Today's Best Compact Hybrids
If you’re looking to save big on fuel, but aren’t yet ready to move to an electric or a plug-in hybrid vehicle, a compact hybrid might be for you. While hybrid technology helps improve the efficiency of every kind of vehicle, overall efficiency is affected by frontal area and weight. That means that hybrid SUVs, vans, and trucks are still far less efficient than hybrid cars.
Fortunately, you don’t have to accept many compromises in a compact hybrid. They still give you excellent features, safety and comfort. And almost all of the vehicles on our list get more than 50 MPG in the city.
Introduced in 2000, the Prius is one of the original hybrids, and has always been a leader in fuel economy and low running costs. Careful aerodynamic sculpting of its teardrop-shaped body and the relentless efforts of Toyota’s R&D department mean the Prius continues to set the template for every hybrid: teardrop shape, hatchback body, compact drivetrain, and exceptional economy. A 1.8-liter gasoline engine is augmented by an electric motor to produce 121 hp –and because it is so light, the Prius feels eager and responsive, while delivering a stunning 56 combined EPA MPG.
We also like the Prius’ interior, which is stylish, solid, and versatile thanks to its large hatchback and folding rear seats. There’s plenty of room inside, and tech features include 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. Need even more capability or economy? All-wheel drive and plug-in hybrid versions of the Prius are also available.
- Starting MSRP: $25,075
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 58/53
The original Honda Insight was a sporty, ultra-efficient two-seater, and actually the first hybrid car on sale in America, beating the better-known Prius to market by a few months. It has since grown into a more conventional family car, with a sleek fastback shape and room for five despite its compact footprint. Under the hood, a 1.5-liter gasoline engine is paired with an electric motor and CVT transmission to produce 129 hp and 52 combined MPG according to the EPA. It is smooth and responsive to drive, and one of the more entertaining hybrids on the market.
In typical Honda fashion, the Insight’s interior well-made and surprisingly luxurious (you can even get leather). While it’s well-equipped, with CarPlay, Android Auto, and a big central screen and instrument cluster, it also retains physical controls for the climate system, audio volume, and other key features. The Honda Sensing suite of safety features includes collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.
- Starting MSRP: $25,760
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 55/49
Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
Hyundai’s compact Elantra is one of the best-selling cars in the U.S., thanks to its combination of interior space, features, and edgy styling. In gasoline form, it is already a very efficient performer, but the Elantra Hybrid bumps this up to an impressive 56 MPG on the highway, the best of any hybrid car in the U.S. (it’s beaten in the city by the venerable Prius). Elantra Hybrid’s 1.6-liter direct-injection gasoline engine is augmented with a 32-kW battery and electric motor.
The rest of the package is also very strong. The interior is huge, at 99.4-cu.ft., and has strong tech features. There’s a large central touchscreen, available digital instrument cluster, and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. Elantra also has a wide range of safety systems including forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, and more are all standard. Additional reassurance comes from a 10-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty and complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first three years.
- Starting MSRP: $27,350
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 53/56
Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Toyota’s Corolla has an enviable position as the best-selling vehicle in the history of the car industry. It’s been so popular for so long because it combines space, efficiency, and rugged reliability in an inexpensive package. The latest version of the Corolla is now available in hybrid form, introducing technology from the well-known Prius into a more conventional sedan shape. The Corolla Hybrid is actually more powerful than the Prius, with a lithium-ion battery and electric motor augmenting the 1.8-liter four-cylinder to produce 139 horsepower. The EPA rates it at 52 combined MPG.
Available only as a sedan and not as a hatchback, the Corolla Hybrid shares its other attributes with the rest of the Corolla range, including a roomy interior, stylish design, and a 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 standard.
- Starting MSRP: $24,050
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: 53/52
Introduced in late 2022 as a 2023 model, the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class is so new that the EPA hasn’t released MPG figures yet – though with its luxury trimmings, we’re pretty sure it won’t hit the 50-MPG mark. Still, the compact Mercedes is one of the brand’s top-selling models in the U.S., and now features hybrid technology to improve performance and efficiency. The entry-level C300 model offers an excellent price/performance balance, with a standard 255-horsepower four-cylinder with mild hybrid drive and a 9-speed automatic transmission.
What sets the new C-Class apart is its high-tech interior. A large digital instrument cluster and giant portrait-format central screen are controlled by the excellent MBUX user interface. MBUX offers an amazing array of features and the best voice operation on the market, and once you set the car up, is very easy to use. As you would expect from Mercedes, standard safety features are comprehensive, including active brake assist, blind spot assist, pre-collision braking, and Pre-Safe, which tensions the seatbelts and can even move the front seats into a safer position if a collision is imminent.
- Starting MSRP: $43,550
- EPA estimated City/Highway MPG: TBA/TBA