Should You Buy a Hybrid? The Best Hybrid Cars in New Zealand

Fossil fuels are on the way out and with new incentives on going green, you may want to make your next car purchase a hybrid. So what are your options? Canstar guides you through some of the best hybrid cars in New Zealand.

If you’ve been feeling the pinch at the pump lately, you’re not alone. Petrol prices have been steadily climbing in recent years. Remember the outrage when petrol prices started to cross the $2 a litre barrier? What we would give to go back to those days.

But the rising cost of petrol isn’t the only factor to consider. We’re a little wiser now than we were a few decades ago, and more mindful of our carbon footprints and reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

So those concerned about their wallets, rising sea levels, or both, may want their next vehicles to be more fuel efficient. And with the government’s clean car discount, there are more reasons than ever to look into going electric.

Electric vehicles have come a long way and are a great option for many. But for the hesitant, a plug-in hybrid may be a great place to start. A hybrid lessens your reliance on gas, but still provides a bit of security for those nervous about running out of charge and their car battery fading as quickly as their phone’s.

So, which are the best hybrid cars in New Zealand? And should you buy one?

Jump to:
What are hybrid cars?
What hybrid options are there?
Plug-in hybrids vs electric vehicles
What is the Clean Car Discount?
The best hybrid cars in New Zealand

hybrid cars - electric car charging

What are hybrid cars?

Hybrid cars are cars that use both an electric motor, and a petrol motor. The mixture of the two allows users to save on fuel by using the electric motor when possible, but also have the assurances that come with a full tank of gas.

What hybrid options are there?

Petrol hybrid

The first mass produced hybrid car came in 1997, with the Toyota Prius. These petrol hybrids featured a small electric motor that was charged during driving. While it wasn’t enough to do any significant driving before the petrol motor kicked in, it meant in stop-start inner-city conditions, the cars could coast through traffic without the need for a petrol motor. Any significant speeds or distances, however, required the car’s regular petrol motor.

Since then, the technology on these hybrids hasn’t really changed. And for this reason, these kinds of hybrids (sometimes referred to as self-charging hybrids) are somewhat on the way out. They simply don’t do enough to reduce any real reliance on fossil fuels.

Plug-in hybrids

A plug-in hybrid is what we think of when we think of a true hybrid vehicle. It has a significant battery that allows for driving on open roads and for significant distances, entirely on an electric motor. While petrol hybrid cars allow you to stop, start and sit in traffic with an electric motor, plug-in hybrids allow you to actually drive. When this runs out of charge, there is a petrol engine that takes over.

These vehicles function much like a full-electric vehicle, where the battery needs to be plugged in and charged (unlike petrol hybrids, where the small battery is self-charging). However, the assurance of having a tank of gas to fall back on means these cars can happily drive long distances, and cruise in remote regions that may not have access to electric charging stations.

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Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) vs Electric Vehicles (EVs)

The future is electric. If your family has multiple vehicles, a fully electric car may be a great option. It can be used around the city, for work commutes and even weekend trips. After all, electric cars can get some pretty decent mileage these days.

For example, the fully electric Tesla Model 3 – the number one selling car in new Zealand last month – can drive well over 400km on a single charge. Even the more humble Nissan Leaf, the most popular second-hand EV, has a range of up to 270km.

New Zealand’s network of electric vehicle charging stations is also rapidly expanding. And while you won’t yet find an electric charging station next to the gas pump at every stop – you can expect this to change in coming years.

So why get a hybrid?

If you’re looking for an everything car, that can zip around the city as well as take you to the mountains for a weekend away, a plug-in hybrid may be a better option. You could go completely petrol-less for weeks on end as you drive around the city. But long-distance road trips, or visits to rural and remote regions won’t be an issue. When no charging station is in sight, you’ll still happily chug along.

It’s important to note that plug-in hybrid cars don’t have the same capacity as full-electric cars. So, unlike a full-electric vehicle, you won’t be able to travel long distances on the electric motor alone. Whereas a Tesla can go hundreds of kilometres on a single charge, many plug-in hybrids can only go 30-50km before switching over to their petrol motors.


Remember how I mentioned that humble Nissan Leaf? Well, the newest basic model will currently set you back a little over $60,000. Even the cheapest possible new EV in New Zealand, the MG ZS EV (yes that’s its real name and not a random bunch of letters), will set you back at least $48,000. So, it’s fair to say that affordability has a slightly different meaning in the world of EVs.

Sure, you can look into second-hand models, but older models have much lower performance and range, and batteries become less efficient over time. The world of EVs is evolving quickly and each new model vastly improves on the last.

While a plug-in hybrid car is still likely more expensive than a standard petrol one, they are significantly cheaper than full-electric vehicles.

hybrid cars - electric car rural driving

What is the Clean Car Discount and does a hybrid count?

The Clean Car Discount is a new initiative set up by the government. It provides a rebate for new electric and plug-in electric vehicles. Standard petrol electrics do not count.

This rebate means that when you buy a new EV or PHEV, you get a discount. It’s designed to encourage consumers to look at EVs and PHEVs when shopping for a new car.

The current rebates on offer are:

Vehicle type Discount | New car Discount | Used import
Battery electric vehicle $8625 $3450
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle $5750 $2300

*The Clean Car Discount only applies to vehicles that are either new or new to NZ (a used import). They must have been registered in New Zealand for the first time after July 1, 2021

From March 2022, the clean car discount scheme will change to a sliding scale. The lower the emissions of your vehicle, the bigger the rebate. So, unlike currently, not all plug-in hybrids will qualify for the same amount. The more efficient, the more you save.

On the other hand, from March 2022 on, not only will there be rebates, but fees, too. While a low-emissions vehicle will score you a discount, a high-emissions vehicle will cost you extra tax. This could be as much as $5175 added to the cost of your purchase.


For more details on the Clean Car Discount, click here.

→Related Article: Top Selling Cars in New Zealand

The best hybrid cars in New Zealand

Below is a list of some of the top-selling PHEVs in New Zealand. While all popular models, the cars below have been curated, and do not necessarily reflect the top-selling models in order.

All prices listed are the starting price, found on the manufacturers’ New Zealand website. The prices listed do not include on-road costs, or the Clean Car Discount rebate. They should be used as a guide only.

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hybrid cars - mitsubishi outlander
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi Outlander – $52,990

The Mitsubishi Outlander is New Zealand’s favourite plug-in hybrid car. It has been consistently the number one selling PHEV in New Zealand for several years, and it’s easy to see why. For starters, it’s an SUV. And well, Kiwis love their SUVs. In fact, SUVs account for more than half of all vehicles sold in New Zealand this year.

The Mitsubishi Outlander drives well and offers the luxury of any SUV: four-wheel drive, a big boot, and plenty of power. It’s also has 25-minute fast charge, plus up to 55km of EV range.

And at $47,240 after the $5750 clean-car discount, it’s also competitively priced, compared to the top-of-the range petrol Outlander, the $45,990, 2.4P VRX 4WD CVT.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross – $49,990

The second most popular PHEV in New Zealand stays within the family. Another Mitsubishi SUV. It’s clear that our love for Japanese SUVs persists in the hybrid market. Like its cousin the Outlander, you get up to 55km of EV range, and 25-minute fast charge.

Toyota Prius Prime – $49, 790

The car that started it all. While the Prius was famous for its petrol hybrid, it now comes with the option of the full plug-in hybrid experience. The Toyota Prius Prime maintains much of the Prius look, and while not the most flashy or fun, it’s a reliable and trusted model.

While much smaller than the more popular PHEV SUVs, the 5-seater Prime still racks up to 45km of EV range and the 1.8l engine provides plenty of power. It has all the modern features you can expect, such as Bluetooth, a touchscreen display, adaptive high-beam lights, road-sign assist, and intelligent parking assist.

hybrid cars - hyundai ioniq
Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Hyundai IONIQ Plug-in Series II – $53,990

Like the Prius, the Hyundai IONIQ isn’t the flashiest of models, but still comes with plenty of great modern features. Blindspot detection, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8inch touchscreen and heated seats can all be found. It also boasts an impressive 52km of EV range.

BMW 330e Sedan – $94,900

For those who want a little more luxury, the popular BMW 330i now comes in PHEV. And only for a touch more than the regular 330i ($92,000). So for some, that price tag could actually be a steal. The 330e maintains essentially all the performance and features of the popular 330i, but with around 60km of fuel-free EV range to boot. For those that want to go green without changing their comforts or driving habits, this could be a great option.

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The world of EVs and hybrid cars don’t come cheap, and chances are you’ll be looking at some form of finance to help you get your hands on some shiny new wheels. So aside from shopping around for the best hybrid, you should be shopping around for the best car loan.

Thankfully, at Canstar, we can help. We compare all the big banks and lenders across loan rates and fees in one easy-to-use tool. It also gives added information about Canstar’s expert research into the best loan providers and our prestigious Star Ratings and awards.

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If you are looking a getting yourself a new set of wheels but don’t have all the cash needed, you’re not alone. 80% of car buyers purchase their cars on finance. Shopping around for a new car is no doubt more thrilling than picking a personal loan. But there can be some serious savings available, just by comparing the personal loan market. And that’s where Canstar can help!

The table below displays some of the car loan products available on Canstar’s database for a three-year car loan of $10,000 in Auckland (some may have links to lenders’ websites). The products are sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) followed by company name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s personal loan comparison selector to view a wider range of products on Canstar’s database. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.

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author andrew broadley

About the author of this page

This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.

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