Today's Most Efficient Hybrid Cars
It’s hard to believe that hybrid technology is now over 20 years old, the first models having being introduced in America at the end of the 1990s. What was once a niche technology targeted exclusively at fuel-savers has become very mainstream: there are now hybrid cars available in all segments. Consumers now have the option of driving hybrid sedans, SUVs, pickup trucks, and even high-performance hybrid sports cars!
Still, if you’re looking for the highest levels of efficiency, a low-slung, aerodynamic hybrid sedan or hatchback will still offer the best MPG figures. In our list of the five most efficient hybrid vehicles, you’ll find two nameplates that have been there since the beginning – as well as some familiar vehicles recently enhanced with hybrid technology.
It’s not surprising the Toyota Prius is on this list; it’s one of the original hybrids. Introduced in 2000, the Prius has always been a leader in fuel economy and low running costs, thanks to the careful aerodynamic sculpting of its body and the relentless efforts of Toyota’s R&D department. In many ways, the Prius has set the template for every hybrid: teardrop shape, hatchback body, compact drivetrain, exceptional economy. A 1.8-liter gasoline engine is augmented by an electric motor to produce 121 hp – enough for the lightweight Prius to feel eager and responsive on city and highway, and deliver 56 combined EPA MPG.
We really like the design of the Prius’ interior, which is nicely styled, very well-made, and versatile thanks to its wide-opening hatchback. There’s plenty of room for your family, backed with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, all operated through a large central screen. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 features include active cruise control, lane assist, automatic braking, and pedestrian detection. And if you need even more capability or economy, all-wheel drive and plug-in hybrid versions of the Prius are also available.
- Starting MSRP: $27,450
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 58/53
Originally launched as a sporty, ultra-efficient two-seater, the Insight was actually the first hybrid car on sale in America, beating the better-known Toyota Prius to market by a few months. It has since grown into a spacious, versatile family car, with a sleek fastback shape and room for five. A 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine is paired with an electric motor and CVT transmission to produce 129 hp, competitive with the Prius, and 52 combined MPG. It is smooth and responsive to drive in the best Honda tradition, and one of the more entertaining hybrids on the market.
We really like the Insight’s interior. In typical Honda fashion, it is well-made, and surprisingly luxurious (you can even get leather). While it’s very well-equipped, with CarPlay, Android Auto, and a big central screen and instrument cluster, it also retains physical knobs and buttons for the climate control, audio volume, and other key features, making it very easy to use. The Honda Sensing suite of safety features includes collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 55/49
Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
Hyundai’s compact Elantra sedan is one of the best-selling cars in the U.S., thanks to its impressive combination of interior space, features, and edgy styling. In gasoline form, it is already a very efficient performer, but the Elantra Hybrid significantly ups the efficiency – up to a staggering 56 MPG on the highway, best of any hybrid car in the U.S. Its 1.6-liter direct-injection gasoline engine is augmented with a 32-kW battery and electric motor, which don’t impinge on its 99.4-cu.ft interior.
The hybrid drivetrain augments an already strong package. There’s a large central touchscreen, an available digital instrument cluster, and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. Elantra also has a wide range of safety systems: forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, and more are all standard. A 10-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty and complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first three years are also standard.
- Starting MSRP: $24,550
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 53/56
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
We think the midsize Sonata is one of the best-looking four-doors on the road today, with a swooping roofline and high-end details that really set it apart. It has a massive cabin, whose luxurious design and furnishings are backed up by a smooth, effortless driving experience. In hybrid form, a 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder and electric motor produce 192 buttery horsepower, which wafts the Sonata Hybrid along in silence. The highway MPG figure is 54 – second-best on the market today.
The Sonata Hybrid is packed with innovative technology. We particularly like the clever solar roof panel, which helps recharge its batteries, as well as the LED exterior lighting hidden in the chrome trim. It also comes with a 12.5-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.25-inch central touch screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Safety features include forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic collision assist, and blind spot monitors. Like all Hyundai vehicles, three years of scheduled maintenance is free.
- Starting MSRP: $28,250
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 50/54
Toyota Corolla Hybrid
The compact Corolla is the best-selling vehicle in the history of the world, ever, thanks to its combination of space, efficiency, and rugged reliability. Now, Toyota, the brand most associated with hybrids, has introduced a hybrid Corolla, bringing a lot of Prius technology into the popular Corolla sedan. A lithium-ion battery powers an electric motor, which augments a 1.8-liter four-cylinder to produce 139 horsepower, and deliver 52 combined MPG, according to the EPA.
Corolla Hybrid shares the rest of its virtues with the regular Corolla: a roomy interior, surprisingly stylish design, and a responsive, sporty driving feel. Standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 gives you active cruise control, lane assist, automatic braking, pedestrian detection, and more. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa are also included.
- Starting MSRP: $22,800
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 53/52