Buying a hybrid is becoming a serious option for more and more New Zealanders. With increased fuel taxes and the average person looking to optimise their fuel efficiency, hybrids are going to become even more commonplace on our roads over the next few years.

We’re seeing lots of interesting used hybrid hatches appearing on the market, particularly ones imported from Japan. Used imports have assisted massively in the increase in the number of hybrids on our roads, with some later-generation models slowly becoming more affordable.

Popular used hybrid import hatches:

Toyota Prius

Prius

At the top of the shopping list for a lot of buyers is the Uber drivers’ favourite - the Toyota Prius (2009 -2015).  With a frugal but large 1.8L Atkinson cycle engine, this model is appealing because it has a large lift back, which offers a generous area for luggage. The Toyota Prius is able to comfortably get you and your family from A to B with plenty of room for a few bags, and has a claimed fuel economy of 3.9L/100km.

Toyota Prius C/Aqua (JDM spec)

Aqua

Toyota, the first manufacturer to mainstream hybrid technology, also offer the Prius C/Aqua models. These are powered by a 1.5L engine, which is mated to a CVT gearbox, and utilises Toyota’s tried and tested third-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive system, with a small 0.9kWh nickel-metal hydride technology battery. It too has a claimed fuel economy of 3.9L/100km.

Honda Fit Hybrid

Fit

Another car to consider is the Honda Fit Hybrid (2015 onwards), which is dimensionally very similar to the Toyota Prius C/Aqua at 3955mm long and 1695mm wide, although it does stand a bit taller. The Honda Fit stands apart, with an advanced seven-speed DCT transmission option and innovative magic seats, which enable a very large and flexible cargo area. Economy-wise it has a claimed fuel economy rating of 2.7-5L/100km.

The pros and cons of buying a used hybrid hatch

The pros

  • Save money on fuel
  • Produce lower emissions than similarly sized Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles
  • Getting a used hybrid for the same price of a dedicated petrol model
  • Avoid an initial depreciation hit, compared to buying a new hybrid

The cons

  • The battery replacement price can still be a large expense, depending on your chosen model
  • Hybrid cars sometimes feel less responsive or less powerful than dedicated petrol powered models
  • Servicing and knowledge of hybrids can sometimes be limited

Issues to consider when shopping for used hybrid cars

Battery Life

In New Zealand, many new hybrids are sold with a generous warranty on the main battery. For example, Toyota hybrids are all sold with an eight-year or 160,000km warranty (whichever comes first).

The reliability of each car's battery depends on many variables, and the only real way to check out a battery’s true condition is at the manufacturer’s dealership using its factory software. Before you buy, always investigate the service records thoroughly to check if any battery issues occurred in the past.

Battery replacement

Not all hybrid battery packs are equal. Replacing the battery on one model may vary significantly to the next. Do some research on the replacement cost prior to purchase, especially if it has above average mileage. If you buy a model that has a transferable warranty and only plan to keep the car as long as the warranty lasts, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.

Driving Experience

If you’ve never driven a hybrid, make time for an extended test drive before you buy, and ensure you drive it in pure electric mode (if it has one). A good hybrid system should be able to manage the use of both its battery and engine power efficiently, changing between the two power sources almost seamlessly.

Used hybrids definitely have their place on our roads and bridge the gap for motorists who want to reduce emissions but can’t quite enter the full EV world due to the distance they need to commute, or budget constraints.

Find out how the AA can help you when buying a used car:

AA Advice - We've got this!

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