Self-charging cars are a happy medium between a traditional petrol-powered vehicle and a plug-in hybrid vehicle. They have electric motors to improve the efficiency of their engines, but they don’t need to be plugged into the mains to allow the motors to work properly.
All the electricity required to run the motors is produced by the car, using either its engine as a generator or by recovering the energy that would otherwise be wasted when slowing down in a process called regenerative braking. If you’re an F1 fan, this tech works a bit like KERS.
Self-charging hybrid cars have exploded in popularity since the turn of the century. The Toyota Prius brought the technology to the mass market – and these days, you can have a self-charging hybrid system in everything from a small family hatchback to an enormous seven-seat SUV. There’s a healthy stock of hybrid-powered used cars in the UK, too, so don’t feel like you need to shop new.
Another benefit of self-charging hybrid cars is that they can dodge the London ULEZ charge. Plus, because their emissions are so low, you’ll pay less in road tax – and you stand to save a lot of money on fuel compared to a traditional petrol car if you’re prepared to drive carefully.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top five self-charging hybrid cars on sale today to give you a starting point for your shortlist. They’re not all miserable econoboxes, either – some of the cars below are genuinely fun to drive and seriously well-made. Scroll down to learn more.
The top five self-charging hybrids in the UK
We love the Honda Civic. It’s very efficient – you can easily achieve 60mpg around town, or 54mpg with a mixture of town and country driving. It’s one of the best-driving family hatchbacks on sale, running rings around the Volkswagen Golf and giving the class-leading Ford Focus a good run for its money.
It’s also a nice place to be. Its interior is spacious, very well equipped and exceptionally well made. If that wasn’t enough, it also undercuts many of its rivals on price if you spec them like-for-like, even on finance. It’s the deal of the decade. Don’t miss out.
Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
You could see this one coming a mile off. As we mentioned above, Toyota popularised the modern self-charging hybrid system with the Prius – and it’s championed the technology ever since. The Corolla is a fine example of the breed. The 1.8-litre model will be more than powerful enough for most drivers and it returns mpg figures in the mid-50s without much effort.
There are loads of cars to choose from on the used market but, if you can, buy a facelifted car. The update brought a little more power and a greatly improved infotainment system. You can also have the car as a hatchback, but we reckon the Touring Sports estate is the one to go for. It has a little more space in the rear and a much larger boot.
It’s another Honda! The Jazz is a lot smaller than the Civic, but it’s no less clever because it has a small footprint, but an incredibly versatile interior. It has space inside for four enormous adults or, if you fold the rear seats flat, there’s enough storage space to make a courier van blush.
You can only have the Jazz with one powertrain. It’s only a 1.5-litre hybrid system compared to the 2.0-litre powertrain found in the Civic – and that means it’s a little less eager. With four bodies and a boot full of luggage on board, the engine can sound strained. It’s also quite expensive for its class, but you can justify the expense with the fuel savings and the sheer amount of room inside.
Now to the opposite end of the motoring spectrum. The Sorento is a seven-seat SUV – and it’s available with a rather good self-charging hybrid powertrain. It teams a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 1.48kWh battery pack and a 44.2kW electric motor for a combined output of 229hp and, more importantly, fuel economy in the mid-40mpg range. Performance is best described as adequate, but what do you expect? It’s a two-tonne SUV.
And besides, this car was never built to go quickly. It was built to be comfortable – and it serves up comfort in spades. The front and middle seats are wide and accommodating, there’s loads of standard equipment (including three-zone climate control and a heated steering wheel) and the ride quality is supple enough to soak up Britain’s many, many potholes. Just bear in mind that the third seating row is a little tight for tall adults and it’s rather pricey at £50,000.
Toyota Yaris Cross
Back to Toyota and the simply staggering Yaris Cross. Why’s it so staggering? How does 60mpg from a family SUV sound? That’s diesel levels of efficiency from an electrified petrol engine yoked to a brick-faced crossover – and that’s no small feat. Team that with Toyota’s legendary reliability record and industry-leading 10-year warranty and you’ll probably have all the car you’ll ever need.
Granted, the interior isn’t the most interesting place to be. It’s a sea of black plastic. The infotainment system is a little sluggish, too. But it has a very versatile boot with a split-level boot floor, a 40:20:40 folding rear bench and a maximum capacity of more than 1,000 litres. It’s even quite good fun to drive, which is rare amongst hybrid SUVs.