It was the the arrival of the Toyota Prius in 1997 that really started the hybrid revolution. It took an unloved technology and (with the help of a few A-list celebrities) turned it into the hot motoring trend. After a few years, everyone and their environmentally-conscious dog wanted a hybrid as they tried to reduce their carbon footprint.

Nowadays, virtually all marquees have some sort of hybrid model on the market as they wrestle for control of a rapidly expanding niche.

Before we start chatting about specific cars on the market, I think it'd be wise to explain what a hybrid actually is. So, here's what we're talking about.

A hybrid car uses a conventional internal combustion engine (almost always a petrol engine) in conjunction with an electric motor. Usually, the petrol engine charges the electric motor’s batteries and the motor kicks in when you require extra power.

So now you've got the theory, let's dig out the 8 best hybrids available through LeaseFetcher in 2018.

First launched back in 2016, the Hyundai Ioniq was the South Korean marquee's first proper crack at a family car with eco intentions. Sadly, it never really got out from under the shadow of the Toyota Prius and failed to win really got the press that it deserved.

And that's a shame because the Ioniq is a great car!

Combining a 1.6-litre petrol with an electric motor, the Ioniq delivers a really punchy drive. And while it’s not quite as clever as the set up in the Prius, you’ll still manage around 65 mph in real-world situations.

At higher trims, the it comes into its own with heaps of tech and an exceptionally comfortably ride.

Simply put, don't write the Ioniq off as a Prius pretender.

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Hyundai Ioniq Hatchback (2016)

7 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 0.0 - 1.6
  • Fuel: H, X, E
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: None

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Like a handful of cars on this list, the Q7 e-tron is a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) so you can plug it in to the mains to charge the battery. The battery then powers a single electric motor that works in conjunction with a 3.0-litre TDI engine to deliver a smooth and efficient drive.

With its smart engine set up, Audi claims that you can manage 156.9 mpg in optimal conditions! (I'm not sure what those conditions are but I'd guess you'd need to be going downhill with a big tailwind and a hefty helium balloon tied to the roof?)

From the outside, the hybrid Q7 looks perfect. Big, chunky and distinctly German, it’s pretty much everything you could want in a premium SUV.

And inside, everything is about as swish as you’d expect. The HUD is lovely, the infotainment panel is beautiful, the leathers are plush and the soft-touch plastics are swish. It feels refined, thoughtful and premium.

It’s on the road where the Q7 really comes alive, though. The diesel and electric motor combine brilliantly to keep the massive car feeling sprightly and light footed. With 258 bhp on tap, you can get from 0-62 mph in just six seconds — in a car that weighs almost 2.5 tons! Just let that sink in.

If you’re in the market for a big, eco-friendly SUV, it’s a seriously tough ask to do better than the Q7 e-tron.

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Audi Q7 Diesel Estate (2015)

5 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 0.0 - 4.0
  • Fuel: D, Z
  • Body: 4x4
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 48 - 199g/km

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The Toyota Prius is the reigning king of the eco-friendly family car market. (Although falling sales in 2017 and the rise of the Ford Focus Hybrid suggest its crown might be slipping.)

It was the first mainstream hybrid hit and, after it was picked up by high-profile celebrities, it achieved this sort of cult status.

Across the world, Toyota shifted a colossal 1.5 million units, which is impressive for any car, let alone a fairly niche eco conscious car.

Now into its fourth generation, Toyota has had a lot of time to refine the Prius' features and perfect its performance. The new generation even looks pretty decent with a Honda Civic-esque horizontal slash theme going on.

Available as both a normal hybrid and a PHEV, both options come with the same 1.8-litre petrol for the front wheels and a small electric motor for the rear.

As all manufacturers do, Toyota gives a sky-high fuel efficiency figure — in this case 94 mpg — but in the real world you’ll probably achieve somewhere between 70 and 80 mpg. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still impressive but it’s a ways off Toyota’s promise.

In town and on the motorway, the Prius is a very pleasant car to drive. The steering is light as a feather and the big square windscreen gives a great view of the road. Road noise is mixed with more tyre drone than you’d expect but wind and engine noise is impressively low.

There’s also some nice safety featured like lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and car park sensors.

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Toyota Prius Hatchback (2015)

0 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.8
  • Fuel: H, X
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 28 - 92g/km

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Like theAudi Q7 e-tron, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or PHEV. You plug it into a charging point, recharge the batteries and drive it like a normal car.

Since it launched about two years ago, the Outlander has made up over half the PHEV sales in the UK. While that’s partially because not many marquees are producing PHEVs, it’s also because the Outlander is a damn fine car. (It’s also Mitsubishi's first proper hit in years, which is kinda nice to see.)

Visually, it’s a bit love-it-or-loathe it with a new ‘Dynamic Shield’ thing on the front. Personally, it’s not my cup of tea. It’s weirdly intricate like the Toyota Aygo and simple like a SEAT Ibiza… but in completely the wrong ways.

Anyhow, like I said, it’s love-it-or-loathe-it and you need to make up your own mind.

Internally, the Outlander is big and basic. Everything in the cabin has been slimmed down and simplified which I really like. Instead of feeling like a spaceship from the ‘80s, it feels clean, modern and efficient.

On the road, it’s an all-round decent car. You’ve got a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that works in conjunction with two electric motors.

The ride is a bit firmer to account for the increased weight and there’s noticeably less body roll. That gives it a weird kinda feel. Not bad necessarily but something you'd definitely want to try out for yourself before you buy.

Spec-wise, there’s a lot of choice from with six different trims on offer. Even with the most basic, there’s a decent smattering of tech and features like dual-zone climate control, parking sensors and keyless entry.

As you go up the tiers, the additions are nice but there’s nothing you can’t live without with. Think heated seats, LED headlights, an infotainment panel and so on.

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Mitsubishi Outlander Estate (2015)

2 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: X
  • Body: 4x4
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 41 - 42g/km

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The BMW i3 is a super important car in the electric revolution. While most other marquees are trying to build electric cars that look like regular cars, BMW's engineers tore up the design handbook and started from scratch.

Wait, wait, wait. Isn’t this list for hybrids and not electric vehicles?

Well, yes but if you get the i3 with a range extender, BMW tucks a pokey 650cc petrol engine into the chassis along with a nine-litre fuel tank.

While the petrol engine doesn’t actually drive the wheels, it does charge the batteries when they get low.

I think that still counts as a hybrid, right? I think so.

Anyhow, the i3 is a megacity car, which is a car built for cities of the future rather than cities of today. Or so BMW tells us.

The basic i3 manages about 180 miles between charges but with the range extender installed you should see 276 miles before the batteries conk out.

So how's the car itself?

Well, despite being small, it can seat four adult humans and it’s got a boot that you can actually fit things in.

It'll dart from 0-30mph faster than most hot hatches and onto 62 mph in just 6.9 seconds.

Inside, it lives up to the premium Beemer badge. Everything is slick and robust and it feels brilliant to use.

Considering all that, it’s not really much of a surprise that the i3 won the inaugural 2017 World Urban Car award, too!

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BMW I3 Hatchback

9 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 0.0
  • Fuel: E
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: None

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The Volkswagen Golf is the family hatchback against which all others are judged. Now into its seventh generation, Volkswagen has ironed out all the last wrinkles to build what I can confidently say is one of the best hatchbacks ever made.

But this is the Golf GTE we’re talking about, a new hybrid version of the car we know and love. (There’s also a fully electric version available dubbed the e-Golf.)

First, let’s break down the name. The ‘E’ obviously stands for electricity, which leaves the ‘GT’. Now, that suggests that Volkswagen see their eco-friendly hybrid as something… sporty. That’s a big claim for a car that’s essentially just a rebadged Audi A3 e-tron!

Thankfully, the Golf performs much better than the A3.

Somehow Volkswagen’s engineers have tweaked and tuned the dual engine system to create something that feels more like a punchy Golf GTI than it does the sluggish hybrid A3.

Its 1.4-litre TSI petrol, combined with a small electric motor, give you 204 bhp on tap and can get the Golf up to a top speed of 138 mph.

With the extra weight from the batteries, the Golf GTE isn’t quite as comfortable as the petrol equivalent but it’s not really noticeable unless you’ve driven both.

Unfortunately, its practicality suffers a bit with 100-litres of precious boot space being lost to the chunky battery units. But i suppose that’s what you get when you go for a hybrid.

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Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

27 derivatives available

  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 0.0 - 2.8
  • Fuel: D, P, X, E
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: None

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It’s not a secret that we’re big Volvo fans at LeaseFetcher and the Volvo XC90 is one of their best cars to date. For this hybrid list, the model I’m talking about is the XC90 T8, which like the Mitsubishi is a PHEV.

The dual-engine setup produces a total of 400 bhp (yes, you read the right!) and gets you from 0-62 mph in 5.6 seconds! That’s quick for a sporty two-seater let alone a chunky seven-seat SUV with 400 litres of boot space!

As a PHEV, you’ll notice the best fuel efficiency if you treat it like a regular electric car and charge it regularly. With some careful driving, Volvo claims you can manage a hair under 100 mpg. In the real world, however, it’s unlikely you’ll see anywhere near that. But it’s still way more efficient than an equivalent sized petrol or diesel SUV.

Inside the Volvo, the cabin is absolutely superb. Everything is just faultlessly simple and elegant. The pale woods and light leathers make it feel like a piece of artisanal Scandi furniture. It’s just a beautiful place to be!

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Volvo Xc90 Estate

26 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 0.0 - 3.2
  • Fuel: D, P, X
  • Body: 4x4
  • Drive: A, M
  • CO2: 49 - 304g/km

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Another Volkswagen and another application of the GTE badge. I dealt with it earlier in the Golf section but the GTE label is basically a (partially) electric GT model. And while the GT bit kind of made sense with the Golf, the same cannot be said for the Passat.

The Passat GTE isn’t the fastest variant or the most powerful or the most tuned or the firmest. So quite why it gets the GT bit is a bit of a mystery.

Internally and externally, the GTE version is exactly the same as the stock Passat, which isn’t a bad thing. The cabin is class-leading with a brilliant build quality, outstanding materials and a high-end design. The outside is solid and classy with an executive sort of feel, too.

Under the bonnet, you’ve got a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. They work together exceptionally well and it’s almost impossible to tell if the car is using more of one than the other. Well, except at low speeds when the electric motor takes over entirely and the Passat glides along like a fully-electric car.

With chunky electric batteries, the hybrid version of the Passat is 350 kg heavier than the diesel equivalent. However, that weight is fitted low down in the car which gives it a super planted feel and that makes for a much more engaging drive.

According to Volkswagen, you’ll manage around about 176 mpg in optimal driving situations. However, like all advertised fuel efficiencies, you’re unlikely to get anywhere near it in the real world.

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Volkswagen Passat Saloon (2016)

2 derivatives available

  • Doors: 4
  • Engine: 0.0 - 2.5
  • Fuel: D, P, X
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: None

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