THE CON­TES­TANTS

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

We lined up the lat­est Mini Diesel and the new Toy­ota Prius and put them through the hoops of com­muter travel.

To keep thirst and belch low, the Prius re­lies on switch­ing to its elec­tric mo­tor when­ever prac­ti­cal. The Mini uses an ef­fi­cient diesel sys­tem and stop-start tech­nol­ogy that switches off the en­gine when you’re sta­tion­ary.

The Prius III’s 1.8-litre en­gine claims 3.9 litres/100km for ur­ban and com­bined driv­ing, and 3.7 litres for high­way run­ning, with emis­sions pegged at 89g/km of CO2.

Mini D car­ries a 1.5-litre diesel en­gine that also posts an of­fi­cial 3.9 litres/100km com­bined — ris­ing to 4.7 litres in city driv­ing and drop­ping to 3.5 litres for the high­way — but emits 104g/km,

But a lab test is a long way from the stop-start grind of a work­day run.

So how would they per­form in Syd­ney’s peak-hour traf­fic? We asked two col­leagues to do a cou­ple of com­mutes in each, driv­ing in their nor­mal man­ner, re­strict­ing trips to the work runs and not­ing their fuel con­sump­tion and im­pres­sions.

When the elec­tric mo­tor is in con­trol on slow-speed in­clines— such as car park exit ramps — the Prius tends to stop and roll back­wards. I learned to put my foot down on the ac­cel­er­a­tor a lot harder than I would feel comfortable with in most cars.

I liked the radar cruise con­trol. I didn’t have to brake or ac­cel­er­ate as the speed of the car in front changed. The radar would de­tect the Prius get­ting closer, brake, then re­sume speed once there was suf­fi­cient room again. Not sure how much I trust a com­puter-driven car, but it was fun.

As was the par­al­lel park as­sist func­tion. Once you have lined up a spot to park in, all you have to do is brake as it re­verses and steers for you.

For many peo­ple, the ex­cel­lent fuel con­sump­tion might be a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor. If th­ese were in a lower price range, I think they would be a lot more ap­peal­ing.

Over­all, the Prius was roomy, rea­son­ably pow­ered and fea­ture-packed. But there was no sense of plea­sure in the driv­ing. It lacked the feel a keen driver would be looking for. in a man­ual — stretches of stop-startcrawl on a twisty up­hill road. The Mini makes this a piece of cake, with the hill-hold fea­ture kick­ing in ev­ery time you come to a rest fac­ing up­hill, mak­ing take-offs so easy and never need­ing the hand­brake.

And it used just un­der half the fuel of my reg­u­lar ve­hi­cle, a turbo four­cylin­der Mazda.

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