Top 10 best hybrid hatchbacks 2023

Open gallery Close News by James Disdale 12 mins read 26 May 2023 Share

The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel engined cars is looming large (we’re less than seven years away), but ICE cars with electrical assistance have a stay of execution until 2035 at least. While the Government’s assertion that these models should be able to travel a ‘significant distance’ on battery power alone is a little vague, its proposed wording does include room for both traditional, or ‘self-charging’, and plug-in machines.

Both of these types of hybrid feature an electric motor (sometimes more than one) and a decently sized drive battery that can propel the car without the aid of the ICE. However, how they arrange and use these energy sources and propulsion units can be very different, with some relying on the electric motor at low speeds, while others use the petrol engine (diesels are rare, with only Mercedes offering such a set-up) purely as a generator that keeps the battery topped-up so the electric motor can do its thing full time.

Depending on your use and needs each will have its benefits and limitations, with ‘normal’ hybrids usually feeling the most normal to drive and giving you little option on how it juggles its various motive forces. Plug-ins feature larger batteries that mean they’re heavier, pricier and need to be plugged in to charge like a pure EV, yet some can also travel more than 40 miles on electricity which means many commutes and daily chores can be completed without emitting anything from the tailpipe. And of course for business users they often offer some healthy benefit-in-kind tax relief.

Related articles

Top 10 best hybrid SUVs 20232023 Mini Countryman to be built in GermanyMini Countryman Cooper S E All4 Exclusive 2020 first driveMini Countryman Cooper S E All4 road test reviewMini Countryman S E Cooper All4 2017 first drive

What we won’t cover in this list are the increasingly prolific ‘mild’ hybrids, which essentially feature a powerful starter/generator that delivers a little extra accelerative urge but can’t carry the car on its own. However, we’re more flexible when it comes to the definition of hatchback, not least because expectations of what a traditional family car should be, with many wanting their wheels to exude just a hint of SUV swagger.

1. Volkswagen Golf eHybrid

Until recently the plug-in Skoda Octavia iV was our top pick, but high demand and supply chain challenges mean the Czech firm has temporarily withdrawn the car from sale. As a result, the responsibility for our top spot now falls on the evergreen shoulders of the VW Golf eHybrid. Why? Well, because under the skin, these two machines are largely identical, with both using the same excellent MQB-derived platform and a versatile 1.4-litre petrol and electric motor powertrain.

It’s been around for a while now, but while the 201bhp power output remains the same, tweaks here and there have boosted the claimed EV range to 43 miles. That figure will be a struggle to match in day-to-day use (35 miles is a more reasonable target), but it does drop the Golf’s benefit-in-kind burden to just 8%, which is good news for company car drivers. Even better is the fact that it’s well calibrated set-up, the transition between petrol and electric power is unobtrusive, helped by the slick twin-clutch transmission.


Latest Drives

BMW X7 xDrive40d M Sport

BMW X7 xDrive40d M Sport

Renault Clio E-Tech 2023 first drive

Renault Clio E-Tech 2023 first drive

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio 2023 first drive

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio 2023 first drive

Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor RWD 2023 first drive

Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor RWD 2023 first drive

Peugeot 3008 136 e-DCS6 Hybrid 2023 first drive

Peugeot 3008 136 e-DCS6 Hybrid 2023 first drive

View all latest drives

Read our review

Car review

Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4

Can this plug-in hybrid successfully meld capability, frugality and performance?

Read our review Back to top

Elsewhere it’s essentially an eighth generation Golf, which means it drives well with slick steering, assured handling and a reasonably supple ride. And while it’s not a car that’ll having you grabbing the keys for an elicit late night run (even the 242bhp GTE lacks the cutting edge to make it as a true hot hatch), it’s ability to effortlessly tackle any task is endearing, as is a chameleon-like quality to fit into any surroundings – it’s as comfortable outside Selfridges as it is on the school run. It’s roomy enough for a family of four too, with plenty of places to dump life’s odds and ends. 

Niggles? Well, while the interior looks and feels fairly upmarket, cost-cutting means it doesn’t have the rich material finish of its predecessor, while the touchscreen infotainment is a little frustrating to use. Oh, and accommodating the hybrid gubbins reduces the boot capacity to 273-litres. But that’s about it – in all other regards this a is a hybrid high point.

2. Toyota Corolla

Having spent more than two decades introducing the world to the hybrid powertrain, Toyota is now well advanced with normalising it – and no car on sale does this better than the current Corolla hatchback.

Ushered in to replace the ageing Auris in 2019, the Corolla is a game-changer for Toyota in what remains one of the most important market segments of them all. It combines a healthy dose of visual style with tangible perceived cabin quality and, like one or two other of its showroom siblings introduced over the past few years, is based on a new global model platform and has been dynamically developed and tuned – quite successfully – for distinguishing ride and handling sophistication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *