By: Byron Mathioudakis

Over the past 20 years, hybrid cars have become more efficient, safer and refined and you're now more likely to find one that suits your needs and budget.

We've looked at the pros and cons of the full range of hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) on offer in Australia in 2022 for under $100k, to help you decide if moving to a hybrid is the right choice.

These reviews cover hybrid cars that are HEVs and PHEVs but excludes SUVs. For a run down of SUV HEVs only, check out our reviews of Hybrid SUVs available in Australia 2022. If you're interested in a plug-in hybrid SUV, we've also reviewed a big range of PHEV SUVs available in Australia in 2022.

To find out more about the difference between regular hybrids and plug-in hybrids, see our Hybrid Cars Explained guide.

Hybrid electric cars (HEV):

(Skip to plug-in hybrids)

Toyota Corolla Hybrid from $27,395 plus on-road costs

2022 Toyota Corolla hybrid HEV

Toyota quietly released a hybrid version of the previous Corolla in 2016, but it was the all-new 12th-generation version launched in 2018 that brought Corolla electrification to the masses.

Also available in sedan form, the Corolla’s hybrid system has been substantially updated, using a 1.8-litre engine, a lighter electric motor and redesigned battery. Pure electric-only drive is only possible under light acceleration or off-throttle cruising, before the petrol unit kicks on.

Spirited off the line, and ultra-smooth as it transitions from electric to piston power, acceleration then tapers off noticeably at higher speeds, revealing the economy – rather than performance – priorities at play. The flipside is exceptionally low consumption, as well as quiet, easy operation. Great for around town, but tardy on the open road compared to the 2.0-litre petrol-only alternative.

More worrying is the hatchback’s boot capacity – just 217L with a temporary spare – which is less than the baby Yaris’ – so if that’s an issue then choose a tyre-inflation kit for 333L, or go the 470L sedan instead.

Otherwise, with excellent road manners, a comfy ride, roomy cabin, stylish dash and generous standard safety kit, the Corolla Hybrid makes for a fun, efficient and engaging choice.

Before 2023 ticks over, a facelift is coming with extra power and safety.

Toyota Corolla Hybrid specifications
Engine: 72kW/142Nm 1.8L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 53kW/163Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.3kWh Nickel-metal hydride
Total system power/torque: 98kW/TBC
Combined range: 1075km
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 4.2L/100km
CO2: 97g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Toyota Yaris Hybrid from $29,130 plus on-road costs

 2022 Toyota Yaris hybrid HEV

While carmakers are abandoning the light hatch class in droves, Toyota is redoubling its efforts with the Yaris Hybrid, highlighting the company’s incredible reach and ambition.

All-new in 2020, Toyota’s fourth-gen five-door hatch since 1999’s breakout Echo mirrors the previous model size-wise, but offers substantially more interior space.

The styling transforms from dull to daring, with notable advances in seat comfort, cabin quality and refinement levels, backed up by reduced road noise, a modern touchscreen interface and even a world-first airbag between the front seats back when launched. Plus, driver-assist safety like AEB, adaptive cruise control and a lane-keep system debut, highlighting the Toyota’s high-tech maturity.

Likewise, the Hybrid’s powertrain also breaks fresh ground, introducing a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine assisted by a lightweight lithium-ion battery and electric motor. Along with stunning economy, this Yaris delivers surprisingly sprightly performance and battery-only power for a claimed “80 percent of most average commutes”, as well as surefooted handling. Minus points include high entry-point pricing (it’s a mystery as to why Toyota hasn’t brought in a base Ascent Sport model to match the non-hybrid model) and no cupholders or USB ports for rear-seat occupants.

Smart, advanced, affordable and fun, the Yaris Hybrid is a good option for eco-minded urban commuters needing a compact car.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid specifications
Engine: 67kW/120Nm 1.5L in-line 3 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 59kW/141Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: lithium-ion
Total system power/torque: 85kW/141Nm
Combined range: 1286km
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 3.3L/100km
CO2: 76g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Mazda 3 G20e from $32,840 plus on-road costs

2022 Mazda3 G20e HEV

Mazda’s approach to hybrids is a little confusing, as there are two differing systems available in the 3 hatch and sedan small cars for 2022, and their small efficiency benefits are barely discernible. Let’s begin with the cheaper of the two.

As with the related CX-30, the ‘e’ in the G20e features Mazda’s so-called SkyActiv-X M Hybrid (for mild hybrid) system. And we’re talking very mild electrification assistance here.

The Japanese brand’s evergreen 2.0-litre petrol engine gains an integrated, belt-driven starter generator, which assists the engine fire up more effectively (improving the already fast and effective stop/start tech fitted to other 3s) and recoups lost energy during braking. This saved energy is then redirected to bolster engine performance and braking. That’s it.

In certain conditions, the engine extinguishes automatically when coasting along, but there’s never any pure electric drive to power you along.

It’s a great thing then that the striking 3 remains a quiet and smooth small car that can embarrass premium small cars from BMW and Mercedes for refinement. Factor this in with all the extra equipment Mazda includes in the Evolve’s price, and it’s easy to make a value case for the G20e Evolve. Especially if you want your hybrid to be as discreet as possible.

Mazda 3 G20e Mild Hybrid specifications
Engine: 114kW/200Nm 2.0L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: six-speed auto/FWD
Motor: Integrated Starter Generator
Battery: lithium-ion
Total system power/torque: 114kW/200Nm
Combined range: 850km
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 6.0L/100km
CO2: 144g/km/td>
Safety rating: 5 stars

Toyota Camry Hybrid Series II from $33,490 plus on-road costs

2022 Toyota Camry hybrid HEV

The last nameplate standing from the bygone era of Australian vehicle manufacturing, the popular Camry has remained a byword for durability and functionality.

Released in 2017, the current, eighth-generation version underwent a minor facelift in 2021.

Along with a different nose, larger touchscreen and improved safety, only a single, non-hybrid Camry grade remains – the fleet-focused Ascent, now with a 152kW 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. The V6s are history. The rest are all petrol-electric hybrid, and all models are made in Japan.

The hybrid system remains Toyota’s proven series-parallel set-up, consisting of a 2.5-litre engine that’s assisted by an electric motor and battery to provide extra muscle while also saving petrol. Up to 2km of battery-only motoring (at under 40km/h) is possible to help stretch out the latter.

Like all Camrys, the Hybrid offers easy controls, family-friendly practicality, space for five adults and a big, 524L boot including a space-saver spare), yet it now also steers, corners and grips the road with impressive assurance and control, reflecting the stronger engineering emphasis that went into the latest iteration.

Throw in high equipment levels (including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity), and it’s clear why the Hybrid really helps the Camry to dominate the medium-sedan segment. Good work, Toyota.

Toyota Camry Hybrid specifications
Engine: 131kW/221Nm 2.5L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 88kW/202Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: lithium-ion
Total system power/torque: 160kW/202Nm
Combined range: 1190km
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 4.2/100km
CO2: 96g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Mazda 3 X20 Astina from $42,690 plus on-road costs

2022 Mazda3 X20 HEV

It may not be as fashionable as the larger CX-30 SUV and there’s less ground clearance, side vision and boot space as well as no all-wheel drive, but the lighter, smaller, more aerodynamic and sharper-handling Mazda3 isn’t as expensive and drinks less fuel.

And the X20 flagship is the most economical of the hybrids.

How? Its unique 2.0-litre engine combines compression ignition (just like a diesel) with spark ignition (as petrol engines do) at certain points of the combustion cycle, in a very complicated process. One’s better for low-speed response and efficiency while the other suits high-rev performance. This is the biggest difference between the X20 and cheaper G20e.

As with the latter, the X20 also includes an integrated, belt-driven starter generator and 24-volt lithium-ion battery, which assists the engine and recoups lost energy during deceleration.

The result sees power and torque jump 18kW/24Nm over the regular 2.0L – while slashing petrol consumption compared to the 139kW/252Nm 2.5L Astina by 1.1L/100km. But then it does add $3000 and you’ll need to put in premium unleaded to realise the greatest efficiency benefits.

Otherwise, it’s pure Mazda3: great design, interior, refinement and… poor rear vision and boot (unless you buy the no-extra-cost sedan).

Mazda 3 X20 M Hybrid specifications
Engine: 132kW/224Nm 2.0L in-line 4 supercharged petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 6-speed/FWD
Motor: 5kW/61Nm Integrated Starter Generator
Battery: lithium-ion
Total system power/torque: 132kW/224Nm
Combined range: 927km
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 5.3L/100km
CO2: 135g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Honda Civic e:HEV from $52,000 (estimated)

2022 Honda Civic HEV

The Honda Civic has changed for the better which, in its 50th continuous year on sale in Australia, is a good thing given the level of competition in the small car category.

Witness the return of a hybrid version, dubbed e:HEV, which joins the single-specification 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo hatchback this year.

Shared with the latest HR-V also launched in 2022, this Civic’s e:HEV set-up is unlike any other Honda hybrid system (like the one found in the current but older Accord), which provided electric assistance to cut emissions but no pure electric drive except when occasionally coasting along.

This time, a 2.0-litre petrol engine (up from the new HR-V’s 1.5) and continuously variable transmission are combined with two electric motors – one for the front wheels and the other to charge the battery pack. Four modes vary the amount of electric intervention according to driver taste, but the transition between EV, hybrid and engine is seamless, while a one-pedal driving system that brakes when off-throttle further brings EV efficiencies.

The 11th-generation Civic’s visual elegance carries over inside, thanks to a beautifully made, surprisingly spacious, pleasingly practical and highly equipped interior that’s been designed for simplicity.

Far from cheap, but expensively engineered and astonishingly efficient, the hybrid promises to be one of the most compelling Civics in years.

Honda Civic e:HEV specifications
Engine: 2.0L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: AC synchronous electric
Battery: lithium-ion
Total system power/torque: 135kW/315Nm
Combined range: TBC
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 4.7L/100km
CO2: 108g/km
Safety rating: TBC

Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid from $60,400 driveaway

2022 Honda Accord Hybrid HEV

Hailing from Thailand but designed mainly for American tastes, the 10th-generation Accord in Hybrid guise takes the fight upmarket, with a full list of luxury features, quiet refinement, sprawling rear legroom and a massive boot (with a space-saver spare).

Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a pair of electric motors – one for propulsion, the other a generator – driving the front wheels. Like Toyota’s system, this is a series-parallel hybrid set-up, offering three modes – EV Drive with short bursts of full electric propulsion during initial acceleration, light cruising and braking. On offer is Hybrid Drive combines electric plus petrol power; and Engine Drive that prioritises petrol, but is aided by electric as required. Note that sustained EV-only drive is not possible.

The upshot is good performance for a car of this size, but also one with exceptionally low fuel consumption. Accurate steering and reasonably tidy handling are further plus points. But bumpy roads can make the Honda feel bouncy, the dash already seems dated and somewhat downmarket, and the multimedia interface is needlessly fiddly.

Still, with sleek styling, heaps of equipment, a full suite of driver-assist safety tech and a boot big enough to compare to the old Holden VF Commodore’s, today’s Accord Hybrid makes for convincing if understated premium eco alternative.

Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid specifications
Engine: 107kW/175Nm 2.0L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 51kW AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.3kWh Lithium-ion
Total system power/torque: 158kW/315Nm
Combined range: 1500km
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 4.3L/100km
CO2: 98g/km
Safety rating: TBC

Lexus ES300h from $63,550 plus on-road costs

2022 Lexus ES-300h HEV

Once, the cheapest Lexus sedan was criticised for being a bloated Camry in disguise, but today’s seventh-generation ES, out since 2018, truly benefits from its Toyota connection. Especially when the facelifted version came in late 2021, bringing improvements to safety.

Streamlined, imposing and astoundingly spacious inside, the ES300h comes in Luxury, F Sport and Sport Luxury grades, and all include goodies like top-level driver-assist safety tech, wireless charging, a head-up display and a massive multimedia screen. The dash looks premium, the seating is sumptuous, rear legroom monumental and the boot (with temporary spare) cavernous.

Underneath, the ES300h is pure series-parallel hybrid Camry, from its proven 2.5-litre petrol engine/CVT transmission, electric motor and battery set-up, to charging only via the engine and/or captured kinetic brake energy redistribution. However, though speedy off the mark (thanks to all that electric motor’s torque assistance), pleasingly responsive to throttle inputs and quiet on the move, the Lexus’ steering feels a little too light and disconnected from the action. If you’re a sports sedan buyer you might find the ES too… cushy. It also demands premium unleaded petrol.

About the size of a German plug-in hybrid sedan but at nearly half the price, the Japanese-built ES300h continues to represent excellent value for money.

Lexus ES300h Hybrid specifications
Engine: 131kW/221Nm 2.5L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 88kW/202Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.6kWh Nickel-metal hydride
Total system power/torque: 160kW
Combined range: 1064km
Electric range: N/A
Fuel: 4.8L/100km
CO2: 109g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Plug-in hybrid cars:

Cupra Leon VZe PHEV from $59,990 before on-road costs

2022 Cupra Leon VZe plugin hybrid car

Volkswagen’s Spanish brand SEAT has an inhouse performance sub-brand called Cupra, with aspirations of being an Alfa Romeo-style premium proposition.

Enter the Leon, a Golf-based small-car range that’s been around for four generations since 1999.

Along with regular 2.0-litre petrol turbo choices aimed at the GTi set, there’s also a VZe plug-in hybrid as per the closely related Formentor SUV, offering a 1.4-litre turbo engine, dual-clutch transmission, an electric motor and battery pack. Driving the front wheels only, it offers fast acceleration to go with its engaging handling, along with an EV range of around 50km.

Recharging the battery pack requires about six hours using a home socket, or three hours with an optional wall box. There is no DC rapid charging capability.

The Leon’s roomy cabin is similar to the latest Golf’s – pleasant, well presented and high tech. There are also plenty of standard features to help justify the lofty pricing – including adaptive suspension for a comfier ride, a digital instrument cluster, wireless charger, tri-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, sports seats, lane-keep with steering assist and adaptive cruise control.

As a sporty warm hatch with impressive eco credentials, the Leon VZe is currently in a class of its own in Australia.

Cupra Leon VZe PHEV specifications
Engine: 110kW/250Nm 1.4L in-line 4 turbo petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 6-speed DCT/front
Motor: 85kW/300Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 12.8kWh Lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 180kW/400Nm
EV range: 55km
Fuel: 1.9L/100km
CO2: 43g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Mercedes-Benz A250e PHEV from $68,989 plus on-road costs

2022 Mercedes Benz A250 e-PHEV plugin hybrid car

Mercedes’ first tilt at a small-car plug-in hybrid in Australia was the A250e hatch and sedan (for a $3000 premium), released in 2020.

Powered by a perky and punchy 1.3-litre turbo engine and electric motor combo, over 70km of battery-only driving is claimed to be possible (though unlikely), before switching to petrol motivation.

Charging requires around seven hours at home or about 4.5 hours via an optional wall box. A circa-$1500 DC charging pack slashes the latter to under two hours, or 30 minutes using a 50kW DC fast charging outlet.

Driving modes include Comfort, Eco and Sport, while the regenerative braking strength can be adjusted via steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Performance is lively, though the front wheels might struggle for traction. Sharp steering and nimble handling are further highlights, but a stiff suspension tune can result in a bumpy ride.

Otherwise, it’s all pure fourth-gen A-Class, including the beautiful multimedia screen, digitised instrumentation offering multi-configurable views as well as excellent safety levels. Rear-seat room is tight as usual, while boot capacity drops dramatically (down 60L to 310L in the hatch and 75L to 355L in sedan) due to the battery tech being stored back there.

Still, compact eco statements don’t come richer than the plug-in hybrid baby Benz.

Mercedes-Benz A250e PHEV specifications
Engine: 118kW/250Nm 1.3L in-line 4 turbo petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 8-speed DCT/front
Motor: 75kW/300Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 15.6kWh Lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 160kW/450Nm
EV range: 73km
Fuel: 1.6L/100km/td>
CO2: 34g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Peugeot 508 PHEV from $81,610 before on-road costs

2022 Peugeot 508 PHEV plug in hybrid car

The 508 and related 3008 SUV PHEVs might be Peugeot’s first forays into electrification in this country, but the French brand has honed this technology for over a decade in the previous 508 elsewhere.

Here to take on luxury giants like BMW’s 330e, the svelte 508 liftback features a punchy 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, combined with an eight-speed auto transmission and electric motor, to drive the front wheels.

A swift, smooth and serene performer, the Peugeot goes from zero to 100kmh in a brisk 8.3 seconds, while still being reasonably efficient. The steering is light, the handling nimble, and the ride comfy, thanks to adaptive suspension that allows the driver to select soft or sporty settings.

Over 50km of pure EV range is available. Plugging into a regular home socket requires about 5.5 hours to top up, or just over three hours with an optional wall box. However, the 508 PHEV won’t accept DC fast chargers.

The 508’s tech-heavy interior is stunning, marked by inspired design, fresh materials and lots of standard equipment. Superb seats and a large luggage area are a further bonus, but the driving position requires familiarisation while rear headroom can be tight.

Stylish and sophisticated, the 508 PHEV deserves to win many friends.

Peugeot 508 PHEV specifications
Engine: 133kW/300Nm 1.6L in-line 4 turbo petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 8-speed/front
Motor: 81kW AC synchronous electric
Battery: 11.8kWh lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 165kW/360Nm
EV range: 55km
Fuel: 1.8L/100km
CO2: 40g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

BMW 330e PHEV from $77,900 plus on-road costs

2022 BMW 330e plugin hybrid car

BMW is a plug-in hybrid pioneer in its premium segment, first with 2012’s ‘ActiveHybrid 3’ model and then its 330e replacement four years later.

Based on the seventh-generation 3 Series launched in 2019, today’s 330e arrives from Germany in the three grades of Sport Collection, M Sport or Luxury, featuring a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, an electric motor and battery pack combination.

The upshot is 60km of pure EV drive – doubling that of its predecessor – but the petrol will chime in if more power is needed. Charge times vary from over three hours (with an optional wall box) to seven hours (using a normal household outlet).

However, being a BMW, driving pleasure also matters, so unless the 330e is driven directly after the regular 330i petrol, you’d struggle to pick differences. The hybrid is only 0.1 seconds slower to 100km/h (at just 5.9s), and handles corners with similarly precise control, and features the same spacious, quality-made, media-savvy interior.

On the flipside, the 330e’s boot capacity is 105 litres smaller (at 375L), there’s no spare wheel, desirable options remain expensive and the warranty is mean, while going green attracts a $7000 slug.

A facelift with updated multimedia, improved efficiency and a redesigned dashboard arrives from late 2022.

BMW 330e PHEV specifications
Engine: 135kW/300Nm 2.0L in-line 4 turbo petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 8-speed auto/rear
Motor: 83kW/265Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 12kWh lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 215kW/420Nm
EV range: 60km
Fuel: 2.2L/100km
CO2: 50g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

BMW 530e PHEV from $122,400 plus on-road costs

2022 BMW 530e plugin hybrid car

As with the smaller 3 Series, BMW has offered a plug-in hybrid 5 Series for a decade in Australia, and this experience shows.

Arriving with the latest 5 Series’ facelift in 2020, the 530e PHEV employs essentially the same powertrain as its baby brother, but in a larger (and heavier) family-friendlier body.

Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and eight-speed auto with an electric motor. Together they provide strong performance (0-100km/h needs 5.9 seconds; top speed is 250km/h), as well as exceptional fuel economy.

However, the 530e’s extra size and mass reduces EV range compared to the 330e – by 6km to a claimed 54km – though in reality, as with most PHEVs, it will struggle to achieve that. Charging at home using a regular socket needs about seven hours, or nearly four hours with an optional wall box.

At nearly five metres long, the 530e offers heaps of space inside. The dashboard layout and material quality rate highly. And while the battery pack eats into boot space, it’s more than what the rival Mercedes E300e can muster, so that’s a win for the BMW.

Fast, fun, frugal and decently equipped, the 530e is a likeable as well as hugely capable luxury PHEV sedan.

BMW 530e PHEV specifications
Engine: 135kW/300Nm 2.0L in-line 4 turbo petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 8-speed auto/rear
Motor: 80kW/265Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 12kWh lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 215kW/420Nm
EV range: 54km
Fuel: 2.3L/100km
CO2: 53g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Mercedes-Benz E300e PHEV from $126,200 plus on-road costs

2022 Mercedes Benz E300e-PHEV plugin hybrid car

The E-Class is arguably the quintessential Mercedes-Benz old-school executive sedan, and E300e is its most modern incarnation.

Behind the three-pointed star is a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, driving the rear wheels via a nine-speed auto, which also contains an electric motor. It’s a rapid combination, rocketing to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds, and capable of responsive yet relaxed high-speed touring. Standard air suspension isolates all from the outside world, while the E300e’s steering and handling make it a fun car to hustle along quickly.

Take it easy, though, and you might achieve 50km of pure electric driving. Charging at home using a normal plug will take around six hours, or about two hours with an optional wall box. No DC fast chargers are supported.

The E300e’s generously equipped too, with dual 12.3-inch screens, leather trim, electric front seats, wireless charging, dual-zone climate control, 360-degree surround cameras, air suspension and a full suite of active safety. The interior quality and ambience are where you’d expect a large Mercedes sedan’s to be.

Downsides? Though amply spacious inside, with enough room for five adults, battery packaging difficulties mean the boot is much smaller than expected, and oddly shaped.

Otherwise, Mercedes fans should appreciate the E300e’s traditional engineering excellence.

Mercedes-Benz E300e PHEV specifications
Engine: 155kW/350Nm 2.0L in-line 4 turbo petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 9-speed auto/rear
Motor: 90kW/440Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 13.5kWh Lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 235kW/700Nm
EV range: 51km
Fuel: 2.5L/100km
CO2: 56g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

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