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7 of the best small and medium-sized hybrid cars

By Paul Connolly

Once a bit nerdy, hybrid cars are taking centre stage in the industry.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by car buyers, thanks to recent scandals over falsified economy stats and concern over deaths linked to noxious diesel fumes, and they are selling in increasing numbers.

Hybrids are no longer boring vehicles for the green lobby. They are fast becoming mainstream.

You can now buy them in pretty much any segment: city cars, hatchbacks, saloons, large 4x4s and even luxury sports cars like the Porsche Panamera.

A hybrid basically means any car that uses two sources of energy to drive it forward (or backward).

This is usually an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. This distinguishes them from pure electric cars.

It’s important however to understand there are different types of hybrids. The main categories are:

Electrically assisted: This is where an electric motor gives a little extra grunt to the engine going uphill or on acceleration. Some are relatively simple, like the Toyota Yaris, but others can be complex

Plug-in hybrids: These have larger batteries that you charge from the mains, often overnight.  There are different versions of plug-in hybrids, for example the Toyota Prius.

Range extenders: These run mostly on their electric motors, but have a small petrol (or, less often, diesel) engine to come to the rescue when needed. The BMW i3 Range Extender is an example.

Each category has its advantages and disadvantages. But will all you have the knowledge that your car is more efficient, less polluting and hit by lower taxation than traditional cars.

So-called ‘range anxiety’ is a common problem with pure-electric cars, and hybrids alleviate this, although remember they are not always the best for long-distance and motorway driving, where a more traditional engine might be more cost-effective.

As always, it’s horses for courses!

Here are seven of our best buys for 2017:

1. Hyundai Ioniq

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Pictured: Hyundai Ioniq

The Ioniq isn’t just Hyundai’s first hybrid, it’s also a versatile and slick-looking family hatchback. With a 104bhp 1.6 GDi petrol engine and a 32kW electric motor, it’s currently an electrically assisted car. But a proper plug-in hybrid is in the offing. A full-electric model is also available

2. Toyota Prius

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Pictured: Toyota Prius

This early and much-admired hybrid pioneer is still at the forefront of many peoples’ minds when they think hybrid. It’s robust, roomy and economical, which is why you sometimes see them being used as taxis.

3. BMW i3 Range Extender

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Pictured: BMW i3 Range Extender

This variant of the pure electric i3 uses a 650cc two-cylinder engine to charge the battery when the charges drops to 3.5% (meaning you only have about 3 miles left). The addition of this little motor doubles the 124-mile real-world electric range of the vehicle. Neat. Plus, you get BMW craftsmanship.

4. Volkswagen Passat GTE

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Pictured: Volkswagen Passat GTE

This sophisticated plug-in hybrid comes in both saloon and estate versions, so it’s perfect for families. An electric motor sends power to the 1.4 TSI turbo and supercharged petrol engine boosting output to 215bhp. It can do up to 31 miles on electric alone.

5. Audi A3 e-tron

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Pictured: Audi A3 e-tron

The A3 is an excellent family hatchback already and now it’s been made even better with a hybrid model. It’s smart and the build quality is high, making it a great company car.

6. Kia Niro

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Pictured: Kia Niro

This is the first petrol-electric car from Kia, and it’s a very good effort. It has a crossover-style body with a 104bhp 1.6 GDi petrol engine/32kW electric motor set-up that can automatically toggle energy use between electric and petrol as you drive.

7. Toyota Yaris Hybrid

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Pictured: Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Cheaper than its Prius big brother, the Yaris is a classic electrically-assisted hybrid, using its little electric motor to boost its petrol engine. A great little starter hybrid car.

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