Smallest plug in hybrids

Looking for a small car with the lowest possible fuel costs but not ready to go fully electric yet? These plug-in hybrids could fit the bill

James Wilson
Jun 13, 2022

Driving one of the smallest plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) can make a lot of sense, especially if you regularly drive in places such as town and city centres - where being able to run on battery power alone can be useful - but also need to be able to do long trips relatively often and would rather not have to stop and charge an electric car.

Easy-to-drive PHEVs with smaller dimensions can be perfect for navigating tight and busy urban roads, often providing up to around 30 miles of range from a full battery. With the backup of a petrol or diesel engine, though, PHEVs, can work well on faster roads, too, with some being able to travel at motorway speeds using battery power alone - though higher speeds will deplete the battery faster.

Fail to charge the car regularly or run it with a flat battery often and fuel economy will be much worse than the official figures, as the car has to lug around the weight of the electric motor and battery pack, but without much electric assistance, making it inefficient.

Most PHEVs are larger cars and so there's less choice when it comes to small models. However, whether you want a car that is relatively small overall, or particularly easy to park or manoeuvre around town, there are still a number of options.

Those with a long but narrow drive or garage might need a small car that is particularly narrow but offers good passenger space while those who regularly park in short spaces might be on the hunt for a short car but aren’t so concerned about its width. So, we have included a cross-section of small plug-in hybrids.

Two are the smallest in terms of overall size, two in terms of length, two in terms of width and two in terms of height. This means that whatever space restrictions you face, there should be a car to suit you.

One thing that all the models have in common is that they are plug-in hybrids. This means their battery pack is larger than those in traditional hybrids or mild hybrids but much smaller than electric cars, and they also include a conventional petrol or diesel engine. 

To get anywhere near the official fuel economy figures for a PHEV, you'll have to charge it regularly. If you are going to struggle to do this, it might be better to consider a traditional hybrid instead. All mainstream plug-in hybrids use an automatic gearbox and typically have a battery-powered range of between 25 and 45 miles from a full charge.

Smallest plug-in hybrids

Smallest plug-in hybrids by width

1. Toyota Prius

Best small plug-in hybrid for narrow driveways

Our pick Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT-h Plug-in Excel
Used deals from £19,700
Monthly finance from £274*

Underneath the angular bodywork of the Toyota Prius is an impressive hybrid system. This model was discontinued in 2022, and while most models sold in the final months on sale were plug-in hybrids, older models were also available with self-charging hybrid setups - so be sure to check each advert carefully to be sure which versions you're looking at. Regardless of the Prius you choose, all promise to be a comfortable car to drive.

Despite the relatively small proportions of the Prius, it is really quite practical. The boot can fit up to 359 litres of luggage which is slightly down on cars such as the Ford Focus which has a 385-litre boot, but the electric gubbins has to fit in the car somewhere. Day to day most people won’t notice this difference but thanks to the sloping rear roofline of the Toyota, its boot is less suited to handling the occasional bulky or tall item. Space for the driver and passengers is generally good, though - especially in the front seats.

TOYOTA PRIUS BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Jeep Renegade

Best small plug-in hybrid for going off-road

Our pick Jeep Renegade 1.3 GSE PHEV 4xe Trailhawk
Used deals Limited stock

Jeep makes some truly huge cars but the Renegade is its smallest model and is therefore much more suited to those looking for a compact car. The plug-in hybrid model is called the Renegade 4xe ('four-by-e') and is a strong contender for anyone shopping for a small plug-in hybrid with the ability to go a little off-road. Compared to the other cars on this list, the Renegade is relatively tall, which will make getting in and out easier for some people.

With a full charge, the Jeep is claimed to be able to travel up to 31 miles using only battery power, which is about average for plug-in hybrids. On the face of things, the Renegade 4xe looks expensive, but considering the only alternative that can also boast of off-road ability is the Range Rover Evoque PHEV - which is significantly more expensive - the Jeep looks good value, espeically as high-riding models are hugely popular.

JEEP RENEGADE BUYERS' GUIDE

Smallest plug-in hybrids by length

3. BMW i3 REx

Best small plug-in hybrid for short parking spaces

Our pick BMW i3 REx
Used deals Limited stock

Unlike most plug-in hybrids, the BMW i3 REx uses a tiny petrol engine to support a battery and electric motor rather than a battery and electric motor to support a petrol engine. Effectively, the i3 REx is an electric car with a little generator that fires into life if the battery pack runs low on charge.

It is an innovative system that helps remove any anxiety a driver may have about running out of charge. And the benefit is that you'll be able to spend more time driving on electric power alone and burn less petrol (if any) compared with other plug-in hybrids, which have smaller batteries and bigger engines.

The i3 is likely to appeal to town drivers and there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, its compact dimensions make it easy to park and thread through tight streets, aided by a very tight turning circle. Secondly, the i3's low emissions mean it is exempt from levies such as the London Congestion Charge and models made before 1 April 2017 also qualify for zero road tax. Last but not least, the i3 has super-modern looks, along with unusual interior materials, such as optional eucalyptus wood trim for the dashboard.

BMW I3 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Renault Captur

Best small plug-in hybrid for older drivers

Our pick Renault Captur 1.6 E-Tech PHEV S Edition
Used deals from £22,290
Monthly finance from £335*

Renault launched a plug-in version of the Captur in 2021, so if you are shopping for a second-hand model, all of these are fairly new. As a result, you should be able to take advantage of the vast majority of the Renault warranty, which runs for five years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first). This is significantly more than the three-year or 60,000-mile warranty offered by brands such as Audi and Volkswagen. Meanwhile, the warranty on the battery used in the Captur runs for eight years or 100,000 miles.

Although the Captur is classed as an SUV, it is quite a small one, so it is easy to manoeuvre and park. Think of the Captur as a Renault Clio on stilts and you won’t be disappointed. Really, if you would like a small SUV you won’t be disappointed at all as the Captur is very much up there with the best - it's comfortable, easy to live with and offers a good balance of interior practicality and small exterior dimensions. Plus, the Captur can travel up to 30 miles on battery power alone, which is rare for this size of SUV.

RENAULT CAPTUR BUYERS' GUIDE

Smallest plug-in hybrids by height

5. Mercedes A-Class

Best small plug-in hybrid for upmarket looks

Our pick Mercedes A250e AMG Line
Used deals from £31,000
Monthly finance from £504*

The latest Mercedes A-Class is a great upmarket hatchback. Part of what makes this Mercedes so impressive is its cabin. It feels well built and can come with great tech such as the Mercedes 'MBUX' media system. MBUX uses two large screens for the driver’s display, which show's information such as your speed, and the media system, which is mounted on the middle of the dashboard. This includes slick voice controls that enable you to set the sat-nav, for instance, just by using plain English voice commands.

A250e models are plug-in hybrids and these promise a range of up to 44 miles per charge, which is more than most PHEVs. The A-Class is also lower than most alternatives, so if this is a consideration for you, it could be a good option. When it comes to driving, the electric motor is powerful enough to get the A250e up to motorway speeds without any support from the petrol engine, provided you drive smoothly. Handy for saving fuel if you have a short stint of 70mph roads as part of your commute.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS' GIUDE

6. Renault Megane

Best small plug-in hybrid for small families

Our pick Renault Megane 1.6 E-Tech PHEV Iconic
Used deals Limited stock

Another Renault to qualify as one of the smallest plug-in hybrids is the Megane E-Tech. This is a direct alternative to the likes of the Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308 and Ford Focus. As a result, it is well suited to family transport for those with smaller families. There are estate versions, too. These are called ‘Sport Tourers’ and offer a larger boot that can be great for dogs or bulky work gear.

Hybrid models have ‘E-Tech PHEV’ in their name and can travel up to 30 miles from a charge, using only the battery for power. Overall, the hybrid Megane is at its best when town driving, as it takes stop-start traffic in its stride and the light steering means that winding through urban obstacles should be stress-free, too. Out of town journeys are no problem, though at higher speeds the blending of the electric motor and petrol engine isn’t quite as smooth.

RENAULT MEGANE BUYERS' GUIDE

Smallest plug-in hybrids by volume

7. Kia Xceed

Best small plug-in hybrid for a long warranty

Our pick Kia Xceed 1.6 GDi PHEV '3'
Used deals Limited stock

The Kia Xceed exceeds in a handful of key areas. One is running costs. If you are moving from a petrol or diesel car and can regularly charge the Xceed PHEV, you should see significant savings in fuel bills, although this is true of most plug-in hybrids. On paper, the Kia can travel up to 30 miles on a full charge, so those who drive up to 25 miles or so per day could go months without filling up with petrol.

Another benefit is the quality, with the touchscreen media system being a great example. It is dead easy to use, it's large, and it reacts quickly to taps, so although it does not look as glamorous as the MBUX screens used in Mercedes models, it is still up there with the best in the business.

One mark against the Xceed is its boot. Non-hybrid models come with a 426-litre boot, which is rather good for a car of this size, but the addition of the plug-in hybrid’s battery pack means this shrinks to 291 litres. While this is quite small for a car of this size, plenty of other plug-in hybrids suffer from smaller boots, so this Kia is not alone.

KIA XCEED BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Audi A3

Best small plug-in hybrid for a high-quality cabin

Our pick Audi A3 40 TFSI e Sport
Used deals from £28,490
Monthly finance from £444*

If you are in the market for a small but upmarket plug-in hybrid there are a surprising number of options - the Mercedes A-Class being one and the Audi A3 TFSI e being another. All Audi A3 PHEVs use a 1.4-litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor. In total, the system produces just over 200hp, which is relatively powerful in a car of this size. This power translates to a quick 0 to 62mph sprint time of 7.6 seconds.

One of the best features of the A3 is its cabin, as it is very well made and nicely designed. One standout feature is something called ‘Virtual Cockpit’ which replaces dials for fuel and speed with a digital display that can show a wide range of information - it can even act as a sat-nav display.

Unlike some plug-in hybrids which are better in town than out of it, the Audi A3 is incredibly smooth when past the city limits. In fact, at faster speeds the switch between electric power and the petrol engine can be so smooth you might not even notice it has happened. That is not always the case with plug-in hybrids.

AUDI A3 BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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