Hybrid cars blend together petrol and electric power, aiming to offer the benefits of both with the disadvantages of neither. The petrol engine provides power for acceleration and the same independence as a conventional car. An electric motor provides quiet, low-emissions running in town and recaptures energy during braking which would otherwise be lost.
As a result hybrids are ideal for stop-start driving in cities, and the Honda Jazz Hybrid might be the most practical hybrid yet. Somehow Honda has managed to add the electric motor, the batteries that power it and all the controlling electronics without compromising the amazing versatility of the Jazz. The rear seats still fold into the floor, just like the petrol versions, leaving a flat-floored 831 litre luggage space.
Practicality isn't the only thing the Jazz Hybrid has going for it. On the road it offers light, precise steering and easy driving, thanks to a continuously variable transmission which needs no input from the driver. The combination of this transmission, a 1.3-litre petrol engine and the electric motor give the Jazz Hybrid similar performance to the 1.4-litre petrol-only Jazz, but with lower CO2 emissions and better fuel economy – particularly in town, where the Hybrid can travel up to 50% further on a gallon of fuel.
The Jazz Hybrid comes at a £1500 premium over a 1.4-litre Jazz automatic, which has the same easy-to-use gearbox. That translates to more than 20,000 miles of city driving before the Hybrid's extra fuel economy pays for itself, but that ignores the environmental benefits of using less fuel in the meantime. If that's your concern – but you can't afford to compromise on practicality – the Jazz Hybrid could have just the right set of advantages.