Pros and cons of buying a hybrid car

BEN SELBY
Last updated 06:36 03/04/2014
Honda Jazz hybrid.

HYBRID POWER: A Honda Jazz hybrid.

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No-one these days could blame you for wanting to buy a hybrid car.

On paper, they seem to make the most sense for the average commuter dealing with the aftermath of the consumption-crazed 20th century.

However, to know whether or not a ride on the hybrid bandwagon is right for you, it pays to weigh up the pros and cons before you decide.

PROS:

Lower fuel consumption

This will always be the big selling point for any mainstream hybrid. The combination of petrol and electric power working in tandem with each other means plenty of fuel is saved on the daily commute.

On average a hybrid car consumes only half the fuel of the same car without the electric motor. A plug-in hybrid on average will consume half the fuel of a hybrid. Many hybrid cars come with stop/start technology. Designed to save more fuel when stationary, stop/start cuts the gas engine and restarts it when you take your foot off the brake.

More torque

Having an electric motor on board means additional torque is added to the gas engine. What's more is that the torque band begins at zero rpm.

Eco-friendly

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are proportional to the amount of fuel used. As hybrid cars generally consume less fuel they less pollute the atmosphere.

Easier winter start

During colder months, when oil is thick and parts are tight, it requires a lot of current from the battery to turn over the engine. In conditions like this, a hybrid car has a better chance to successfully start the engine.

Resale

As more punters are switching from conventional petrol or diesel cars to hybrids for fuel savings and elements of environmental protection – particularly fleet or company vehicle buyers – hybrid vehicles will continue to hold their value.

CONS:

Weight

Having a hybrid power train on board has side effects, namely unwanted weight. A conventional hybrid system with batteries adds 10 per cent more weight, which can affect acceleration and braking. To combat this, previous manufacturers have constructed hybrids from lightweight materials, which on some cars do not exude the quality you might expect.

Maintenance

Maintenance of your hybrid is not easy as it requires a specialist technician. Some regular garages will not have the equipment required for a service and parts will need to be official factory items. While nothing is stopping you from getting those tools out and having a crack yourself, it is recommended you seek a professional.

New car cost

Due to the technology and the fuel-saving benefits, the hybrid variants of mainstream cars are not regarded by manufacturers as entry-level cars. For example, the Honda Jazz range starts at $22,900 but the Jazz Hybrid IMA is $31,500.

While the Jazz IMA and Toyota's Prius C hatchbacks represent the most cost-efficient way of hybrid ownership, plug-in electric hybrids like the Holden Volt start at $75,000. It really comes down to what you need it for.

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