2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug In Hybrid driving sunroof ・ Photo by Hyundai
It’s a good rule of thumb that smaller vehicles get better EPA ratings than larger ones, and the best hybrid compacts take things to the next level. Some of these rides can top 50 mpg in city, highway, and combined driving alike.
The hybrid advantage comes from small electric batteries powering motors that provide assistance to the vehicles’ gasoline engines. That’s said, you don’t have to worry about plugging in with most hybrids. They have regenerative braking systems that use the car’s stoppers as electricity generators. The hybrids that do require an outlet can be worth it for some drivers, though: The few hours of charging can deliver a significant all-electric driving range. And plug-ins without full batteries can still supply the same kind of efficiency as traditional hybrids.
Toyota, like a number of automakers, offers multiple choices if you’re shopping for the best hybrid compacts. But since we only have room for one entry per brand, we’ll focus on the most famous one: the 2020 Toyota Prius.
The classic Prius fits right between Toyota’s other compact cars in length, being longer than the Toyota Corolla hatchback and shorter than the Corolla sedan. It’s also the most efficient Toyota hybrid, thanks to EPA scores of 58 mpg city/53 mpg highway/56 mpg combined for the Eco trim. Other Prius trims manage 53 city/52 highway/52 combined, while the Prius Prime adds plug-in capability. This latter model has an all-electric range of 25 miles, and it hits 54 mpg combined when running on gasoline.
Photo by Toyota
Honda has two of the best compact hybrids now that the Honda CR-V compact SUV has gotten in on the action. The CR-V joins the 2020 Honda Insight, which is a compact hybrid sedan.
The Insight’s claim to fame is a combined fuel-economy grade that’s just as high as the one for the standard Toyota Prius. However, the Honda achieves its performance in a different way. It has a higher rating in the city and a lower one on the highway. The result is EPA scores of 55 mpg city, 49 mpg highway, and 52 mpg combined on most trim levels, and 4 mpg less on the uplevel Touring model. Shoppers should also keep in mind that the Insight’s MSRP is more than $1,200 lower than the starting price of a Prius.
Photo by Honda
The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq is a bit smaller than the best hybrid compacts from the other brands, but it’s more efficient, too. So the Ioniq Blue hatchback makes up for being 4 inches shorter than our benchmark — the Toyota Prius — by showcasing EPA marks of 57 mpg city/59 mpg highway/58 mpg combined. No unplugged hybrid does better. The standard Ioniq also best their Prius counterparts, managing 55 city/54 highway/55 combined.
Oh, and if you do want to plug in, the Ioniq has an optional powertrain that delivers 29 miles of driving on electricity alone. After that, you can enjoy a combined EPA rating of 52 mpg in gas-hybrid mode. (Lastly, an available all-electric Ioniq goes 170 miles on a single charge.)
Photo by Hyundai
Unsurprisingly, many of 2020’s best hybrid compacts aren’t compact cars — they’re compact SUVs. These vehicles blend the rugged looks of today’s most popular body style with increasingly high fuel-economy results.
Consider the 2020 Ford Escape. This is the third time Ford has offered a hybrid version of the Escape, and the latest edition has by far the best EPA scores yet. To be exact, the 2020 model is rated at 44 mpg city/37 mpg highway/41 mpg combined with front-wheel drive or about 1 mpg less with all-wheel drive. Those grades represent improvements of 47%, 32%, and 41%, respectively, over the original 2005 Escape Hybrid. An estimated 30-mile EV driving range will distinguish the new Escape plug-in.
Photo by Ford
The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek is another one of the best hybrid compacts that’s back from a vacation. Last seen at new-car dealerships for the 2016 model year, the Crosstrek hybrid has returned with a 20% jump in combined fuel economy. The Crosstrek currently earns an EPA rating of 35 mpg in combined driving.
That’s not the only difference between the new and old models. The 2020 edition is also available only as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). It lets you travel 17 miles on electricity and more than 460 miles on gasoline — with standard all-wheel drive. In fact, Subaru claims that the Crosstrek is “the most fuel efficient all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid in America.” (This is based on the vehicle’s EPA rating of 90 MPGe combined in EV mode.)
Photo by Subaru
Mitsubishi also takes a plug-in path to a place among the best hybrid compacts. For that brand, we have the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The Outlander is noticeably less efficient than the Subaru Crosstrek, but it’s also noticeably larger.
Where the Outlander has its advantage is in terms of EV range. On a full battery, it can travel 22 miles with a sip of gasoline. The EPA rates the Outlander PHEV at 25 mpg combined for gas-hybrid driving. Taken together, those numbers are good enough that the Outlander PHEV was named 2020’s Family Car of the Year by the “Green Car Journal.” No doubt helping matters is the vehicle’s standard Super All-Wheel Control system for enhanced all-wheel drive performance.
Photo by Mitsubishi
Our selection of the best compact hybrids of the year also includes a trio of SUVs from the top three German luxury brands. The 2020 Audi Q5 leads the way alphabetically speaking, although it’s likely to be the last to reach dealerships.
When it does arrive, it will come with Audi’s new “TFSI e” plug-in powertrain that allows approximately 20 to 25 miles of range using electricity alone. The hybrid system will also ensure dynamic performance with a combined 367 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. For comparison’s sake, the high-performance Audi SQ5 SUV has the same amount of torque but fewer horses. Naturally, a hybrid-specific version of Audi’s “Quattro” all-wheel drive will be standard on the Q5 plug-in model, along with many of the brand’s favorite luxury features.
Photo by Audi
Coming from the same country, BMW recently introduced two new plug-in models, and we think both should be on your shopping list if you’re interested in the best hybrid compacts. That said, the 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e PHEV SUV will be here first, in the first quarter of 2020. (The BMW 330e plug-in sedan should follow soon after.)
The X3 plug-in is expected to supply “close to 20 miles” of EV driving, according to the automaker. More importantly for enthusiasts, the pluggable X3 stays true to its roots as one of BMW’s “Sports Activity Vehicles.” This means it carries a combined 292 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, which it can convert to a top speed above 130 mph and a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds.
Photo by BMW
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e also joins the Audi and BMW competition in our gallery of the best hybrid compacts. Of course, this isn’t Mercedes’ first ride at the plug-in rodeo. The GLC 350e SUV actually uses the third generation of the brand’s pluggable hybrid technology, which raises the bar for both efficiency and performance.
Highlights include approximately 25 miles of EV driving range, a 0-to-60 time of about 5.6 seconds, and system totals of 315 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. The plug-in model also gains all upgrades from the rest of the next-gen GLC family. Here the big news is the cutting-edge Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment technology, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, and “Hey, Mercedes” voice activation.
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
Lexus is a well-known source for luxury and efficiency, and the brand puts them both together in its best hybrid compacts. The 2020 Lexus NX 300h SUV, for example, can be ordered with upscale cues like climate-controlled front seats, a power-adjustable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, power-folding rear seats, and an 835-watt Mark Levinson audio system.
Then, behind its dramatic Lexus grille, the NX 300h keeps its gas-electric hybrid powertrain. The setup enables EPA ratings of 33 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg combined, and that’s with the added benefit of all-wheel drive. As the perfect complement to all that, Lexus equips the NX with advanced standard technology for both driver assistance and connectivity. Highlights span from mobile Wi-Fi to the full Lexus Safety System 2.0.
Photo by Lexus