We are at a transition period here in the automotive community. The once ridiculed hybrid and electric drive-trains now power some of the most agile machines the world has ever seen. With massive strides in various fields of science and technology, batteries have become increasingly more efficient giving rise to more powerful and economical everyday hybrids. We take a look at some of the most interesting hybrid hatches that offer balance between power and frugality.
5. Smart ForFour:
Smart Automobile was initially a collaborative effort between Mercedes Benz and Swatch. Currently under the ownership of Daimler, the Smart series of cars has developed a reputation for being stylish, compact and city centric vehicles. While the car maker’s initial two seater car proved to be a massive hit, the first generation of the ForFour did not strike a chord with the general public. The latest generation however, has worked on the previous model’s flaws and offers a good mix of power, comfort and fashion.
Currently, the ForFour is available as a petrol powered car only. However, the most recent one-off created by the Lithium Technology Company serves as a preview to what the 2016 electric variant of the four seater city car can be. The plug-in hybrid variant of the ForFour has an all electric top speed of 135 km/h and a maximum range of 32 km. The 68 hp 1.5 l 3 cylinder turbocharged diesel mill is paired with two electric motors.
4. Fiat 500E:
One of Fiat’s most popular cars, the 500 has been on sale for years now. Its small size, powerful engine and zany interiors proved to be a smash hit overseas. The most powerful petrol driven variant of the 500 is powered by a shockingly powerful turbocharged 1.4 l unit and produces an oomph not unlike its more exotic distant cousins. Even the standard Fiat 500 with its 0.9 l twin turbocharged petrol mill hits the 100 kmph mark in ten seconds proving once again, the Italians really do know how to make their cars absolutely bonkers.
The Fiat 500E, one of the most eco-friendly variants of the compact hatch is the most powerful of the lot, second to only the mighty Abarth. Powered by a permanent-magnet AC synchronous electric motor, the little Italian electric produces 111 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque and hits the 100 kmph mark in an impressive 8.9 seconds.
3. Renault Zoe:
At first glance, the Renault Zoe may not seem like hot hatch material. The strange styling, tall boy stance and the cyberpunk dash all point to a hatchback that is all too electric. However, the Zoe is one of the few electric cars that has been developed from the ground up. Unlike its competitors such as the Fiat 500E, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Spark Electric and various others, the Zoe has been designed and built specifically to take advantage of its electric drivetrain. As such, despite the modest 88 hp that its electric motor puts out, the Zoe hits the 100 kmph mark in an impressive 8.4 seconds. This fast electric hatch provides seating for four and has a bigger boot than the VW Golf.
The car also comes with a special charger that allows the Zoe to be charged by any socket of any voltage. Sadly however, Renault offers a single variant for the Zoe hatch.
2. BMW i3:
One of two models from BMW’s i Division, the i3 is a compact city car designed to be as cheap as it is eco-friendly. However, despite the clever use of recycled materials and tiny 7.1 l fuel tank, the i3 is a bit of a honey badger on wheels. Donning a mid engine, rear wheel drive configuration, the i3 capitalizes on optimal weight distribution. The car’s chassis is also composed of an aluminium and carbon fibre blend that reduces its weight considerably. This allows the combined horsepower of 204 hp to produce a hybrid car that manages the 0-100 kmph time in a blistering 7.2 seconds.
1. Volkswagen Golf GTE:
The VW Golf GTE is a hybrid electric derivative of the current generation Golf. Mechanical changes aside, the German hatchback has changed little in other aspects. Powering the Volkswagen Golf GTE is a 148 hp 1.4 l petrol engine that is paired with a 101 hp electric motor for a total of 201 hp. Power is sent to the front wheels via VW’s critically acclaimed DSG gearbox.