NOT all hybrid cars are as green as they seem — with some not even as clean as their diesel rivals, a study shows.
A new assessment system gave the £35,000 Mitsubishi Outlander, a plug-in hybrid SUV, just two stars out of five.
It was beaten easily not only by hybrid rivals in the independent Green NCAP test but also by diesel and petrol cars that use the latest technology to keep emissions down.
These included the diesels Skoda Octavia (3.5 stars) and Seat Leon (3 stars) as well as petrol versions of the Volkswagen Golf (3.5 stars) and the Audi A3 (3 stars).
Unlike official emissions ratings done under lab conditions, Green NCAP tests rate cars based on greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and air pollution.
And unlike official tests that let cars boast of green credentials and claim low tax rates, the Green NCAP exams take place in real-world conditions.
These include cold weather, on rough roads, with batteries not at full power and not going at optimal speeds.
Driving a plug-in on a normal engine with a flat battery for the electric side of the power means using more fuel than a standard petrol engine.
Green NCAP is funded by Which? plus other consumer groups and organisations.
Which? said: "The results reveal buying a plug-in hybrid is no guarantee of getting a cleaner car than some modern petrol or diesel cars.”
The best plug-in hybrid in the tests was the Toyota Prius with four stars, the worst was the Mitsubishi on two.
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