The best hybrid cars of 2018

The best hybrid cars save fuel without sacrificing fun

2017 Toyota Prius

From novel curiosities to an integrated part of the automotive mainstream, hybrid cars have come a long way. That means there are more choices than ever, and that buyers don’t have to give up things like comfort, practicality, or even performance just to have the best fuel economy. There’s no need to buy a good hybrid that isn’t also a good car. These are the best hybrid cars you can buy.

Toyota Prius

The best

2016-toyota-prius_bestof

Why should you buy this: The Prius continues to define the hybrid category in most every way.

Who’s it for: Anyone who hates visiting the gas station.

How much will it cost: $24,685+

Why we picked the Toyota Prius:

The name “Prius” is synonymous with “hybrid,” and for good reason. Toyota’s bestselling hybrid continues to prioritize fuel economy above all else, and though efficiency is its main goal, the Prius doesn’t ask buyers to make any major compromises.

The Prius is the most fuel-efficient hybrid around, getting an EPA-rated 56 mpg combined in Eco trim. That’s thanks to Toyota’s tried-and-true Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 40-percent thermal efficiency, which is much higher than in most engines. The Prius also achieves a very low drag coefficient of 0.24, meaning it has fairly low aerodynamic drag, which helps improve efficiency. Toyota’s designers managed to do that while maintaining a roomy cabin and useful hatchback shape.

The current-generation Prius is also appreciably sportier than previous models, thanks to changes like a lower center of gravity and a more sophisticated double-wishbone independent rear suspension system. Like other Toyota models, the Prius also gets the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver-assistance features—including adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection—as standard equipment.

The Prius is still a fuel-economy champ, but the current version’s emphasis on sporty handling and technology make it a better all-around car than ever before.

Our 2016 Toyota Prius first drive impressions

Honda Accord Hybrid

The best hybrid sedan

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Why should you buy this: It has more power and better fuel economy than any other hybrid midsize sedan.

Who’s it for: The hybrid driver that likes to fly under the radar.

How much will it cost: $29,605+

Why we picked the Honda Accord Hybrid:

If you want a hybrid that looks like any other car, many manufacturers offer hybrid versions of their popular midsize sedans. Among the best of that group is the Honda Accord Hybrid, which returns refreshed and reinvigorated for 2017 after a one-year hiatus.

The Accord achieves an EPA-rated 48 mpg combined, making it the most fuel-efficient hybrid midsize sedan available. It comes pretty close to Prius levels of efficiency, without the Toyota’s aerodynamic advantages. The Accord’s powertrain—based around a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine—is set up to emphasize electric driving. An electric motor is used to drive the wheels most of the time, with the engine acting as a generator. Total system output of 212 horsepower is also the best among hybrid midsize sedans.

The Accord Hybrid also benefits from the rest of the changes made to the Accord lineup for 2016, including an updated infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Based on our experience with the non-hybrid Accord, we’re confident that the updated hybrid sedan will provide a pleasing driving experience.

Our 2016 Honda Accord Hybrid first drive impressions

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The best hybrid utility vehicle

2016-toyota-rav4_bestof

Why should you buy this: It’s a hybrid that’s not afraid of a little bad weather.

Who’s it for: People in the Snow Belt.

How much will it cost: $29,030+

Why we picked the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid:

The RAV4 offers a combination of features virtually no other model has: a hybrid powertrain, all-wheel drive, and a high-riding crossover body. Given the current popularity of crossovers, it’s a bit surprising more automakers haven’t followed Toyota’s lead.

The result is a vehicle that offers useful foul-weather capability and plenty of cargo space, but with a much less severe fuel-efficiency penalty than conventional SUVs (it gets an EPA-rated 32 mpg combined). The powertrain is based on Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive tech, with an added electric motor to drive the rear wheels. This eliminates the need for a driveshaft, saving weight and space.

The RAV4 itself also offers a refined driving experience that’s a far cry from the cheap feel of some early compact crossovers. As with buyers of conventional cars, the hybrid model provides added utility for people who need a little more room than the average sedan or hatchback.

Our 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid first drive impressions 

Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid

The best hybrid performance car

Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
The best hybrid performance car: Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid

Why you should buy this: It provides a rare blend of efficiency and all-around performance.

Who’s it for: People who want a high-end sports sedan without the high CO2 emissions.

How much will it cost: $99,600+

Why we picked the Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid:

Porsche’s Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is a multi-tasker. First, it’s positioned near the middle of the Panamera hierarchy. It’s more powerful than the base car and more affordable than either of the high-zoot Turbo models. Second, it’s also a plug-in hybrid capable of Porsche-like performance one minute and zero-emissions driving the next. Going from one mode to the other requires only a simple push of a button.

The E-Hybrid’s swoopy sheet metal hides a twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V6 engine that makes 330 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque on its own. It works with a 136-hp electric motor linked to a 14.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The total output checks in at a V8-like 462 hp, but the drivetrain also provides up to 30 miles of electric range at no more than 90 mph.

Drivetrain aside, it’s still a Porsche. It looks like a Porsche and, importantly, it handles like one. It accelerates like one, too, thanks in part to the instant torque provided by the electric motor. When we drove it in Germany, we were impressed with the quality of the materials in the cabin. The biggest downside to the E-Hybrid is that the aforementioned battery pack eats up about three cubic feet of trunk space, reducing capacity to 14.3 cubes with four adults on board.

Our 2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid review

Cadillac CT6 Plug-In

The best hybrid luxury car

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In

Why should you buy this: It’s a fantastic luxury sedan that just happens to be a plug-in hybrid.

Who’s it for: People who want to save the planet in style.

How much will it cost: $75,095+

Why we picked the Cadillac CT6 Plug-In:

The Cadillac CT6 Plug-In is a great hybrid largely because the non-hybrid CT6 was already a great luxury sedan. We liked its styling, driving dynamics, and thoughtful integration of tech so much that we gave it an award.

On top of that solid foundation, the CT6 Plug-In adds a more efficient powertrain that allows the driver to travel further between fill ups. With its 18.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack fully charged, the CT6 can travel up to 31 miles on electric power alone, or achieve an EPA-rated 62 MPGe in hybrid mode.

If you feel less like saving energy and more like getting somewhere in a hurry, the CT6 Plug-In can muster 335 hp and 432 pound-feet of torque using a combination of electric power and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine. While it’s not a sporty car per se, the CT6 has enough power to get out of its own way.

While trailblazing hybrids like the Toyota Prius have their place, sometimes people just want a regular car. The Cadillac CT6 Plug-In shows that a well-designed existing model and a plug-in hybrid powertrain can be a winning combination.

Our 2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In review

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The best hybrid minivan

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Why should you buy this: Comfortable, efficient, and handsome — the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is without fault.

Who’s it for: Bustling families with a need for maximum cargo and passenger volume.

How much will it cost: $41,995+

Why we picked the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid:

While the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid could earn a spot on this list simply for being the only hybrid minivan on the market, that’s not the reason we’ve included it (nor is that the reason we chose it as our best daily driver car of 2017). Rather, we fell in love with this people-mover for its blend of handsome styling, innovative features, comfortable ride, and driving dynamics (yes, we just said a minivan was fun to drive).

The Pacifica Hybrid does all the things customers demand of a minivan — carry eight passengers, offer creative interior storage options, bundle front and rear rider entertainment, and ride smoothly. Beyond these check boxes, the Chrysler van uses its plug-in hybrid powertrain to deliver 33 miles of all-electric range and 500-plus total miles of gas-electric range. Furthermore, the Pacifica doesn’t bore you to death with its exterior styling, power, or handling.

While its price tag may seem high at first glance, when you break down all the features of the Premium ($41,995) or Platinum ($44,995) trims, it’s one heck of a deal. Let’s not forget the federal tax credit of $7,500 and any applicable state credits that pull the sticker price way down. We wouldn’t just pick the Pacifica Hybrid over any other minivan; we’d seriously consider it over some of the better midsize SUVs.

Our 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid first drive impressions

How we test

The Digital Trends automotive team tests vehicles through a comprehensive scrutinizing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested as well as safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.

Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.

Common hybrid words you may not know

Not all hybrid cars are created equal, and you might hear different terms used to describe different types of hybrid powertrains. Here’s quick overview.

  • Mild Hybrid: The least aggressive application of hybrid technology. Mild hybrids have electric motors, but those motors usually aren’t powerful enough to drive a car entirely by themselves.
  • Series-Parallel Hybrid/Full Hybrid: The most common type of hybrid. They can use an internal-combustion engine, an electric motor, or a combination of both to propel themselves.
  • Through The Road Hybrid: All-wheel drive hybrids that use internal-combustion power for one set of wheels, and electric power for the other.
  • Plug-In Hybrid: A hybrid that can charge its battery pack from an external electric power source, just like an electric car.