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Best used hybrid cars

Confronted with either a desire, or a need, to go electric, perhaps a practical halfway house might be the better option. After all, investing in a brand new EV might be a terrifying prospect for a newcomer, especially as list prices can be anything upwards of 50 per cent more than the conventional model, in some cases running into six figures. Whatever your motivation, saintly, or otherwise, that halfway house could be either the acquisition of a petrol-electric hybrid vehicle, or the risk of engaging with a suck-it-and-see used example. Regardless, if some of our other ‘best of’ lists fail to appeal satisfactorily, perhaps the selection made here by Iain Robertson will find some traction in your motoring life.

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SMALL - Toyota Yaris Hybrid COMPACT – Hyundai Ioniq 4x4 – Lexus RX 450h ESTATE – Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV SPORTS – Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid Verdict

While the term ‘used’ may be perfunctory across the motor trade, perhaps the descript ‘previously owned’ can sound better, probably as it infers aspects of care levied by the prior owner/s. Regardless, buying second-hand can be fraught with nightmare scenarios. Just dipping into the used ‘infernal combustion engine’ car market can put the fear of God into the psyches of even the most taciturn of characters. The Interwebnet is packed with sad and sorry tales, complaints raised against so-called honourable commercial suppliers… oh, and private purveyors too… who promise the earth and deliver hell.

Yet, before I put you off completely, they are truly in a minority. Around 6.5m second-hand car transactions are carried out every single year in the UK and, while accepting the bad apple scenario, there are many more worthy barrels out there. Another aspect to bear in mind is that, like most specialist motorcars (hot hatches and sportscars, for instance), hybrids and EVs tend to be looked after better than mainstream and volume models. It is a psychological situation that arises from simple pride, which is why you seldom spot a Toyota Prius, or Ford Mondeo hybrid, hanging with muck, dinged on every corner and looking seriously the worst for wear.

However, being lackadaisical about approaching the used hybrid and EV scene is also not an advisable attitude to adopt. After all, even previously owned motorcars involve elements of money changing hands and the seller will always over-value his offering, especially as the value specialists, like Glass’s Guide and CAPs, are still learning the ropes. The UK motor trade, unless some of them have become specialists in the EV, hybrid and alternative fuels field, has always taken a dour view of anything new… and a century’s worth of EVs is still novel to most of them. As a result, they worry over values and either seriously underpay market value, when growing a stockholding, or fail to levy a premium when retailing it.

Truth is the market is as wide open at the moment, as it could be. Today is by far the best time to contemplate a used EV, or hybrid. The prices will be lower, due to market uncertainty, even though the choice may not be as varied as you might hope for. Yet, the used stocks are available, whether you opt to visit your local car auction, buy online, pop into a motor dealership, or spot a bargain at the roadside. In addition, you will not experience much competition from other hungry buyers; it is all relative to the actual size of the market. Our list of best buys in the not-new sector is purely arbitrary, for which we make no apology, but, as with some of our other listings, they do constitute a movable feast and, what you read listed here, can and will change significantly in just a few months’ time.

The Discover EV used hybrid car best-in-class is as follows:

SMALL - Toyota Yaris Hybrid

History

Possessing a reputation as one of the world’s most reliable motorcar brands, Toyota provides a wealth of experience in the hybrid scene, not least from almost two decades of representation in the UK market alone. Not its smallest model (which is the Aygo), in hybrid form, Yaris is the smallest of the breed presently on sale. In fact, the hybridisation of Yaris commenced in early-2012 and around 34,000 examples are presently registered on our roads.

Tech and design

Using Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which combines a 1.5-litre 75bhp petrol engine with a 45kW electric motor, employing a 0.9kWh Nickel Metal-hydride (NiMh) storage battery located beneath the rear seat, the Yaris hybrid is an unashamed entry-level model in the self-contained hybrid sector. Since its introduction, it has become admired for its breadth of capabilities. As a five-door sub-compact hatchback, it offers good access to seating for four adults and a series of product updates has ensured that it meets comfort and equipment expectations. It has no rivals at present, despite similarly sized models from the big three carmakers, Fiesta, Corsa and 208, in abundance.

Drive

Powered by a 300cc smaller, 99bhp version of the petrol engine in the larger Toyota Prius, its top speed is posted at 103mph and it can accelerate from 0-60mph in around 11.5 seconds. Its CO2 emissions are at around 80g/km, which is both tax and congestion charge zone friendly, and reports of upwards of 80mpg are quite believable, against an official posted consumption of 72.4mpg. The weight of the battery pack is noticeable and while the handling of the Yaris is safe, if uninspiring, its ride quality can become upset by mid-corner bumps and road surface imperfections. Its Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) can whirr annoyingly, until you discover how to modulate the accelerator pedal. A Yaris hybrid can travel up to 1.2 miles in EV mode and, with brake energy regeneration it recharges the on-board battery pack quite rapidly.

Look-out

While air-con and Bluetooth connectivity are standard, you should endeavour to obtain the best trim level you can for your budget.

Thanks to the brake energy recovery system, the need to brake more frequently is reduced, which means that you should have the car’s brakes checked thoroughly to ensure that worn components do not affect its dependability.

No rust issues should be prevalent, although some inexpensive trim clips may be loose, or missing, on older examples.

Summary

The Yaris is a charming little car that knows its place. Being a self-contained hybrid means that no range anxiety will occur. With the oldest examples unlikely to have registered more than 60,000 miles and Toyota’s manufacturer’s warranty still covering its drivetrain, you can feel confident about acquiring even the oldest Yaris hybrid in the UK. Toyota dealers are well-versed in servicing the model and are also a good source of further information.

KEY SPECS

Used price range:  £6499 - £16,500
Engine and transmission: Hybrid petrol-electric, CVT, front-wheel drive
Power:  99bhp (combined)
Torque:  125lb-ft
Top speed:  103mph
0-60mph:  11.5 seconds
MPG:  72.4mpg (WTLP)

COMPACT – Hyundai Ioniq

History

As with many hybrid models, their history is not steeped in decades of research, development and previous versions, in fact the oldest examples of the Hyundai Ioniq are only going to be up to three years of age. However, this is a car that truly shocked the market, when it was unveiled. Despite sharing platforms, the differences were noticeable, as radiator grilles, alloy wheels and aerodynamic elements were unique to each of three quite separate variants – hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully-electric. It was an ingenious exercise, partly demonstrating the might of the fast-growing Hyundai but also underscoring that the South Korean manufacturer understands its customers’ needs to perfection.

Tech and design

One man stands behind the design of both Hyundai and Kia models; Peter Schreyer. The platform for the Ioniq is shared with the Kia Niro, purely as a means to amortise development costs. Although it is a conventional five-door hatchback in appearance, because Hyundai wants to normalise the market sector as much as possible, there are pertinent below-the-skin engineering differences relevant to the size of battery pack required and the EV model features a simpler rear suspension set-up to either of the petrol-electric hybrids. Interior detailing is first-class, possessing an Audi-like fit and finish. Ioniq’s drag coefficient is 0.24; one of the most aerodynamic profiles in the motor industry.

Drive

Matching a petrol-electric drivetrain to a twin-clutch automated-manual gearbox is a masterstroke, because Hyundai’s main rival, the Toyota Prius, features a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) that drones away with every depression of the throttle pedal. In the Hyundai, manual gear selection is possible. Firmly compliant damping gifts the Ioniq a satisfyingly rewarding drive quality. It rides out bumps most effectively and possesses excellent directional stability. An extensive range of both driver’s seat and steering column adjustment ensure first-class accommodation and comfort for any size of driver. Positioned beneath the rear seats, the lithium-ion battery is rated at 1.56kWh capacity, with the electric motor rated at 43bhp. Drive on a light throttle and the Ioniq has an EV range of just over one mile, yet working in conjunction with the 105bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine, it can still return an excellent 83.1mpg, while emitting a modest 79g/km CO2.

Look-out

With new prices starting at a modest £21,795 for the base SE model, £1800 steps up to both Premium and Premium SE variants (£25,395), it is worth waiting for the top-spec versions to hit the used car scene. Hyundai does not hold its value as well as the Toyota Prius but that makes a better car even more affordably desirable.

Take care with the bonnet and hatchback, as they are produced in aluminium, which can be easy to dent.

As the car is still too new to reveal any unreliability issues, remember that Hyundai’s transferable five years, unlimited mileage warranty will still apply, as will the eight years drivetrain programme.

While not a tax-free option (post 1st April 2017), Ioniq hybrid running costs are very low, aided by a low-price servicing schedule.

Summary

Eminently practical, the Ioniq’s boot capacity is a large 443 litres, which can be expanded to an excellent 1505 litres by folding the 60:40-split rear seats, although a step in the floor results from the location of the battery pack. The car’s electronic dashboard can be driver-adjusted in three selectable driving modes. As a several times winner of various car awards, the Hyundai lives up to its reputation as a superb driver’s car.

Specifications:

Used price range:  £14,995 - £22,795
Engine and transmission:  Hybrid petrol-electric, six-speed automated-manual, front-wheel drive
Power:  139bhp (combined)
Torque:  195lb-ft
Top speed:  115mph
0-60mph:  10.3 seconds
MPG:  83.1mpg (NEDC)

4x4 – Lexus RX 450h

History

One of the pioneers of hybrid technology and a brand held in the highest regard for total dependability, with a consistent top performance in the annual JD Power reliability studies, Lexus has elevated itself into the upper echelons, with its blend of luxury, fuel efficiency and great value for money, second-hand. While our selection deals with the prospect of acquiring an up to four-year-old, fourth-generation model at roughly half the price of a new example, despite the technology, Lexus has been producing the 450h model for the past decade and early examples can be acquired for less than £10,000 (a fifth of the new list price).

Tech and design

Designed as a luxury class car in the SUV sector, but for customers not wanting total off-road capabilities, the Lexus 450h counts high-end models such as the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5 as its key rivals. It was one of the first of the coupe-like crossovers. As a hybrid car, its 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine drives the front wheels through an electronically enhanced, constantly variable transmission. It is supported by a pair of electric motors that also allow the 450h to drive in EV mode, while an additional electric motor on the rear axle offers 4WD when it is needed.

Drive

Renowned for its cosseting ride quality, its seats are like comfy armchairs and, thanks to excellent noise suppression, the 450h wafts along on a whisker of throttle, doing what all Toyota-based hybrid technology does best and flicking between electric and ICE power imperceptibly but enough to average almost 40mpg, while CO2 emissions are pegged at around 134g/km. Three-mode driver-programmable chassis adjustment, includes additional Sport and Sport+ settings on F-Sport trim levels. Interestingly, Lexus has retained the original NiMh (Nickel Metal hydride) type of battery pack (650v), rather than moving to Lithium-ion. The e-CVT system works more liked a stepped transmission and brake energy recovery can be carried out in four stages, from light to heavy, which makes driving in normal conditions a one-pedal operation, as the driver scarcely needs to touch the brake pedal until coming to a complete halt.

Look-out

With more than a decade’s worth of Lexus RX hybrids registered in the UK (around 17,500), choice is unlikely to be an issue. However, the older the example, the greater the wear and tear rates. Look out for worn or torn seat edges, as replacement covers, while available, are very costly. Shiny steering wheel rims can be renovated but may need to be replaced.

Cars of around four years of age are unlikely to exhibit any signs of wear but do check underneath for possible off-road damage and, if the vehicle of your choice has been towing, check the rear dampers for sloppy responses (as they are electronically adjustable, expect to pay more for replacements).

Summary

As a hybrid with an in-built battery and drive system, a good service record is essential. However, Lexus is one of those compelling brands that are in great demand, mainly because of its virtually unbreakable characteristics. It is not the most spacious of SUVs, as the boot floor is actually quite high but the rear seats do fold flat giving from 453 to 954-litres (rear seats folded) of load volume. Since 2018, the RX L version has been available with an extra row of seats. Having driven an eight-year-old RX450h recently, I can tell you that, even with 140,000 miles on the odometer, it was rattle and creak-free. Even the most critical of car people will find very little to concern them in a used Lexus RX450h.

KEY SPECS

Used price range:  £9,995 (older) - £50,000
Engine and transmission:  Hybrid petrol-electric, CVT, four-wheel drive
Power:  308bhp (combined)
Torque:  335lb-ft
Top speed:  124mph
0-60mph:  7.4 seconds
MPG:  37.1mpg (WLTP)

ESTATE – Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV

History

Since 2016, Kia has offered its Optima estate car in plug-in hybrid form. A conventional self-contained hybrid model has been in the Optima range of both saloons and Sportswagon estates since 2011 but the advantages of pure EV travel outweigh the alternatives. Although internal politics suggests that Hyundai is the greater success story, the bloodline identical Kia seems to impart a sportier and more youthful image than its parent brand. With only three years of history, used model choice is going to be slim pickings.

Tech and design

Another excellent design from Peter Schreyer’s European styling team, the Optima wears its ‘tiger’s nose’ radiator grille most attractively. The rear of the car is very business-like but also practical, which lends its 1574-litres of carrying capabilities (rear seats folded; 440 litres of boot otherwise) ideally to the company car sector, although it satisfies the demands of private estate car customers too, which is an important and traditional segment of the UK new car scene.

Drive

Powered by a 2.0-litre, 152bhp turbo-petrol engine, working in combination with a 66bhp electric motor that is ‘fuelled’ by a punchy 11.26kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the electric motor replaces the torque-converter in the six-speed fully-automatic gearbox. Combined, the power unit develops a maximum of 202bhp, allied to 276lb-ft of torque. Thanks to an EV-only range of around 33 miles, which it can cover at speeds of up to 62mph and can be monitored by a reducing diameter circle (range) on the car’s sat-nav system, the Optima owner may seldom have to refill the conventional but smaller petrol tank during regular daily use. For the business user, a CO2 rating of 33g/km equates to tax-friendliness on both road tax and Benefit-in-Kind bases. The Optima estate drives very well.

Look-out

While there exists no range anxiety with the PHEV version of the Optima and those rare cars available on the second-hand market are unlikely to have any maintenance issues pressing, if the previous owner has been reliant on EV-mode, dirt can settle in the petrol tank and, when the engine is summonsed into action, it may result in an inconsistent and hesitant fuel delivery.

Check that the service history is complete and up to date. More importantly, check that your local dealer can handle a hybrid car; a number of problems have arisen with Kia’s dealer network that makes selecting the right one a vital exercise.

Summary

Kia is a company riding the crest of a wave at present. Its products are eminently desirable, because they not only look great but high equipment levels and good quality detailing are potent measurements of a company on an upwards trajectory. The Optima Sportswagon PHEV is a handsome, dynamically sound and well-engineered family car. You may have to wait for a good example to come to market, probably with your local Kia dealership, but the wait will be worthwhile.

KEY SPECS

Used price range:  £19,500 - £31,000
Engine and transmission: Hybrid petrol-electric, six-speed fully-auto, front-wheel drive
Power:  202bhp
Torque:  276lb-ft
Top speed:  119mph
0-60mph:  9.4 seconds
MPG:  188.3mpg (WLTP)

SPORTS – Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid

History

Were a money no object proposition to be offered to you and a practical sportscar were part of the opportunity, you would be unlikely to turn down a Porsche Panamera. However, as hybrid technology is intrinsic to the German firm’s forward plan, you need not invest a six-figure sum in the very fast Turbo variant, as your budget will go a lot further with the 2.9-litre V6 version, introduced initially in 2011, revised in both 2013 and 2017. Of course, Porsche is one of those enviable brands that can endure a brief period of depreciation, before an inexorable escalation in value occurs. Give the modern classic scene a sniff and its values will sky-rocket.

Tech and design

Although Porsche is renowned for its rear (911) and mid-engined (Boxster) models, its close association with the grander Volkswagen Group ensures that it has a ready selection of components and hardware options to consider. The larger Cayenne SUV is based on the same platform as the VW Touareg and Audi Q7/Q8. In the meantime, the 2.9-litre, 328bhp supercharged-petrol V6 engine that powered the first-generation (base) Panamera is already familiar Audi fayre. Since 2017, the engine was upgraded to a bi-turbo version developing a similar power output (333bhp). The layout is front-engine, four-wheel drive, through an eight-speed PDK automated-manual transmission. The body-style is distinctive and offers five-door access to a spacious, if reclined cabin. Although criticised by Porsche purists for not being powered by a flat-six configuration engine, the Panamera has found traction with lovers of well-engineered sportscars that need the extra space.

Drive

The 47bhp electric motor of the first-gen Panamera hybrid was enough to give it an excellent power spread and reduced CO2 and fuel consumption. The second-gen benefited from a 134bhp electric motor for brisker 0-60mph acceleration (4.6 seconds), a 5mph improvement on top speed (173mph) and a lower 56g/km CO2 rating. It was feasible to travel around 35 miles in pure EV mode, which goes a long way towards explaining its extraordinary 113mpg official consumption figure. The on-board battery (9.4kWh lithium-ion) of the plug-in version introduced in 2013 could be fully charged in 2.5 hours from a domestic 240v socket. Driving the hybrid is as enticing as the non-hybrid version. Get familiar with the bank of switchgear and you can indulge in a relentless flow of potency, with smooth but assured handling to match.

Look-out

If the Panamera that you are contemplating has been looked after and well-serviced, there is every reason that even a high-miler (over 70,000) could be totally dependable for another 70,000 miles.

However, while the Panamera is less prone to the supercar edge of the 911 model, it may have been given a hard time by its previous owner/s, probably as a business vehicle. Service history is essential.

Porsche dealers know how to earn their crusts but, fortunately, there are good Porsche Owners’ Clubs that have built their support networks and portfolios over the years, among which is a raft of excellent independent dealers and garages, which do not charge main dealer hourly rates that are steep.

Summary

It is possible to acquire a 2012 Panamera hybrid for around £38,000 and a 2016 model for around £48,500, against a new list price of around £86,000 (a Panamera Turbo hybrid is listed, for comparison, at £139,387), which highlights that you could acquire a clean example of a prestigious sportscar for less than the new price of a mid-size SUV…and the PHEV version means zero CC zone fees and low road tax too.

KEY SPECS

Used price range:  £38,000 - £68,000
Engine and transmission:  Hybrid petrol-electric, 8-speed automated gearbox, four-wheel drive
Power:  456bhp
Torque:  516lb-ft
Top speed:  168-173mph
0-60mph:  5.7-4.6 seconds
MPG:  113mpg (WLTP)

Verdict

While our choice may seem a little rag-tag, there is no denying the attraction in each of the five classifications we have outlined of what could be the best used hybrid today. From bargain basement to supercar, we have illustrated some of the deals available but directed you hopefully towards your first ownership foray into electrified transport. Naturally, you might buy new and, thus, be all the better for not inheriting a previous owner’s problems. Yet, we have been very careful to adhere to established principles and we know, from experience, that Toyota, Hyundai, Lexus, Kia and Porsche possess among the highest reputations of all brands sold in the UK.

As we always say, this is not an exhaustive list and it will change, however, we hope that it will whet your appetite for something different, which you might not have considered before.

It would be fascinating to hear your views and preferences in each of the classifications mentioned above. Use our contact form to compile a message to which we shall respond.

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