28 May 2020   By: Byron Mathioudakis

Over the past 20 years, hybrid cars have quietly and steadily moved into market segments ranging from tiny city cars through to large SUVs and luxury sports cars. They’ve become more efficient, safer and more refined. And you’re now more likely to be able to buy one that suits your needs and your budget. 

We've looked at the pros and cons of a wide range of regular and plugin hybrid cars on offer in Australia in 2020  for under $100k, to help you decide if moving to a hybrid is the right choice.

These reviews cover hybrid cars. For a run down of SUVs, check out our reviews of Hybrid SUVs available in Australia 2020.

Regular hybrid cars:

(Skip to plug-in hybrids)

Toyota Yaris Hybrid - From $25,000 plus on-road costs (estimated)

Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Completely new, Toyota’s fourth-gen five-door hatch since 1999’s breakout Echo, mirrors the previous model size-wise, matching rivals like the Suzuki Swift, but offers substantially greater interior space.

The styling inside and out transforms from dull to daring, with overseas reviews suggesting that comfort, quality and refinement levels improve just as dramatically, backed up by reduced road noise, a modern touchscreen interface and even a world-first airbag between the front seats. Plus, driver-assist safety like AEB, adaptive cruise control and a lane-keep system debut, highlighting the Toyota’s newfound high-tech maturity.

Likewise, the Hybrid’s powertrain also breaks fresh ground for the price point, introducing a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine assisted by a lightweight lithium-ion battery and electric motor. Along with stunning economy, this Yaris is said to deliver surprisingly sprightly performance and battery-only power for a claimed “80 percent of most average commutes”, as well as surefooted handling. On the downside, there’s limited rear-seat room, a smallish boot and a bumpy ride.

Smart, advanced and affordable, the Yaris Hybrid might single-handedly revive the stale supermini segment.

Toyota Yaris hybrid specifications
Engine: 67kW/147Nm 1.5L in-line 3 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 59kW AC synchronous electric
Battery: lithium-ion
Total system power: 85kW
EV range: TBC
Electricity: TBC
Fuel: 2.9L/100km*
CO2: 86g/km*
Safety rating: 5 stars

(* EU version)

Toyota Corolla Hybrid - From $26,335 plus on-road costs

Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Toyota quietly released a series-parallel hybrid system (from the closely related Prius) into the old Corolla in 2016, but it’s the all-new 12th-generation version launched in 2018 that brought electrification to the masses.

Now also available in the latest sedan, 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 in.

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 muscular 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 small car choice.

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: 90kW
EV range: <2km @ <40km/h
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 4.2L/100km
CO2: 97g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Toyota Camry Hybrid - From $30,590 plus on-road costs

Toyota Camry Hybrid

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

Yet the latest hybrid version, released in 2017, is probably the best version in the mid-sized family car’s 37-year local history, since it also adds exceptional value and outstanding efficiency into the mix – and all without undermining interior packaging or driver appeal.

Offered in fleet-focused Ascent, Ascent Sport and luxury SL grades, the Camry Hybrid employs 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 eighth-generation Camrys, the Hybrid offers easy controls, family-friendly practicality, accommodates five adults, and has a big, 524L boot including a space-saver spare. Yet is 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 (as well as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity at last), 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: 1.6kWh Nickel-metal hydride
Total system power: 160kW
EV range: <2km @ <40km/h
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 4.2-4.5L/100km
CO2: 96-101g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid - From $34,790 plus on-road costs

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

With three distinct Ioniq models to choose from, Hyundai has the affordable electrified small-car market covered.

The cheapest is the Hybrid, which undercuts the Prius, which it most closely emulates, by more than $2000. It’s available in Elite or the better-equipped Premium (from $39,990), and includes AEB autonomous emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and other driver-assist safety gear.

Like the Toyota, the Hybrid employs a series-parallel set-up, but in smaller 1.6-litre (rather than the Prius’ 1.8L) sizing, driving the front wheels via a responsive six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Assisted by a 32kW electric motor, 104kW is the total system power output, but there’s no battery-only driving range. Instead, its main mission is to greatly benefit economy, to average an exceptional 3.2L/100km.

The battery is recharged via energy garnered from braking and/or the petrol engine. There is also the $41,990-$46,490 plug-in that adds a cable to recharge using the mains, for over 60km of pure electric driving, while the electric from $48,490-$52,490 is purely battery powered and is claimed to achieve up to 373km between charges.

With plenty of cabin space, a stylish dashboard, excellent multimedia set-up, easy controls and a sizeable luggage area under the hatch, the Ioniq Hybrid makes for a practical and frugal runabout.

Hyundai Ioniq hybrid specifications
Engine: 77kW/147Nm 1.6L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: six-speed DCT/FWD
Motor: 32kW/170 AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.56kWh Lithium-ion
Total output power: 104kW
EV range: n/a
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 3.4L/100km
CO2: 79g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Toyota Prius - From $37,090 plus on-road costs

2020 Toyota Prius

Synonymous with the term ‘hybrid’, today’s Prius is a culmination of decades of development.

Launched in 2016 and facelifted last year with a new nose and tail, updated multimedia screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, the fourth-generation version evolves the series-parallel hybrid technology the original pioneered 23 years ago.

At the Prius’ heart is a 72kW 1.8-litre engine, electric motor and battery system. After a brief period of battery-only motivation at take-off, the petrol unit kicks in quietly, then shuts off again under deceleration or braking, while charging the battery pack along the way. Assisted by the very aerodynamic teardrop shape, it averages 3.4L/100km – incredible efficiency.

Unlike previous Priuses, today’s version rewards the keen driver, with accurate steering and steady, secure roadholding, even at speed, while the suspension isolates most bumps and noises well. The dash is space-age in design but employs quality materials. Comfy cushions and the roomy hatch out back (over 500L in capacity), highlight the Toyota’s family-friendly packaging. And, driver-assist safety systems like AEB, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control are offered. Going for the $44,550 i-Tech adds plenty of luxury touches. However, no spare tyre is fitted.

Though no longer the cheapest, the well-rounded Prius represents excellent value.

Toyota Prius 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 power system: 90kW
EV range: <2km @ <40km/h
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 3.4L/100km
CO2: 80g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Toyota Prius V - From $37,590 plus on-road costs

Toyota Prius V

Essentially an expanded third-generation Prius, the series-parallel hybrid V (for versatility) launched back in 2012, and is smaller and narrower than people movers such as the Honda Odyssey, as well as midsized SUVs like Nissan’s X-Trail.

Yet the seven-seater wagon’s front, second and third rows can concurrently accommodate up to 190cm, 180cm, and – at a squeeze – 170cm people respectively. Wide doors provide easy access, there’s 180 litres of cargo space, or 485L with row three dropped, beating some larger wagons. Clever.

Toyota swapped out the regular Prius’ nickel-metal hydride pack for a far-slimmer lithium-ion unit, housed between the front seats. With no external charging possible because the hybrid system is only designed to assist rather than take over, under 2km of pure electric drive is possible, before the 73kW/142Nm 1.8-litre petrol engine kicks in.

Where the V feels its age is in its initial sluggish and noisy acceleration, though owners are more likely to appreciate the willing performance once at highway speeds, brilliant economy, good vision and light controls for effortless parking and generous safety kit that include a camera, AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.

Nearly a decade on, the Prius V remains one of the cheapest seven seaters available, as well as the only one that’s a hybrid, making it a uniquely compelling proposition.

BMW 330e PHEV specifications
Engine: 73kW/142Nm 1.8L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 60kW AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.0kWh lithium-ion
Total system power: 100kW
EV range: <2km @ <40km/h
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 4.4L/100km
CO2: 101g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

(Skip to plug-in hybrids)

Lexus CT200h - From $40,900 plus on-road costs

Lexus CT200h

At nearly 10, the CT200h is certainly a survivor. Available in Luxury, F Sport and Sport Luxury grades, the Japanese-built hatch is – like the related Prius – a series-parallel hybrid, giving it a uniquely eco-focused identity against rivals like Audi’s A3.

Reasons for the littlest Lexus’ longevity are clear. Its design has presence, with a stylish dash, clear dials, plush seats, plenty of equipment and high-quality fittings. A 2016 facelift brought additional driver-assist safety and other updates.

Additionally, even though it is based on the previous-generation Corolla, the CT200h features a sophisticated independent rear suspension set-up, promising excellent dynamics.

However, while the littlest Lexus is frugal, the 73kW 1.8-litre engine feels oddly flat even with electrical assistance, lacking the punch or refinement of most premium competitors. Acceleration is merely adequate, and is accompanied by a harshness and drone at higher speeds that is at odds with the brand’s values.

Worse still, the suspension is too firm. Sure, it helps the CT200h take corners quickly, but the ride feels bumpy and unsettled on all but smooth roads, while the steering is too light and seems artificial.

Factor in the fiddly multimedia, cramped rear seat and small boot, and the CT200h is left wanting. Go Lexus’ superior UX250h instead.

Lexus CT200h specifications
Engine: 73kW/142Nm 1.8L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 60kW/207Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.3kWh Nickel-metal hydride
Total system power: 100kW
EV range: <2km @ <40km/h
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 4.1L/100km
CO2: 95g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid - From $50,490 plus on-road costs

Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid

Did you know a petrol-electric Accord has been available since 2015?

Hailing from Thailand but designed mainly for American tastes, 2020’s all-new, 10th-generation Accord in Hybrid guise takes the fight upmarket, boasting everything-including-the-kitchen-sink luxury, quiet refinement, sprawling rear legroom and a massive boot (with a space-saver spare).

Under the bonnet is a 107kW/175Nm 2.0-litre 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; Hybrid Drive that 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 instant, seamless and gutsy performance, combined with exceptionally low fuel consumption, while precise steering and agile 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 and a full suite of driver-assist safety tech, today’s Accord Hybrid makes for a convincing if understated premium eco alternative. Lexus, look out.

Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid specifications
Engine: 107kW/175Nm 2.0L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/front
Motor: 135kW/315Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.3kWh Lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 158kW/315Nm
EV range: n/a
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 4.3L/100km
CO2: 98g/km
Safety rating: Not rated

Lexus ES300h - From $60,488 plus on-road costs

Lexus ES300h

Once, the cheapest Lexus sedan was criticised for being a bloated Camry in drag, but today’s seventh-generation ES, out since 2018, truly benefits from its Toyota connection.

Streamlined, imposing and astoundingly spacious inside, the ES300h comes in three grades – Luxury, F Sport and Sport Luxury – and all include goodies like top-level driver-assist safety tech, smartphone wireless charging, a head-up display and a massive multimedia screen. Too bad the latter’s mouse control is infuriating to use. The dash looks expensive, 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.

About the size of a (considerably more high-tech) BMW 530e plug-in hybrid but at nearly half the price, the Japanese-built ES300h represents real value if economy, durability, space, gadgetry, quality fittings and superb craftsmanship matter. And all thanks to the Camry Hybrid DNA.

Lexus ES300h 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: 160kW
EV range: <2km @ <40km/h
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 4.6L/100km
CO2: 104g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Lexus IS300h - From $61,890 plus on-road costs

Lexus IS300h

What happens if you cross a BMW 3 Series with a Toyota Prius? Released back in 2013 and given a face lift with extra driver-assist safety during 2016, the sharply-attired IS300h comes in three flavours – Luxury, F Sport and Sport Luxury – and brings comparatively affordable series-parallel hybrid technology to medium premium sedans.

Centred around Toyota’s reliable 2.5-litre engine, electric motor and battery combination, the system is tuned for speedy response as well as commendable frugality. Switch from eco to sport mode, and the electrical assistance will provide a hefty surge of torque to the rear wheels from stand still, making the IS300h a quick point-to-point proposition. Plus, the light steering offers precise handling agility, though more feedback would be welcome. Also, on optional bigger wheels, the firm suspension can result in a bumpy ride.

The IS300h cabin is snug yet special, with a striking dash, lovely materials, excellent quality and loads of standard features helping to justify the premium pricing. Truly comfy seating, plenty of storage, logical controls and a decent boot (but with no spare) are further highs, though the ageing multimedia system is distractingly complicated and rear seat space is tight for taller folk.

Still relevant today, the IS300h has stood the test of time remarkably well.

Lexus IS300h specifications
Engine: 133kW/221Nm 2.5L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: CVT/rear
Motor: 105kW/300Nm AC synchronous electric
Battery: 1.6kWh Nickel-metal hydride
Total system power: 164kW
EV range: <2km @ <40km/h
Electricity: n/a
Fuel: 4.9L/100km
CO2: 113g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Plug-in hybrid cars:

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in - From $41,990 plus on-road costs

Hyundai Ionic plug-in

Released locally in 2018, the Ioniq was overhauled for 2020 with new styling, a slick dashboard redesign bringing a massive touchscreen, a fuller suite of safety equipment like stop/go adaptive cruise control and a quieter cabin.

Emulating the Toyota Prius in size and shape, the Ioniq is a full five-seater with ample space up front but tight rear headroom for taller folks due to the aero-enhancing sloping roofline. The hatch brings a useful 341L of cargo capacity.

Undercutting other plug-ins by many thousands, Hyundai’s plug-in arrives in $41,990 Elite or leather-and-luxury Premium guise for $4500 extra. Both are handsomely equipped and feature a 77kW/147Nm 1.6-litre petrol engine paired to an electric motor driving the front wheels via a dual-clutch auto (DCT).

Over 60km of sole electric drive is achievable before the batteries drain and the engine fires into life, though the motor does provide additional muscle. The result is a zippy performer that handles corners with reassuring agility, though bumps do make themselves felt (and heard) around town. Recharging via a regular home socket takes around seven hours.

Great for all-electric commuting yet still good for 900km on a tankful of unleaded, the Ioniq Plug-in is a friendly stepping stone to full EV motoring.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in specifications
Engine: 77kW/147Nm 1.6L in-line 4 petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 6-speed DCT/front
Motor: 44.5kW AC synchronous electric
Battery: 8.9kWh lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 104kW/170Nm
EV range: 63km
Electricity: 10.3kW/h/100km
Fuel: 1.1L/100km
CO2: 26g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Mercedes-Benz A250e PHEV - From $60,000 (approx.) plus on-road costs

Mercedes-Benz A250e PHEV

Coming this spring is Mercedes’ first tilt at a small-car plug-in hybrid in Australia.

Full details aren’t available as yet but expect low-$60K pricing from the new A250e hatch and sedan, featuring a 1.3-litre turbo engine and electric motor combo. Up to 76km of battery-only driving is possible, before switching to petrol motivation, and charging requires around seven hours at home or about two hours via an optional wall box.

Overseas reviews suggest that power comes on strongly and seamlessly, with 100km/h reached in just 6.6 seconds, though with 450Nm of torque on tap, the front wheels might struggle for traction. Decisive steering and nimble handling are further highlights, but a stiff suspension tune might 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 myriad EV-related data and high safety levels. Rear-seat room is tight as usual, while boot capacity drops slightly (down to 370L in the hatch and 420L in sedan) due to the battery tech.

Only the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in at $20K cheaper and Mini Countryman PHEV offer similar tech right now, but Audi A3 and the BMW 1 Series are also set to follow suit soon. Game on.

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: Up to 76km*
Electricity: 14.6-15.3kWh*
Fuel: 1.4-1.6L/100km*
CO2: 32-36g/km*
Safety rating: 5 stars

(* EU version)

BMW 330e PHEV - From $78,900 plus on-road costs

BMW 330e PHEV

Did you know BMW is a 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 ‘G20’ 3 Series launched during 2019, today’s 330e plug-in hybrid arrives from Germany in either M Sport or Luxury grades, and consists of a 135kW/300Nm 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 – before the engine kicks in seamlessly, while more than 1800km between refills is claimed. Impressive. Charge times vary from three to seven hours, the latter from 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 the differences. The hybrid is only 0.1 seconds slower to 100km/h (at just 5.9s), handles corners with similar, 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.

Still, electrification only enhances what is one of the most sports/luxury sedans around.

BMW 330e PHEV specifications
Engine: 135kW/300Nm 2.0L in-line 4 turbo petrol
Transmission/driving wheels: 8-speed auto/rear
Motor: 83kWh AC synchronous electric
Battery: 10.3kWh lithium-ion
Total power/torque: 215kW/420Nm
EV range: 60km
Electricity: 15.4kW/h/100km
Fuel: 2.2L/100km
CO2: 50g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

Mercedes-Benz C300e - From $82,300 plus on-road costs

Mercedes-Benz C300e PHEV

Launched back in 2014, Australia’s favourite luxury midsizer is now getting on, but the recently-released C300e brings the C-Class’s plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology bang up to date.

Ousting the C350e, the sedan-only C300e amalgamates a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo, nine-speed auto, an electric motor and sizeable battery, with startling results. On one hand, a scalding 5.4 seconds 100km/h, or on the other, 52km of petrol-free electric drive. The latter is rechargeable in seven hours using a normal domestic power outlet, or in two hours via an available wall box.

Such tech doesn’t come cheap at nearly $83K, but be grateful that the standard C300e is quite luxuriously equipped, and impresses with supportive seats, terrifically connected steering, full driver-assist safety and air suspension offering either a cushy ride or road-hugging tautness should a need for additional speed arise.

However, when extended, the turbo powertrain can sound gruff, the dash is looking very last decade and lags behind BMW’s 330e equivalent with outmoded multimedia and a laughably inaccurate voice-control, while luggage capacity is curtailed by a battery pack stack (and there’s no spare wheel either).

Hushed as an EV yet still powerful in sport mode, at least the handsome C300e’s PHEV tech is fit beyond the series’ considerable years.

Mercedes-Benz C300e 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: 52km
Electricity: 16.7kWh/100km
Fuel: 2.1L/100km
CO2: 46g/km
Safety rating: 5 stars

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