Hybrid cars – which use electric motors as well as a petrol/diesel motor for power – may be hailed as a green option, but these cars could actually cost you more in the long run, thanks to their high prices and mediocre real world economy. Though hybrids can be extremely frugal around town, longer journeys on fast roads could prove much less efficient than you might expect.

We’ve been behind the wheel of the diesel-electric Citroen DS5 and returned barely more than half of the claimed fuel economy on a 160-mile journey that involved dual carriageways, country roads, and town driving. Though the official fuel consumption figure stands at 72.4mpg, we achieved a mere 44.0mpg, despite driving at sensible speeds.

Hybrid costs nearly £5,000 more than petrol and diesel versions

The biggest cost, however, is the purchase premium over conventional models, with the top-spec DS5 Hybrid4 200 DStyle setting you back a hefty £34,430. Opt for similarly specified petrol and diesel models and you could save yourself nearly £5,000, with both available for less than £29,700.

On paper fuel economy for these alternatives may lag behind the hybrid – with the diesel returning 57.6mpg and the petrol offering 42.2mpg – but you’d have to cover a huge amount of miles to recoup the hybrid’s initial premium.

In the example of the DS5, the hybrid also proved unpleasant to drive, with a dimwitted transmission jolting you from electric-only driving at very low speeds to engaging the noisy diesel motor. Despite an impressive nought to 62mph acceleration time of 8.3 seconds, the unrefined transmission meant that progress never felt quick, with a substantial delay between pressing the accelerator and the car accelerating. As a result, nearly all car buyers will be better served by the petrol or diesel option.

Even economical Lexus hybrid could prove more costly than petrol

While the DS5 is a poor attempt at a hybrid from a company with little experience in this market, even Lexus’s established IS hybrid saloon isn’t necessarily going to prove cheaper to live with over three years than a petrol alternative – despite offering claimed fuel economy of 65.7mpg versus 32.8mpg for the petrol.

The hybrid typically costs around £2,500 more than the petrol version, depending upon the specification level that you opt for. Though the hybrid has a substantially better official fuel economy than the petrol, a typical owner covering around 24,000 miles over three years before changing their car could still be out of pocket with the hybrid with just a £1,850 saving in fuel bills, according to the claimed economy figures.

Take into consideration the free car tax of the hybrid compared to annual bills of £265 for the petrol and the hybrid could prove slightly cheaper, however, as with many hybrid cars it is at its most economical around town, where regular braking can add charge back to the batteries. Those who cover more miles around town than on the open road are likely to be quids in, therefore, while those who spend most of their time in the car on dual carriageways and motorways may be better off with a petrol.

Picture Citroen