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.