PH Service History: Hybrid Theory


Earlier this week, my esteemed colleague Mr Prior discussed the various (or scant, depending on your point of view) merits of the mooted hybrid Ford Focus RS. And I must admit, upon hearing the news, to a certain amount of disappointment. After all, hot hatches are at their most appealing when they're small, light and underpowered, aren't they? Consider the Citroen AX GT, the Suzuki Swift Sport, and indeed Ford's own SportKa. A Focus RS with the added weight and complication of a 48v hybrid boost, therefore, sounds like the antithesis of all that's best about hot hatchery.

But there's a chance here that I'm being an old stick-in-the-mud. After all, not every hybrid is a Prius; these days, hybrids are starting to shake off that dowdy image, and already in the technology's back catalogue, there's some evidence that adding electric power to petrol can be a force for good, rather than just do-goodery.


You don't have to look hard for that evidence - indeed, it can be found for less than six grand in one of my favourite used buys of the moment: the Honda CR-Z. These little coupes were hardly quick, but they were lots of fun, with snicky steering, excellent body control and grip, and S2000-esque dashboards. What's more, unlike most hybrids, they featured a manual gearbox - and a slick-shifting six-speeder, at that, which made extracting the full potential of the electric-boosted powerplant deeply satisfying. This one, historied and not too leggy, should go on forever, and offer plenty of smiles along the way.

Or perhaps we should look instead to the BMW i3 for hope. It's hardly hot hatch territory, but this is a tall, slightly ungainly thing that its manufacturer has managed to make handle remarkably well through clever packaging and management of the centre of gravity. If they can do that, who knows what Ford - which also knows a thing or two about setting up a chassis - can do with a more conventional shape? A Range Extender, incidentally, is now down to £17,250, which strikes me as a lot of innovative car for relatively little cash. I reckon it's endowed with one of the best-looking interiors in the business, too.


For those in search of a hybrid thrill with a little more to spend, there's always the i3's big brother, the i8. As I've mentioned in the past, these are now creeping toward genuine affordability, but they've held their value better than some would have predicted, possibly because there's nothing else out there that really compares. In this case, it's probably fair to say the driving experience doesn't quite stack up to the promise of the looks, but despite that the i8 is a car I've always been willing to give a bit of a free pass to; I'd live with the slightly dead steering for the thrummy engine note, gorgeously crafted interior, those looks, and the instant shove you get from the electric motor. This one's the cheapest in the classifieds, floating around the £50,000 mark, despite being for sale through BMW's Approved Used scheme.

But it feels wrong to discuss the sorts of hybrids you won't find on your next Uber ride without mentioning at least one of the big three hybrid hypercars. Let us, therefore, go for the most affordable - though never has that term been used more relatively, because I can't imagine more than 0.1 per cent of the world's population would consider it to apply to this Porsche 918 Spyder. It's on for - are you ready? - £1.2 million, which if my (admittedly decidedly fag-packet) calculations are correct, means its value has increased by considerably more than the average UK house price during its short existence. It does, of course, have the Weissach Pack, and a tasteful black-on-black colour scheme means it'll be about as discreet as such a thing can be.


There's one more notable thing about it, too, which is that the previous owner has managed to clock up a faintly astonishing 17,980 miles, suggesting some surprisingly regular usage. Or lots of trips to the South of France. Probably the latter, actually. Still, fair play for not hiding it away in a garage somewhere - and proof positive that a useable hybrid performance car like this one... or, um, the entirely similar and absolutely not tenuously linked Focus RS... is perhaps not something we need to fear after all. And if you still can't shake that yearning for a simpler age, my advice is to pop out and drop two and a half grand on a Swift Sport like this one - quick, before I do.





P.H. O'meter

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Comments (30) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Equus 5 days ago

    The CRX has 'Snicky steering'?

    You mean it's crabby, unpleasant and deviously stubborn?

    But I thought that 'snicky' (or rather 'snickety') came under 'gearchange' in the amateur motoring journo's list of sad, worn-out cliches?

  • Numeric 5 days ago

    I failed at Lego so clearly have NO engineering knowledge at all so I ask for a bit of help here?

    How can it be more efficient to create momentum (I failed at physics too) using one sort of engine which at the same time charges up another engine (surely losing energy while doing it?) and then using that as well to create momentum.

    I can sort of get my head around a power station being more efficient then lots of internal combustion engines hence electric cars being overall cleaner, at least that is what I am told so could well be a myth, but he hybrid thing just feels wrong.

    It doesn't help that everyone I know with Mitsu Phev and BMW E soon give up charging to get the 20 miles of E range cos it's a 'hassle' and spend all their time saying how awful the fuel consumption is on the motorway and thank goodness for the tax break as they get 30s to the gallon they say!

    But it must work in reality?

  • josh00mac 5 days ago

    Given that my phone and laptop battery are totalled after 5 years, who will be buying these things 3rd hand?

  • Sensei Rob 5 days ago

    Numeric said:
    How can it be more efficient to create momentum (I failed at physics too) using one sort of engine which at the same time charges up another engine (surely losing energy while doing it?) and then using that as well to create momentum.

    I can sort of get my head around a power station being more efficient then lots of internal combustion engines hence electric cars being overall cleaner, at least that is what I am told so could well be a myth, but he hybrid thing just feels wrong.
    With a regular car, the Kinetic Energy is converted into Heat by the brakes. This is all effectively lost energy. In a hybrid, the Kinetic energy is being turned into heat and electrical energy as it slows down, i.e. less kinetic energy is being wasted as heat. This electrical energy can then be used to propel the car forward.

  • Julian Thompson 5 days ago

    Just a thought - would there be any mileage in a hybrid system that didn’t have a motor, and instead used the regenerative power to run everything electric on the car? You’d need presumably small and light batteries and a very much reduced weight and complexity? How much energy would this save?

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