Which is the best hy­brid car?

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Front Page - By Tom Wilt­shire

With so many hy­brid sys­tems on the mar­ket today, things can get con­fus­ing. Tom Wilt­shire rounds up the three most com­mon op­tions.

Shop­ping for your new car used to be as sim­ple as choos­ing be­tween a petrol or a diesel. Now though, there are hy­brids to con­sider - and not just hy­brids, but all the dif­fer­ent types avail­able.

Se­ries hy­brids, plug-in hy­brids, range-ex­tend­ing hy­brids, par­al­lel hy­brids, mild hy­brids... it's all com­ing up hy­brids!

So where do you start?

We took three of the most com­mon pow­er­train op­tions out for a spin, to help demon­strate the dif­fer­ences be­tween the three most com­mon hy­brid op­tions. Th­ese are the con­tenders... First, rep­re­sent­ing the mild hy­brid, we have the Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48V. This uses a 2.0-litre diesel en­gine in con­junc­tion with a 48-volt mild hy­brid sys­tem to pro­vide a de­gree of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Next up, the tra­di­tional hy­brid, rep­re­sented by the Lexus RX L. Toy­ota and Lexus are the most pro­lific hy­brid builders on the mar­ket - es­pe­cially Lexus, which took an in­dus­try-lead­ing ap­proach to to­tally phase out diesel in favour of petrol hy­brid pow­er­trains.

The RX L uses a 3.5-litre V6 petrol en­gine in com­bi­na­tion with an elec­tric mo­tor.

Fi­nally, the plug-in hy­brid, rep­re­sented by the best-sell­ing ex­am­ple on the mar­ket - the Mit­subishi Out­lander PHEV. Ca­pa­ble of around 30 miles on elec­tric power alone, the Out­lander has a 2.4-litre petrol en­gine paired to elec­tric mo­tors and a large bat­tery pack with a charg­ing fa­cil­ity.

First, the ques­tion of all-elec­tric range. The Out­lander is the only car here which qual­i­fies as an ul­tra-low emis­sions car, as it's ca­pa­ble of 30 miles on elec­tric power alone. That should keep it on the right side of forth­com­ing emis­sions reg­u­la­tions in big cities, and if you have a short com­mute, it's pos­si­ble that you may be able to com­plete the whole dis­tance on elec­tric power alone.

Plug-in hy­brids are the only such ve­hi­cles on the mar­ket with enough range to be a us­able EV, but tra­di­tional hy­brids are ca­pa­ble of a few miles on elec­tric power alone. The Lexus RX L can run for a cou­ple of miles in stately, silent elec­tric mode, but the bat­tery pack doesn't have the ca­pac­ity to keep it up for much longer than that.

In ad­di­tion, the RX L uses a smaller, less pow­er­ful elec­tric mo­tor, mean­ing per­for­mance on elec­tric power alone is lim­ited - head above 37mph and the petrol en­gine will cut in.

Fi­nally, there's the Sportage. As with most mild hy­brid sys­tems, were it not for the badg­ing, you'd be hard pressed to tell there was any elec­tri­fi­ca­tion at all. There's no ca­pac­ity for pure elec­tric driv­ing - the diesel en­gine re­mains run­ning at all times, and the elec­tric mo­tor is there more to as­sist.

This fac­tor means the Kia is the most 'or­di­nary' to drive - not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing, if you're a tra­di­tion­al­ist. With a pow­er­ful 2.0-litre diesel en­gine and au­to­matic gear­box, the com­bi­na­tion's lim­ited to top­spec Sportages, but mild hy­brid sys­tems are be­com­ing avail­able on more and more cars - from tiny Suzukis to huge Mercedes.

The Lexus is more of a sac­ri­fice: The gains you make in some ar­eas are re­duced in oth­ers. For ex­am­ple, the best ef­fi­ciency gains are to be felt in short jour­neys around town, where the RX L's re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing and elec­tric set-off make progress easy and fuel econ­omy im­pres­sive. But on the mo­tor­way, the elec­tric ad­di­tions are of lit­tle help, and the Lexus isn't as ef­fi­cient as the equiv­a­lent diesel from other man­u­fac­tur­ers.

If you're ac­tively look­ing to elec­trify your life, you should be opt­ing for the Mit­subishi, or a sim­i­lar plug-in hy­brid. Th­ese ve­hi­cles are the only ones short of a full EV - that of­fer gen­uine all-elec­tric range, and so should re­main on the cor­rect side of fu­ture leg­is­la­tion.

Of course, th­ese three ve­hi­cles aren't the only ones on the mar­ket - nor are they truly com­pa­ra­ble, with prices rang­ing from un­der €40,000 to over €68,500. The pow­er­trains, how­ever, rep­re­sent the three main choices most buy­ers will face on top of the usual op­tions of petrol, diesel and pure elec­tric.

Choose care­fully!

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