits.

Boot space is sometimes reduced because batteries need to be accommodated, so make sure you account for your needs. Owners of plug-in hybrids will need access to parking in order to recharge, although you could use a public charging station if you don't have a garage at home.

Best hybrid cars in Australia

The increasing uptake of hybrid vehicles by Australian buyers has encouraged car manufacturers to improve choice by making more models available.

While the Toyota Prius and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, among the first hybrid cars in Australia, are probably the most well-known hybrids on offer, there is actually a wide selection of HEVs and PHEVs from which to shop, with a bevy of exciting variants on their way. Here are the best on the market.

Toyota Corolla

At one point, the Toyota Corolla was Australia’s most-popular model, but the shift away from passenger vehicles into SUVs and utes means it has now lost its crown.

However, the Corolla still maintains its position as one of Australia’s best-selling passenger vehicles, ahead of the Mazda3 and Hyundai i30, and the availability of a hybrid powertrain has done nothing but boost its popularity.

As one of the only small cars available in Australia as a hybrid, the Corolla ticks a lot of boxes – it’s practical, affordable and extra efficient.

With a fuel economy rating of just 4.2 litres per 100km thanks to a combination of a 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor, the Corolla Hybrid – available in hatch and sedan form – handily beats out rivals at the bowser, and is also one of the cheapest hybrid cars in Australia.

PriceFrom $32,110
Engine1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power72kW (103kW combined)
Fuel use4.2L/100km

Toyota RAV4

Toyota’s RAV4 has long-struggled against its arch-rival, the Mazda CX-5, but the introduction of a hybrid powertrain in the current-generation has flipped the script.

In fact, so popular is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid that wait times have blown out to 12 months or longer on some grades, and if the electrified SUV was a standalone model, it would still outsell the CX-5, as well as the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Ford Escape.

The RAV4 also won CarsGuide's car of the year award in 2019, making it one of the best hybrid SUVs, and best value hybrids, on the market.

Prices start from $42,260 before on-road costs for the GX Hybrid 2WD, with fuel economy pegged from as little as 4.7L/100km, while a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive ‘eFour’ version is also available for those wanting a bit more punch.

PriceFrom $42,260
Engine2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power131kW (163kW combined)
Fuel use4.7L/100km

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

Toyota Kluger

Want a hybrid seven-seater? Your choices are severely limited, but one of the options is Toyota’s new-generation Kluger.

The Prius V had to die for the Kluger Hybrid to live, and Toyota offers up its family-friendly SUV with a 2.5-litre petrol engine and dual-motor electric motor combo, returning 5.6L/100km.

Safety and equipment levels are also high for the Kluger, keeping family buyers happy and safe, while styling adheres to Toyota’s current design language.

PriceFrom $58,290
Engine2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power142kW (184kW combined)
Fuel use5.6L/100km

Nissan X-Trail

After years of ageing products which eroded Nissan’s once-great market share, the new-generation X-Trail has arrived in spectacular form to reclaim some of the brand’s glory.

With sharp new styling, up-to-date tech, and particularly its unusual hybrid drivetrain, the X-Trail looks to finally be a proper hybrid rival to the chart-storming RAV4.

It also debuts Nisan’s e-Power technology in Australia. Instead of Toyota’s predominantly parallel hybrid system, which can drive the wheels via both electric and combustion power, Nissan’s e-Power drives the wheels with electric power only, with the combustion engine not attached to the wheels and used only as a power generator.

Nissan says this promises the convenience and range of a combustion car, with the driving dynamics of an electric car. Currently the X-Trail e-Power is e-4ORCE all-wheel drive only, pairing a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine to dual electric motors.

PriceFrom $49,990
Engine1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power106kW (157kW combined)
TransmissionSingle-spped reduction gear
Fuel use6.1L/100km

Kia Sorento

Remember when we said there were few choices for those after a hybrid seven-seater? Well aside from the Toyota Kluger, the Kia Sorento represents the other option available for Aussie buyers, and happens to be one of the best hybrid family cars.

Available as a plug-in hybrid or a ‘self-charging’ hybrid, the electrified Sorento is available in the sole GT-Line trim that offers all the equipment, safety and technology demanded by buyers in 2022.

The Sorento hybrid is even more frugal than the Toyota Kluger, sipping just 5.5L/100km in its front-drive form which pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor via a 6-speed automatic.

Meanwhile, the PHEV uses the same drive set-up, but with a larger battery, and a more powerful electric motor, allowing a 68km WLTP-rated electric driving range and a claimed combined fuel consumption of just 1.9L/100km.

PriceFrom $66,750
Engine1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Power132kW (169kW combined)
TransmissionSix-speed automatic
Fuel use5.5L/100km

Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

Hyundai Kona

The second-generation Hyundai Kona now comes in hybrid electric form, giving buyers the choice of combustion, electric and HEV in small SUV format. Unlike Toyota’s hybrid transaxle ‘e-CVT’ transmission, or the X-Trail e-Power’s single-speed reduction gear, the Kona uses a six-speed dual clutch automatic with the electric motor mounted between the transmission and its 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine.

Also unlike previous-generation Hyundai hybrids, the Kona is now available in more basic and affordable trim levels.

PriceFrom $36,000
Engine1.6-litre petrol four-cylinder
Power77kW (104kW combined)
TransmissionSix-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel use3.9L/100km

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Outlander is the first truly new Mitsubishi in a very long time, and the mid-sizer burst onto the scene with an impressive second-generation plug-in hybrid which is both more affordable than some of its rivals, whilst also being available with seven seats and some rare features like the ability to use a fast public charging station.

The Outlander PHEV pairs a 2.5-litre engine to an electric motor via a tricky hybrid transaxle system, but to the end-user it feels like driving a continuously variable automatic.

Thanks to a relatively large battery for a PHEV, the Outlander can travel 85km (on the more lenient NEDC testing cycle) and if you keep it charged it has a claimed fuel consumption of just 1.5L/100km.

It even has vehicle-to-load systems allowing you to use the battery to power external household devices.

PriceFrom $57,290
Engine2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power98kW (185kW combined)
TransmissionHybrid transaxle
Fuel use1.5L/100km

Lexus NX

Don’t call it a spruced-up Toyota RAV4, because the Lexus NX Hybrid adds more than just premium appointments and a higher price tag.

For starters, the NX is part of Lexus’ new wave of products and features styling that will filter over to new models going forward.

The 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor combo also allows the NX Hybrid to return a fuel economy rating as little as 5.0L/100km, while its circa-$70,000 starting price makes it one the most affordable luxury hybrid SUVs on the market - to top it off, there’s even the option of all-wheel drive and a plug-in hybrid version at a more impressive starting price than many of its premium competitors.

PriceFrom $69,050
Engine2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power140kW (179kW combined)
Fuel use5.0/100km

Honda CR-V

Honda’s CR-V is back in next-generation form and looks to put Honda back on the map for many buyers with its new larger and more stylish form, as well as the introduction of the brand’s very good plugless hybrid drive system.

At launch, the CR-V e:HEV which pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with an electric motor in a very similar format to Toyota’s popular hybrids, was only available in the top-spec RS guise, although more grades are set to arrive over the course of 2024 and possibly beyond.

Engine2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power135kW (152kW combined)
Fuel use5.5L/100km

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

Haval Jolion

The Haval Jolion is China’s answer to the likes of the Toyota Corolla Cross, finally offering a convenient plugless hybrid rival at an impressive price.

The Jolion HEV is not just affordable, it has genuinely impressive fuel efficiency thanks to its powerful hybrid system and smooth hybrid transaxle (again, which behaves like a CVT for the driver), which also makes it the best version of the Haval small SUV to drive.

It even has some unusual features, like the ability to dial up the regenerative braking for an EV-like one pedal driving mode, adding to its appeal. It’s no wonder then that this model and its larger H6 sibling have driven solid growth for the Haval brand since their arrival.

PriceFrom $34,990
Engine1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Power70kW (139 combined)
TransmissionHybrid transaxle
Fuel use5.0L/100km

Coming soon

Even more hybrids, with and without plugs, are set to join the fray in the next 12 months both from big-name brands and new challengers.

Lexus LBX

The Lexus LBX is the premium brand’s version of the Toyota Yaris Cross, unlike the Toyota though, the Lexus looks to be a hybrid-only affair with a properly premium finish in front- or all-wheel drive.

Hyundai Tucson hybrid

Hyundai’s RAV4-challenger will arrive some time in 2024 with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain similar to the one which resides in its larger Santa Fe sibling.

Mazda CX-90 PHEV

The Mazda CX-90 moves the brand into previously unforeseen pricing territory, but brings with it an ultra-efficient and powerful drivetrain which pairs an electric motor with the brand’s signature 2.5-litre SkyActiv petrol engine for massive outputs of 241kW/500Nm.

BYD Seal U/Song Plus

BYD’s plug-in hybrid mid-size SUV has been spotted testing in Australia and is expected to debut the Chinese challenger brand’s DM-i plug-in hybrid drivetrain in Australia which in this case consists of a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine and some pretty powerful electric motors. A version of this PHEV set-up is also expected to arrive in the brand’s upcoming but yet-to-be revealed ute, so it could be a taste of the next big thing for BYD.

Toyota C-HR

The second-generation C-HR will move in a different, hybrid-only and design-led direction thanks to the arrival of its more mainstream Corolla Cross sibling, bringing with it both 1.8-litre FWD hybrid and 2.0-litre AWD hybrid set-ups, as well as the latest interior tech.

The future of hybrids

While there is a concerted effort by manufacturers and governments around the world to increase the uptake of purely electric vehicles, there is also a recognition that hybrids and plug-in hybrids are a useful stepping stone.

Most manufacturers are already starting to adopt what they call mild-hybrid technology by incorporating very small electric motors in the car's make-up to provide power during start-up and idle. Odds are that most drivers don't even realise it is there.

Most of us are just trying to get from one place to another without it costing too much. Research tells us that more than 52 per cent of Australian drivers would seriously consider a hybrid purchase and, given the growing range of offerings, perhaps the future, for now at least, is hybrid.