Currently reading: James Ruppert: Say hi to a hybrid this winter
With petrol-electric becoming more popular on the used market, there are few better times to invest in dual-power
5 mins read
17 December 2019

I notice that every quarter used car sales are on the up, according to the SMMT. At the three-quarter point of this year sales were up 0.9%, which equates to 6.1 million used cars. Interestingly, plug-in electric and hybrid models showed a solid increase of 13%, totalling 37,589 units and growing their share of sales to 1.8% from 1.6% over the same time last year. I must say I’m warming to hybrids and they are becoming unavoidable on the forecourt. Stats are all very well, of course, but what’s available in the metal is much more impressive.

I have a thing for Mondeos and it’s so easy to forget that there has been a hybrid one around for a good few years. At a largish nearby car supermarket there was a 2015 2.0 saloon in full-on Titanium specification, which includes leather seats and a rear-facing parking camera. Significantly, it didn’t have a mega-mileage (like so many do) with just below 50,000 on the clock. So with zero annual road tax and an official 70mpg overall, £12,000 seems very reasonable indeed.

Infinitis are pretty forgettable too, and are leaving the showrooms for good, but they have Nissan hybrid running gear. As a luxury saloon, they tend to be rather anonymous but very well put together. An M35h GT in suitably generous Premium specification has everything you could possibly want. A 2013 saloon will deliver around 40mpg from its petrol/electric combo, and with 80,000 miles this fancy saloon will cost £9999. There are several upsides to running an Infiniti and I would highlight quality and exclusivity.

I seem to be in a hybrid saloon car enclave, which is great. With good economy and low or no tax, it’s hard to think of anything better than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. I came across a 2014 3.5 S400h SE Line L with lots of stuff to make the rear passengers super-comfy. So rear climate control, ventilated electric seating and sun blinds, while 44mpg is on offer along with £150 road tax, and all for £19,990. The 109k mileage isn’t too bad and the service history is all stamped up, and no one smoked inside it apparently.

Then again, if you’re going to be doing the driving rather than sitting in the back, the best saloon in the world has to be a BMW 5 Series. A 2012 535 ActiveHybrid SE for £12,999 seems like a nice way to travel, and finding one with ‘comfort’ seats and nappa leather with 71,000 miles appeals – while 44mpg and £190 road tax are further sweeteners. I was interested that the dealer was offering a comprehensive three-year warranty for £895, which has to be worth doing with any complex modern car. Hopefully all these new hybrid buyers are ticking that box.


Find an Autocar review

Read our review

Car review

The self-proclaimed 'best car in the world' gets a touch more luxury, a heap of new technology and a mild hybrid electrical system, but is it enough to hold off the latest attempts from BMW and Audi?

Back to top

What we almost bought this week

BMW 318i SE: This tidy, unpretentious 318i with 146,000 miles looks good value at £550. It’s hard to tell if it has tin worm at this distance but the private seller claims not, so we’ll hold them to that. The E46 had wonderful steering and a fine ride and handling balance. Shame it’s not a six, but at least it’ll be cheaper to run.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

BMW 320, mileage - 83,752: At a time when most people are rightly squirrelling away their classics for winter, I’m digging in to make mine ready for a busy few days. Luckily it was simple enough for an idiot like me to do and make it tick over just a tad faster at 900rpm: I just took the air filter off, which was simple enough. Now it’s not as hard to start as it has been. What I have learned is that I can’t rush the Baby Shark. It’s the one car I own that needs a good old-fashioned warming up. If I get stranded, I’ll let you know.

Back to top

Reader's ride

BMW 530i: Huge thanks to Andrew, who did that rare thing and shared one of those difficult moments we all have from time to time: selling a car. Still, the money stops us getting too emotional.

“Waved goodbye to our 530i this week, after seven years and 60k miles,” he says. “It cost just £800 in depreciation. Reliable, cheap and easy to service and repair, it will be fondly remembered for years. Bought for long-distance holiday travel. It’s off to Poland for a new life, so it’s not just big diesels they’re importing.”

Readers' questions

Back to top

Question: I see scrappage allowances have made a comeback. Are they good value for money? David Barnes, Sheffield

Answer: If your old car really is on its last legs then perhaps there’s some value in them, although all you’re getting is the discount you’d have got on the new car had you pushed for it. If your old car is still in rude health we’d recommend selling it yourself beforehand, then getting the maximum discount on the new car. Better still, buy a pre-reg model: you’ll find that if you go through an online seller you’ll save an average of around £2600 compared with the price, including scrappage allowance, of the equivalent new model. JE

Question: I’ve recently become interested in fuel cell cars. A new vehicle is beyond my budget so I’m trying to find a used Hyundai iX35 FCEV. Can you help? Mark Drury, via email

Answer: It’s not surprising you can’t find a used ix35 FCEV since only 17 were sold and Hyundai UK still has five of them on its own fleet, where they serve as shuttle buses and support vehicles. The remaining 12 were a mix of lease and outright purchase, so as their warranties end and getting parts becomes harder, they’ll come to market. Hyundai says it will sell its five examples one day, too, so keep your eyes peeled. JE


Top 10 best hybrid hatchbacks 2019

Toyota Corolla goes hybrid-only for 2020 

Plug-in hybrid duel: Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60

Join the debate

Add a comment…
xxxx 17 December 2019


No mention of the £5k'ish premium.  No private buyer could make an economic argument for the plug-in.

If the BIK disappeared overnight so would the PHEV

runnerbean 17 December 2019

Missing information

Article fails to mention the very significant differences in benefits between non-plug-in and plug-in hybrids e.g. re taxation, parking in Westminster, Congestion Charge and ULEZ.  

Confusing, I know, but surely when writing the article it's Ruppert's job to clarify.

LP in Brighton 17 December 2019

Every car should be a hybrid

Agreed that maybe hybrids have a bad image, perhaps because people associate them with the Toyota Prius and its "elastic band effect"  eCVT transmission (which is actually very clever and efficient, just misunderstood). But the fact is that batteries and electric motors are now sufficiently cheap that it makes perfect sense to recover a bit of surplus energy when braking or travelling downhill, then to redeploy it as extra torque for acceleration or hill-climbing.  

Find an Autocar car review