Affordable hybrid cars for every budget: our top 10

So you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Hooray! Now begins the exciting research process to determine which car is the best for you (maybe it’s not so exciting). You’ve got to figure out what fits your budget and lifestyle, and maybe which is more environmentally friendly. As the cost of fuel continues to increase, perhaps it’s time to consider a hybrid car. After all, electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are still rather costly, and factors like range and charging availability are still concerns.

The hybrid vehicle is a cost-effective alternative. It sits right between traditional gasoline and diesel vehicles, and EVs and PHEVs. The hybrid is becoming an increasingly integral part of the automotive ecosystem as more and more people can afford them. Furthermore, the cost savings over the life of ownership can be substantial.

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle and a hybrid is on your radar, check out our list of the top cheap hybrid cars on the market right now.

Note: So what is considered cheap when looking for cheap hybrid cars? For the purpose of this article we’ve set the top end of our budget at $30,000. There are plenty of excellent hybrid vehicles above this price point, but we’re aiming for affordability and functionality. This list is not ordered by price, but by value for money.


1. Toyota Prius Hybrid

2018_toyota_prius_hybrid - one of the best cheap hybrid cars

Starting Price: $23,475

It shouldn’t be surprising that the Toyota Prius is at the top of our list of the best cheap hybrid cars. It was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in the world and it’s still the king. It’s hard to say “hybrid” and not immediately think “Prius.” Fun fact: the Prius was introduced to the world way back in 2000!

In all seriousness, the Toyota Prius tops our list for several reasons:

  • Excellent fuel economy coming in at 56MPG combined.
  • Established technological presence with the tried and true Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive.
  • Awesome standard features like Toyota’s Safety Sense, Bi-LED headlights, and more.
  • Best all around hybrid with new models receiving a sportier design and much more space than the Prius C.

Toyota offers the Prius in seven different trim levels, all starting under $30,000, excluding the top of the line Prius Four Touring edition, which comes in just above $30,000. The model we’re reviewing for this list is the base model, the Prius One.

The most notable difference between the new Prius and its previous generations is how much fun it is to drive. Over the years Toyota pretty much locked down the design of the vehicle’s drive-train and the pairing of gasoline engine to electric motor. Paired with the supreme aerodynamic design of the vehicle, it yielded optimal fuel efficiency, but left much be desired in other areas. There has always been room for improvement in both the driving and handling of the vehicle, as well as in its interior.

This time around Toyota surpassed our expectations. For more information on the all new Toyota Prius hybrid check out Toyota’s website.


2. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

2018_hyundai_ioniq_hybrid

Starting Price: $22,200

Coming in right behind the Prius is the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid, easily one of the best cheap hybrid cars you can buy. In its second year Hyundai threw down the gauntlet with the 2018 Ioniq hybrid. Offering three different drivetrains, the Ioniq hybrid is the only Ioniq offering from Hyundai with a gas engine. The other two models, the EV Ioniq and the PHEV Ioniq are exceptional vehicles in their own right. To learn more about our top pick PHEVs check out our best plug-in hybrid vehicle list.

Why the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid makes our list:

  • Class leading fuel economy coming in at combined 58MPG.
  • Packed with technology, including a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • Standard safety features across all three trim levels, including emergency braking assist and blind spot monitoring.
  • Improved handling and driving experience over the 2017 model. It’s sportier and more “fun” to drive.

From a styling standpoint the Ioniq is more conservative than the Prius or the Kia Niro, but it’s no slouch. The Ioniq is technically a hatchback, but it’s a little unconventional looking — combined with improved handling and extra horsepower, it gives the Ioniq hybrid a sporty appeal. However, You’re won’t be winning any races with this eco-friendly hot-hatch.

All three of the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid trims come in under $30,000 to start. The top trim level, the Limited, gets you sweet features like a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, leather seats with heated front seats and premium 17-inch alloy wheels. For more information on the all new Hyundai Ioniq hybrid check out Hyundai’s website.


3. Kia Niro Hybrid Crossover

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Starting Price: $23,340

In the number three spot for our best cheap hybrid cars guide we have our first hybrid SUV/crossover. The 2018 Kia Niro hybrid has only a few enhancements and improvements over the 2017 model. The Niro is available in four different trim levels, with the Touring edition receiving all available features. We think the base FE model comes well equipped. It’s a good starting place if you’re considering this vehicle. The Niro also comes in a PHEV variant. Check out our best plug-in hybrid vehicle list to learn more about it.

Why the Kia Niro Hybrid makes our list:

  • It’s a crossover! It could almost pass for a SUV, and with 50MPG that’s just amazing.
  • All models come standard with a 7-inch (8 inches for Touring) touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
  • The dual-clutch six-speed transmission with Sportmatic mode makes the Niro quite fun to drive.
  • Standard safety features across all models, including brake assist, vehicle stability, and traction control.

On its exterior the Niro hybrid pretty much looks the same across trim levels excluding the Touring edition which receives premium 18-inch alloy wheels. You’ll need to go to the interior to really tell the difference between the FE, LX, EX, and Touring models. The EX and Touring trims have the premium eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, as well as the Qi compatible wireless charging system. Lastly, you will also receive the 110V power inverter (which I love) and a rear located USB plug.

Driving the Niro is not that exciting, but it isn’t a total drag. It falls right in the middle, around just right. The 1.6L Atkinson cycle engine paired with the six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission gets the job done. Furthermore, it may look like it can handle dirt roads and rough terrain, but it’s still a FWD hybrid, so be careful. For more information on the all new Kia Niro hybrid check out Kia’s website.


4. Honda Accord Hybrid

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Starting Price: $25,100

Topping the growing hybrid sedan segment is our number four, the 2018 Honda Accord hybrid. Honda has had a somewhat tumultuous history with its hybrid vehicles, which have lagged quite a bit behind offerings from Toyota and Hyundai.

Its more well-known hybrid Insight has been quite successful, but vehicles like the Accord and Civic are better known to the masses. With the 2018 model Honda did a great job improving areas that needed attention in the 2017 model.

Why the Honda Accord Hybrid makes our list:

  • It’s a spacious and comfortable 5-seater sedan that drives and handles exceptionally well.
  • Achieving a combined 47MPG rating isn’t too shabby for something about the same size and weight as a BMW 5 Series.
  • Honda’s transmission-less dual motor direct-drive drivetrain (say that five times!) is state of the art and yields close-to-EV instant torque and responsiveness.
  • It’s the most affordable hybrid sedan out there, and it’s a Honda, so reliability and safety come standard.

Aside from the hybrid badging it’s almost impossible to distinguish the Accord hybrid from the other “regular” Accords on the road. The riding and driving experience is a different story, however. Like most hybrids on the market, the Accord sacrifices acceleration and power for fuel efficiency and comfort.

Driving uphill and traversing windy roads will leave you longing for that V8 sport-tuned suspension sports car. However, it will still deliver up to or beyond your expectations as a daily driver. This coupled with its excellent fuel economy, smooth ride and suspension, and user-friendly infotainment system make the Honda Accord hybrid an excellent choice. For more information on the all new Honda Accord hybrid check out Honda’s website.


5. Kia Optima Hybrid

2018_kia_optima_hybrid

Starting Price: $25,995

You’ll find the next few cars on the list (five through nine, to be precise) on pretty much every other top 10 hybrid list on the web in varying rankings. We decided on their places based on metrics like MPG, price, overall value, warranty, among others.

The 2018 Kia Optima hybrid is in its 3rd model year, bringing very few improvements or enhancements over the 2017 model. The most notable upgrades are the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard on all models.

Why the Kia Optima Hybrid makes our list:

  • The truly best-in-class 10-year or 100,000-mile warranty. No one else even comes close.
  • The Kia hybrid powertrain is noticeably more powerful than its rivals. Some may even call it sporty.
  • It comes in two trim levels, both offering high end features and specifications. Spring for the EX and you’ll get a sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and a premium ten-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
  • The interior materials and accents set it apart from other midsize sedan hybrids, giving a luxury feel for a reasonable price

Kia continues to offer high end features standard, instead of making you move higher up the trim ladder. However, the Kia Optima hybrid’s MPG could improve. Coming in at a combined 42 MPG, it’s in the back half of the pack against its rivals. Kia make’s up for this with technology, ride comfort, enjoyment, and of course that best-in-class warranty. For more information on the all new Kia Optima hybrid check out Kia’s website.


6. Ford Fusion Hybrid

2018_ford_fusion_hybrid

Starting Price: $25,390

Alright, our first American car on the list! All joking aside, the American automotive OEMs (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) are starting to seriously compete in the midsize sedan hybrid space. The 2018 Ford Fusion hybrid is unchanged from the 2017 version, offered in four trim levels. I think that’s maybe one too many, as it stretches offerings and features from one trim to the next a little thinly. The upper echelon Titanium and Platinum trims have a 12-speaker Sony premium audio system, heated and cooled front seats, and a power moonroof. Regardless of the trim you select you’ll achieve an EPA estimated 42MPG combined.

Why the Ford Fusion Hybrid makes our list:

  • This car is really fun to drive. The sturdy suspension system and zippy, responsive 2.0L iVCT Atkinson cycle I-4 engine bests its Toyota and Hyundai hybrid competition.
  • Although the trim levels vary a bit, the standard features offered on the base S model are excellent, including 17-inch alloy wheels, the SYNC infotainment system and dual-zone climate control.
  • The Platinum edition, the highest of the four trims levels, is quite luxurious and offers features more commonly found with a Mercedes or BMW.
  • It’s the “goldilocks” of the midsize sedan hybrids — just right. It offers a great ride, comfort, and fuel economy at a reasonable price

If you really like the Ford Fusion hybrid and what it offers it may make more sense to just go with the 2017 model. The changes from the 17 to the 18 are minimal, if not negligible, and could literally save you thousands of dollars. Furthermore, I would recommend going with the SE trim to start, rather than the base S trim. For hardly any extra money (less than $1,000) you’ll receive a good bit of additional features and extras. For more information on the all new 2018 Ford Fusion hybrid check out Ford’s website.


7. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2018_hyundai_sonata_hybrid

Starting Price: $25,500

Hey, look. It’s another midsize sedan hybrid getting around 40MPG combined for around $25k. The competition in this space is fierce, especially between the Asian manufacturers (Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, and Honda). If this is what you have your heart set on, you really can’t go wrong — it’s comes down to what drives the best for you and what specific feature combinations wet your whistle. The new Hyundai Sonata hybrid comes with a fresh batch of changes over the 2017 version, mostly in the interior and exterior.

Why the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid makes our list:

  • With a stylish new look and a tech-savvy interior this car delivers a load of excellent standard features for the cost conscious.
  •  Like with the Ioniq, the 10 year or 100,000 mile warranty is top notch.
  • The 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and boasts a user friendly interface with loads of information and customization.
  • Touting an EPA estimated 43 MPG combined is good, not great, but in line with its competitors.

While we really like the 2018 Hyundai Sonata hybrid for many reasons, there are a few areas Hyundai could focus on for the 2019 model. The engine could use a performance boost. Sure, its a hybrid, but you still need enough power for events like highway passing and on-ramp merging. It’s not a total drag, but it isn’t as fun to drive as the Ford Fusion or Kia Optima hybrids. The fuel economy isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. Bottom line, it could be better.

If you’re looking for a comfortable, safe, and tech-loaded hybrid that won’t break the bank or the status quo, this car is for you. For more information on the all new Hyundai Sonata hybrid check out Hyundai’s website.


8. Toyota Camry Hybrid

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Starting Price: $27,950

One of the most popular cars in the US for the last 20 years, the Toyota Camry is possibly the most successful mass-market vehicle of all time. It shouldn’t be surprising that the company behind the Prius is giving it a go with a car Americans know and love. The Camry hybrid was introduced back in 2007, believe it or not, so this is nothing new from Toyota. Each year has brought better mileage, features, ride, and comfort. The 2018 Toyota Camry hybrid is a complete redesign from the 2017 version, and it looks quite nice. The only reason this car isn’t higher up on the list is due to its elevated price point.

Why the Toyota Camry Hybrid makes our list:

  • Churning out 208HP via the 2.5L 4-cylinder gas engine and the 88kW electric motor combo and achieving 52MPG is superb.
  • In three trim levels, the sporty LE and SE, and the top level luxurious XLE, you will be spoiled with excellent features and that Camry-comfiness Toyota is so well known for.
  • By far the most spacious of all the midsize sedan hybrids on the market. Toyotas choice to relocate the battery under the rear seat freed up some space, making the Camry hybrid rather roomy and comfortable.
  • The redesign for the 2018 model is much more aggressive looking than previous models.

While other vehicles on this list include options like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sunroofs, and more, the Camry hybrid won’t disappoint. With the best combined MPG out of all the midsize sedans in this price range, a smooth and enjoyable driving experience, and the Toyota quality and reliability guarantee, you should definitely give this car a look. For more information on the all new Toyota Camry hybrid check out Toyota’s website.


9. Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

2018_chevrolet_malibu_hybrid

Starting Price: $27,920

Hot off the streets of Detroit, the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid is largely unchanged from last year’s version. Much like the Toyota Camry hybrid, the Malibu gets docked a few points for having a relatively high price. Furthermore, achieving a combined 46MPG is pretty good, but we think it could be better. However, Chevy gets top marks for delivering a high-tech, spacious, and comfortable cabin.

Why the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid makes our list:

  • Only offering one trim level may seem odd at first, but it is well equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi hotspot and 4G LTE built it. Including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes us happy, too.
  • It’s quick acceleration and sturdy handling makes for a fun and responsive driving experience, though the continuous variable transmission (CVT) can feel underwhelming at low speeds.
  • The optional myChevrolet mobile app is unique and fun. It allows you to lock the car, start the engine, and send directions to the navigation system remotely
  • If you’re looking for a subtler hybrid, the Malibu is an excellent choice. The only noticeable difference between the hybrid model and the standard Malibu is the small “H” badge on the trunk

Offering only one trim level with additional “options” is somewhat of an annoyance to me. Every other midsize sedan hybrid manufacturer offers at least two trim levels. It seems Chevy just got lazy this time around.

We like the Malibu hybrid all the same and recommend it to those looking for top-notch fuel economy, rich features, and a smooth and spacious ride. For more information on the all new Chevrolet Malibu hybrid check out Chevrolet’s website.


10. Toyota RAV4 SUV Hybrid

2018_toyota_rav4_suv_hybrid

Starting Price: $27,385

Wrapping up our top 10 list is my favorite hybrid — the 2018 Toyota RAV4 SUV hybrid. Before I purchased my 2017 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle I was seriously considering the new RAV4 hybrid. It’s truly a great vehicle and offers features you just won’t find with hatchback or sedan hybrids.

One such feature is the intelligent all-wheel-drive system. If fuel economy is your biggest driver, however, you may be dissatisfied with the combined 32MPG the RAV4 hybrid gets. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a compact SUV with the space and ride height of a Subaru Forester, but better fuel economy, look no further.

Why the Toyota RAV4 SUV Hybrid makes our list:

  • Offered in four trim levels, you have options at varying price points based on what’s most important to you. The top end trim, the Limited, is top-notch and includes all the bells and whistles from a premium JBL sound system to 18-inch alloy wheels and a power moonroof.
  • The hybrid powertrain in the RAV4 hybrid boosts performance over the non-hybrid RAV4 models. It is surprisingly quick and fun to drive. With the iAWD system and the handling is impressive.
  • It is priced competitively, under $30,000. Good luck finding another hybrid SUV this spacious with more than 30MPG combined in this price range.
  • Can get you, some friends, and your gear up to the slopes this winter, definitely give the RAV4 hybrid a look.

Although this is technically the second SUV on this list (the Kia Niro is more of a crossover) don’t be surprised if you see the RAV4 hybrid on more lists in the future. Its excellent fuel economy (for a SUV), space, and comfort makes the RAV4 hybrid an excellent choice. For more information on the all new Toyota RAV4 SUV hybrid check out Toyota’s website.


These are our favorite cheap hybrid cars on the market. Think you’ll get one? Sound off in the comments, let us know if there are any cars you think we missed, too!

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