These days, the term ‘hybrid’ gets bandied about to describe everything from a £150,000 super-GT with a plug socket to a £13,000 supermini with stop-start.
As electrification technologies in new cars have diversified, it has become an increasingly less useful descriptive term. And yet, because diesel engines have been vilified by the court of public opinion and the goal of moving to full-electric mobility is moved ever closer, more and more of us have decided we want a hybrid now – whatever that term should happen to encompass.
This top 10 chart seeks to take in anything that you might consider to be a hybrid car in the ‘traditional’ sense. That is, it has a small-capacity petrol engine that’s supplemented by an electric motor and a small battery and so can run for only very short distances without emitting anything from its tailpipe. Plug-in hybrids with their bigger batteries and greater electric ranges aren’t included, and neither is the latest generation of so-called mild hybrids with their integrated starter-generators.
That said, we are being a bit flexible in what we deem to be a hatchback in this list. The cars here come in a range of shapes and sizes, with everything from humble superminis to larger crossovers making an appearance. All of these cars have two important things in common, though: none comes with a plug socket and all have the potential to offer impressive fuel savings in the sorts of stop-start urban driving environments in which they were designed to flourish.
Having spent more than two decades introducing the world to the hybrid powertrain, Toyota is now well advanced with normalising it – and no car on sale does this better than the current Corolla hatchback.
Ushered in to replace the ageing Auris in 2019, the Corolla is a game-changer for Toyota in what remains one of the most important market segments of them all. It combines a healthy dose of visual style with tangible perceived cabin quality and, like one or two other of its showroom siblings introduced over the past few years, it’s based on a new global model platform and has been dynamically developed and tuned – quite successfully – for distinguishing ride and handling sophistication.
In its range-topping 2.0-litre hybrid form, it even performs with a bit of sporting edge. The free-spinning, elastic-band-effect acceleration feel of the powertrain can be found if you go looking for it under wide throttle applications, but generally the car’s part-throttle responsiveness is much better than you might expect, and its outright performance level a lot more assured.
That the Corolla is also one of Toyota’s self-proclaimed ‘self-charging’ hybrids will appeal to people who prefer their motoring lives to be kept simple – but not as much as the all-round ownership credentials of a car that they can feel equally as good about owning and driving as they do about their outgoings at the pump.