To us, hybrids arrived on the scene with the Prius in the early 2000s; at least that’s what many drivers believe. The truth is, hybrids have been around for far longer than you may realize, with the first hybrid dating back to the late 1800s! The Prius was the vehicle that seemingly opened up the door to allow more hybrids to enter our world. As you drive past your local Toyota Prius dealership, take a moment to appreciate this trendsetter in the industry, as it allowed us to have the selection of hybrid vehicles we get to enjoy today. So, while we’re appreciating these fine vehicles, let’s take a look at the most unforgettable hybrids ever.
#1: Toyota Prius
You probably already knew which vehicle was going to top my list. If it wasn’t for the Prius, many of the models on this list may have never been created. Making its way onto roadways at the turn of the century, the Prius was considered the first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle. Offering exceptional efficiency, as well as an easy to maneuver size, the Prius’ futuristic build was replicated across the industry. Now, after being on the market for over two decades, the Prius continues to be an icon. Still boasting outstanding fuel efficiency, the Prius now offers a sleeker design, as well as all-wheel drive capabilities and cutting-edge tech to continue to enhance its ride.
#2: Chevy Volt
Known as the original plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt sure was a crowd-pleaser. Debuting in 2011, the Volt showcased a cute, energetic vibe and could travel up to 53 miles on a single charge. By the time it was discontinued in 2019, replaced by the even-more-efficient Bolt, the Volt boasted a best-in-class all-electric range and was considered an all-around winner in the hybrid segment. To this day, the Volt is highly regarded as one of the top affordable hybrids in the industry, with its smart styling and smooth driving dynamics.
#3: Honda Insight
The Insight was Honda’s first hybrid vehicle to be sold in the U.S. way back in 1999. Perfect for frequent travelers and commuters, the Insight was the brand’s solution to the growing need for more efficient vehicles at the time. The biggest difference between the Insight and the rest of the typical hybrid inventory was its appearance, as it resembled a sedan rather than a futuristic hybrid. Today, the Insight remains in the Honda lineup, known for its impressive fuel economy rating of up to 55 mpg on the highway—as well as its handsome styling, which takes elements of the popular Civic and blends them seamlessly with its own unique design.
#4: Ford Maverick
Although this model is new to the industry, the name has been in the Ford family for years; it originally referred to a 1970s compact sedan. The automaker revived the Maverick this year as a compact truck with a hybrid base powertrain, which quickly created a buzz. This compact truck can hold its own with various tasks—capable of towing up to 4,000 lbs, while offering outstanding gas mileage of 42 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Perfect for the driver who wants a pickup, but one that’s easy to handle, the Maverick will surely be one of the most legendary hybrids of our time, despite its late start in the industry.
#5: Ford Fusion Hybrid
The Fusion, although discontinued, was a great car during its time, especially for commuters who craved versatility, style, and efficiency in their travels. Debuting its hybrid powertrain in 2008 and a plug-in hybrid version in 2013, the Ford Fusion offered options to its drivers that made it well-loved in the industry. Like the Honda Insight, the Fusion also showcased more sedan-like vibes—as opposed to the bodywork of a traditional hybrid—which further amplified its appeal. Plus, with its solid reputation and budget-friendly price tag, the Fusion Hybrid just made sense for those who wanted maximum efficiency without the hulking price tag of some of the other hybrids on the market.
#6: Kia Niro Hybrid
It’s compact, it’s efficient, and it lands on my list as one of the top hybrids of all time. The Kia Niro isn’t just a hybrid; however, it’s offered in more efficient powertrains than many of its rivals, including a traditional hybrid, plug-in hybrid, as well as a full-on electric vehicle. Drivers love the fuel economy of this small-size traveler, in addition to its affordable price tag. Like the Fusion Hybrid, the Kia Niro is more reasonably priced when compared to its competitors, which elevates its value in the industry. It’s also stylish, showcasing comfortable appointments inside and sleek style outside.
#7: Toyota Camry Hybrid
This has been one of America’s best-selling sedans for decades, perfect for frequent travelers, families, and the everyday commuter. Its spacious interior and ample trunk space make it a fan favorite for any type of journey, while its sturdy build and advanced safety features earn its place as a trusted member of any family. It’s no surprise that once Toyota unveiled the hybrid version of this popular vehicle in 2007, Camry fans quickly jumped on the bandwagon, appreciating this reliable model for its features, capabilities, and top-notch performance. Now, the Camry is even more impressive than ever—available with TRD off-roading features, multiple hybrid trims, and a plethora of standard driver assistance technology.
#8: Lexus ES 300h
Luxury vehicles have always captivated drivers, and perhaps one of the best luxury hybrids on the market resides in the Lexus lineup. The Lexus ES 300h not only showcases classic Lexus elegance, but it also harnesses the capabilities of a hybrid, able to get up to 44 mpg on the highway. It’s beautifully refined and ready to deliver the level of luxury many drivers are desiring, like a posh interior cabin and cushiony ride quality. It’s a win-win for those who desire elevated sophistication in their hybrid.
#9: Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Perhaps one of the most famous on my list, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid had a big job to do in the 1990s, and that was to transport former President Bill Clinton wherever he needed to go. The only all-wheel-drive hybrid of its time, the Mariner Hybrid boasted upscale vibes and favorable fuel efficiency. Although it was the go-to choice for some of the elite, the Ford Escape, which debuted right alongside it, was able to captivate more drivers with its more affordable price tag. Thus, the Mariner was discontinued. I still appreciate it for earning a temporary place in the sun.
#10: Lohner-Porsche Hybrid
My list just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Lohner-Porsche Hybrid, which debuted well before our time: in 1901. Regarded as one of the first hybrid vehicles to ever exist, this model was designed in Vienna, Austria, with a pair of electric motors mounted to its wheels to propel it forward. It makes my list because it was the world’s first zero-emissions vehicle, and its innovation has wowed the industry to this day. With up to 7 horsepower—suitable for the time—and a drive time of about three hours when fully charged, the Lohner-Porsche Hybrid would go on to open the door for many others like it to follow suit.
To say that hybrid technology is new would be an incorrect statement. In fact, hybrid history spans longer than many drivers realize—and it’s only getting more interesting. There’s a selection of hybrids out there that continue to impress us, as well as models that have been long forgotten, but one thing remains the same: The industry continues to turn to more efficient vehicles to help us maximize our travels. At the same time, hybrids make a positive impact on our planet, which means these vehicles should be here to stay.