Best Hybrid Vehicle
Which car brands make the best hybrids and what are the advantages and downsides to each one? That’s what we’re gonna find out.
I’m gonna rank the most popular hybrids from worst to best and share which ones are at the very top in terms of efficiency, reliability, and serviceability.
So if you were ever wondering what are the major differences between a Toyota, a Honda, a Kia, or a Hyundai hybrid system, and which one has the most advantages.
Hyundai and Kia
So I’ve chosen a few car brands to focus on which are the biggest players with hybrids, and the first of those is a tie between Hyundai and Kia.
Now there are many reasons why I’ve chosen Hyundai and Kia to put on this list, but in the last place, for those who don’t know, Hyundai and Kia are partner companies and they have been making hybrids for just over a decade.
On the positive side, Kia and Hyundai’s hybrid systems are quite fuel-efficient. Their SUVs are able to average roughly between 35 to 38 miles per gallon, or around six and a half to seven liters per 100 kilometers, and their small hybrid cars are able to do even better than that. Best Hybrid Vehicle
Another positive that owners really like is that they use a conventional six-speed transmission as opposed to an ECVT that’s found on most other hybrids.
This helps give them a more familiar feel similar to that of a regular vehicle, which a lot of buyers prefer, and they also have one of the longest warranties in the industry, which is another benefit giving you a lot of peace of mind.
With all that said, though, there are a few drawbacks that you need to be aware of if you’re considering any of the Kia or Hyundai hybrids.
Firstly, rather than having a two-motor hybrid system, which is far more common on most other brands, Kia and Hyundai instead decided to go with a unique single motor design, which does have some drawbacks because you have one electric motor that’s doing all the work, you can hear and feel the engine kicking on an awful lot more.
It just doesn’t have the same level of refinement that you get with a much more sophisticated two motor hybrid system.
On a two motor hybrid, one of the electric motors is also replacing the need for a separate starter alternator belts. So you do eliminate a lot of the parts and repairs that go along with them. Best Hybrid Vehicle
But on a Hyundai and Kia, you still have all these components, meaning more complexity and speaking of more complexity and repairs with Hyundai and Kia SUVs, you also have a more complicated turbocharge engine with direct fuel injection.
Turbos generate a lot of heat and pressure, which is not ideal for a hybrid system that’s constantly turning the engine on and off.
It’s just not a great setup for longevity, especially if you’re the type that holds onto their vehicle as long as possible.
It just means more potential repair concerns and more headaches in the long term. Hyundai and Kia make some really nicely designed vehicles, but their hybrid design is far from the best. Best Hybrid Vehicle
So now let’s move on to the next car brand, which is Ford. Now many might not know it, but Ford has actually been making hybrids for nearly 20 years.
They use a two motor hybrid system, which is a solid design and one that they have been refining for many years.
You will find this hybrid system on the Ford Escape, SUV, the Ford Maverick, and also on the Lincoln side with the Corsair SUV.
Now, unlike Hyundai and Kia, Ford uses a naturally aspirated Atkinson cycle four cylinder engine, which pairs with two electric motors and a planetary gear type ECVT for the transmission. Best Hybrid Vehicle
Basically, this hybrid design is a copy of what Toyota has been doing for many years, but it’s all the better for it. This is a much better hybrid design for longevity, smoothness and repair concerns.
Because you have a second electric motor, it eliminates the need for a starter alternator and belts and there is no turbocharger.
And with two electric motors, it’s also smoother operating system when the engine is turning on and off as you drive. It also achieves slightly better fuel economy.
For example, the escape and maverick are rated to achieve just over 40 miles per gallon or under six liters per 100 kilometers, which is impressive. But although this is a good hybrid system, it certainly does have some downsides.
For one thing, it’s not used widely enough. You can only find it on a few Ford models, which is a little bit unusual. Best Hybrid Vehicle
It’s also a little bit weak on power and performance. And because this hybrid system does use an ECVT, you do have that CVT feel as you drive, which not everybody is really a fan of. And finally, we have quality concerns with Ford in general.
Now, although their hybrids are pretty good, the brand in general is not known for having the best quality and they have had a lot of recalls as of late.
So though it’s certainly not a bad choice, there are definitely better hybrids that you could buy instead. Best Hybrid Vehicle
So now let’s move on to the next car brand, which is Honda. Now next to Toyota. Nobody has been making hybrids longer than Honda. They’ve been doing it for just over 20 years and they’ve been very good at it.
Like Ford and Toyota, Honda uses a two motor hybrid design. Although it is a somewhat unique one, it uses a naturally aspirated four cylinder Atkinson cycle engine with an electric drive motor generator, another electric generator, and a lithium ion battery pack.
It also operates without a conventional automatic transmission and arguably no transmission at all. Best Hybrid Vehicle
It operates as a series hybrid at lower speeds, powering the electric motor with the battery and generator, and at higher speeds a clutch can engage that connects the engine directly to the drive wheels with no variability in gear ratios.
Most of the time though, the gas engine is just acting as a generator for the electric motors and the battery.
Now all of that might sound a little bit complicated, but there are many benefits to Honda’s hybrid design.
For one thing, you have mechanical simplicity. There’s no turbocharger, no belts, alternator or starter, and arguably no transmission.
And all of that means that you just have less components and less parts to repair over the long term. And the reliability of this hybrid system has been excellent.
There are just very few things that you really need to be concerned with. It’s also a very fuel efficient hybrid and delivers the economy that most hybrid buyers would expect. Best Hybrid Vehicle
Depending on the model, you can get anywhere from 40 to 50 miles per gallon or roughly around five to six liters per 100 kilometers.
And finally, unlike other hybrids that have an ECVT, Honda has programmed their system to mimic a step gear transmission.
This is a really nice bonus and gives the Honda system an excellent driving feel. On the other hand though, there are a few downsides to Honda’s hybrid design.
The first one is that the engine is direct injection only, which means that carbon buildup could potentially become an issue over the long term.
And for some reason, Honda has also decided to go with a mechanical all-wheel drive system, which is a missed opportunity for Honda to simplify the vehicle design by simply using an electric motor for all-wheel drive.
The all-wheel drive system uses a transfer case drive shaft any differential as you would have on any conventional all-wheel drive vehicle, which means more repair concerns and more maintenance over the long term.
Other than that, though, this is a really good hybrid system and easily one of the best ones that you can buy. Best Hybrid Vehicle
But of course there are two other car brands that make a hybrid system that has even more benefits with fewer downsides, and those brands are Toyota and Lexus.
Toyota takes a very traditional approach to hybridization, traditional meaning that it follows the pattern established by the original Prius. It’s a hybrid design that Toyota has been refining for over 25 years.
Like Honda and Ford, Toyota uses a naturally aspirated Atkinson cycle four cylinder engine with two electric motor generators up front and a third electric motor on the rear axle for the all-wheel drive versions.
Now like Ford rather than a conventional step gear transmission or a belt pulley continuously variable transmission, Toyota uses a planetary gear type transmission, also called ECVT, A system of gears that works with the electric motors to provide continuously variable gear ratios. Best Hybrid Vehicle
Now the benefits of Toyota’s most popular hybrid system are many, starting with the fuel economy, depending on the model, Toyota’s hybrid system is able to deliver anywhere from 35 miles per gallon or seven liters per 100 kilometers on the bigger SUVs and minivans to as good as nearly 60 miles per gallon or four liters per 100 kilometers on these small cars and hatchbacks.
But not only is it a very efficient design, but it’s also an extremely reliable one.
As mentioned, Toyota has been refining the same basic hybrid design for over 25 years, and it is safe to say that they have pretty much perfected it.
The engine is a simple naturally aspirated design that uses both ported and direct fuel injection, which means that carbon buildup is not going to be an issue and the two motor design eliminates the need for belts, tensioners a starter or an alternator. So there are very few maintenance issues.
And then you have the ECVT, which is a bulletproof design that’s proven to be extremely durable and long lasting. Best Hybrid Vehicle
And then you have the simple electric all-wheel drive system, which uses an electric motor that powers the back wheels replacing the need for a transfer case drive shaft and a differential.
It’s just an excellent hybrid design that not only minimizes your maintenance, but also reduces the potential repair concerns over a 10 to 15 year period.
Another huge benefit is the hybrid warranty. Unlike other car brands that give you an eight year warranty on the hybrid battery pack, Toyota gives you a 10 year warranty making it the best in the industry.
It’s very safe to say that potential battery replacement is going to be a very rare occurrence on any Toyota hybrid. Best Hybrid Vehicle
But another benefit is that if it were to happen, you do have a lot more options available when compared to other brands.
Toyota hybrids are so incredibly popular, even being used as taxis and limos, there are just more low cost third party options available for battery replacement.
Again, it’s very unlikely to be needed at least until the car is at least 12 to 15 years old. But if it were to happen, you can get a replacement third party battery for under two grand, much less than any other hybrid.
And again, that’s simply because Toyota hybrids are just way more popular and they’ve been around for a lot longer than any other hybrids on the market, just giving you a lot more options when it comes to serviceability.
Now of course not everything is perfect with Toyota hybrids either. One downside to them is that the ECVT performance is not really the best.
They do give you a consistent drone during hard acceleration, which amplifies the gravelly feel of Toyota’s four cylinder engines.
Another more serious downside though is a potential corrosion issue with the hybrid cable on some all-wheel drive models. Best Hybrid Vehicle
This hybrid cable on certain 2019 to 2022 models is vulnerable to splitting and corrosion after accumulating road debris and road salt due to the effects of repeated freeze and thaw cycles in really cold weather.
Presumably the design is more vulnerable in Eastern Canada and the central and northeast United States because of the harsher winter environment.
After many complaints and even a major class action lawsuit, Toyota agreed to extend the warranty on this part up to eight years, which is great to see.
But there is a very easy way to prevent this problem from happening in the first place, which is to use a really good oil spray rust protection product, which is realistically something that you should be doing anyway with any vehicle, especially if you live somewhere with harsh Best Hybrid Vehicle
Winters and where road salt is used on the roads. And if you do use a good rust protection oil spray, which again is something that you should realistically be doing anyway, this is not going to be an issue whatsoever.
There are many good hybrids on the market and there are more and more coming out all the time.
But it is clear that when it comes to reliability serviceability, but also the basic things like their performance and efficiency, some are a lot better than others, and in that way the hybrid system that you get with Lexus or Toyota just has a lot more benefits than most others.