While everyone is talking about the benefits and drawbacks of electric cars, hybrids have quietly been creeping up the sales charts.

    Last year was a record year for hybrid vehicles in Australia, with 98,439 sold – up 20 per cent on the year before.

    The majority of these were Toyotas, with the top six best-selling hybrids coming from the Japanese giant. Its hybrid vehicles accounted for a staggering 73 per cent of total hybrid sales, and 5.9 per cent of the overall new-car market market.

    Hybrids have effectively taken over most Toyota model lines. A whopping 92.3 per cent of Camrys sold last year were hybrids – making it very easy for Toyota to kill the petrol model for the new generation due this year – while 86.6 per cent of RAV4s were electrified.

    There’s a wide range of Toyota hybrids available for under $50,000 before on-road costs. But there are also plenty of vehicles from other brands, including GWM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Subaru.

    Given SUVs are the dominant vehicle type in Australia, we’ve taken a look at the hybrid SUVs available for $50,000 to see what we would buy.

    Anthony Crawford: Honda HR-V or Hyundai Kona

    As the purchaser of the previous-generation Kona Highlander (which is now too small for my daughter with two kids in tow), it’s a tough choice between the new (and larger) Kona Hybrid N Line Premium and the Honda HR-V e-HEV L.

    Both are exceptional vehicles in their own right.

    The Kona has modern styling and cutting-edge cabin design, additional space all-round, along with superb comfort and ride.

    The Honda offers a very different design approach with its HR-V, yet is no less handsome, and again has plenty of space for passengers and luggage.

    It also offers unrivalled ride and handling competency in its class, along with superb real-world efficiency but not at the expense of performance.

    It comes down to personal preferences but either choice is a winner.

    MORE: Buy a Honda HR-V
    MORE: Buy a Hyundai Kona

    Alborz Fallah: Nissan X-Trail e-Power ST-L

    I used our Car Chooser tool to figure out what the heck even qualifies as a hybrid SUV under $50k.

    While there are the obvious choices like a RAV4, I recently spent quiet a lot of time with a new Nissan X-Trail e-Power, and I have to tell you, it’s a far better choice than the RAV4 Hybrid – plus you can go in and buy one today instead of waiting months for a car everyone else already has.

    Yes, it’s a slightly unconventional powertrain, with the internal combustion engine being used more as a generator than as a true hybrid (whereby the engine and the electric motors drive the car), but ultimately, it works really well and the car itself feels a generation ahead of the RAV4 inside and out.

    MORE: Buy a Nissan X-Trail

    Paul Maric: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE

    It just squeezes in under the $50k limit (before on-roads), but the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE is my pick.

    The RAV4 (even with the continuous price rises and wait times) still represents good value for money and with the little fuel it uses, it’s a realistic option to cross-shop against an electric vehicle.

    After having spent a brief stint in the RAV4 Prime in the States, it’s a shame we don’t get the full-fat plug-in hybrid version of the RAV4 in Australia.

    MORE: Buy a Toyota RAV4

    Scott Collie: Hyundai Kona Hybrid N-Line

    Hyundai finally has a rival to the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid, and it’s a good one. The Kona Hybrid N-Line is good to look at (maybe not in Phytonic Yellow, though), has a spacious interior with excellent technology, and is impressively efficient in the real world.

    It’s also not chronically dreary, which isn’t something you could say about the majority of its hybrid rivals.

    The only problem with it is the infuriating speed limit alert system. If I owned one, I’d also need to invest in an OBD connector and work out how to permanently disable it.

    MORE: Buy a Hyundai Kona

    Jade Credentino: Nissan X-Trail e-Power or GWM Haval H6 Hybrid

    It’s slim pickings for this particular segment with only around eight options to choose from and each aren’t comparable apples with apples.

    If the Honda ZR-V hybrid was under $50,000 it would be my preference, but because it’s not – and given most of the team has chosen the Hyundai Kona – I would consider the Nissan X-Trail ST-L e-Power or GWM Haval H6 Hybrid for a bit more space.

    While the Kona is a great option, I do tend to think it’s not going to be something that a family can comfortably live with and grow into.

    MORE: Buy a Nissan X-Trail
    MORE: Buy a GWM Haval H6

    Jordan Mulach: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE

    As strong as the new Kona is, it’s hard to go past a RAV4 XSE, preferably in Frosted White. Reliable, a known quantity and plenty of aftermarket support for it right now.

    Sure, there’s a long wait list, but a lot of people have been dealing with that in the past few years, so the product must be pretty good.

    An outside shout is the new Nissan X-Trail e-Power, though its hybrid system is a relative unknown.

    MORE: Buy a Toyota RAV4

    Jack Quick: Hyundai Kona Hybrid

    Until the new-generation Toyota C-HR arrives, the hybrid SUV under $50k I would buy is the Hyundai Kona Hybrid. In particular, I would go for the Kona Hybrid Premium with the optional sunroof ($45,000 before on-roads). I don’t really see the point in the frilly N-Line stuff with the Kona Hybrid.

    I was a little sceptical at first of the Kona Hybrid given it’s mated with a dual-clutch automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) like regular Toyota-style hybrids. In practice however I didn’t really notice this at all because the electric motor seems to fill in the gaps where a dual-clutch can sometimes be a little jerky.

    The Kona Hybrid is also incredibly efficient in urban settings. I drove one we had through the office a few weeks ago from home to the office one morning in incredibly dense traffic. Where any other car would have terrible fuel consumption, the Kona Hybrid achieved 3.9 litres per 100km. I was blown away!

    It’s worth noting another option would have loved to have chosen is the Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX, however it’s priced at $54,900 drive-away, which is beyond our theoretical price range this time around.

    MORE: Buy a Hyundai Kona

    William Stopford: Nissan X-Trail e-Power ST-L

    My instinct is to go for the perennial safe choice, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. As good as Toyota’s hybrids are – and they should be, they’ve been making them for long enough – I’ve lately found myself enjoying Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan’s rival systems just that little bit more.

    Honda’s in particular is excellent, but the ZR-V and CR-V sit above the price cap and the HR-V’s four-seat layout lets it down.

    The Nissan X-Trail e-Power mightn’t be as thrifty as a RAV4 Hybrid, but it’s as spacious and its powertrain is smooth. In ST-L trim, it just squeaks in under $50,000 before on-roads, so that’s my choice.

    MORE: Buy a Nissan X-Trail

    James Wong: Hyundai Kona Hybrid Premium

    The new Kona is a good bit of kit, and the fact that Hyundai Australia has been able to offer a decked-out Premium grade for substantially less than the equivalent Kia Niro is cause for applause.

    Hyundai and Kia’s 1.6 HEV drivetrain has proven itself to be incredibly efficient, as well as more fun to drive than an equivalent Toyota hybrid thanks to its more conventional transmission concept.

    A Sage Green Kona HEV Premium with light interior is my ideal spec, and offers enough tech and smart interior packaging to put many alternatives to shame.

    MORE: Buy a Hyundai Kona

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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