With fuel prices rising almost as quickly as greenhouse gas emissions, more and more drivers are looking for ways to reduce their fuel usage and the amount of CO2 they poison Mother Nature with. Some have turned to electric cars but many more, concerned by the limited cruising range and charge times of EVs, are turning to hybrid cars.
We've driven a number of hybrids for ourselves and if one thing's clear it's that they're not all created equally. Some offer better fuel economy than others, some are greener than others, and some are more affordable.
With that in mind, we've delved face-first into the world of hybrids, dug out the essential facts and figures and laid them bare to help you see how these eco-wagons compare and decide which is the best for you.
We'll compare their relative looks, fuel economy and emissions, performance, the amount of tech they have, how practical they are and examine how cheap they are to run using fuel-economy.co.uk, assuming 10,000 miles driven and fuel prices of £1.20 per litre.
Let's start, of course, with the longest running hybrid car, the Toyota Prius.
The Prius is the world's first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. Since it went on sale in 1997, it's flown the flag for hybrid technology and been sold in more than 70 countries across the world, selling 2 million units.
The Prius has come a long way. It's gone from being relatively nondescript in its earlier incarnations to almost stylish in its latest iteration. Toyota's had to model it on a fairly generic wedge shape in order to maximise aerodynamic efficiency, but there's no arguing the Prius is the most distinctive, well-known car of its ilk and -- in the right light and at the right angle -- it's actually a looker.
Fuel economy and emissions
The Prius achieves a whopping 72.43mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle -- a figure bested among hybrids only by its Auris sibling. It has class-leading CO2 emissions too, chucking a mere 89g of carbon dioxide per kilometre driven -- the lowest we've seen to on any vehicle other than a Smart fortwo CDi.
The Prius delivers fairly average performance. It'll hit 60mph from a standstill in 10.4 seconds and reach just shy of 112mph on a long enough straight. It feels nippier than those numbers suggest, though and it's an entertainig challenge trying to eke out ever higher mpg figures from its onboard trip computer.
There are very few cars that can match the Prius' equipment. Its intelligent parking assist feature allows the car to reverse parallel-park virtually by itself; there's a head-up display showing vehicle speed and mapping data directly on the windscreen; it features a built in 40GB hard drive on to which users can RIP audio CDs for easy playback and there's a solar panel on the roof that can power the climate-control system, keeping the cabin cool or warm while you're away from the car.
Hybrid cars tend to have very limited boot and rear cabin space due to the presence of their enormous batteries and additional electric drivetrain components. The Prius doesn't do too badly in this regard, however. There's enough room at the rear for three passengers and the boot offers a very respectable 408 litres of space -- close to the average of a standard, non-hybrid passenger car.
The Prius doesn't come cheap at £20,265. That said, it offers sensationally low running costs. Driving 10,000 miles over the course of a year will set you back a mere £753.18 -- a figure bested here only by the Auris.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. It may be a little pricey up front, but the Prius offers tonnes of equipment, super-low emissions and low running costs. We'd argue it's the best hybrid car in the UK to date.
Hybrid rating: 5/5
Click 'Next' below to see how the Hybrid compares to its nearest rivals.