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BMW 1 series


Toyota Prius

Summary

BMW 1 series

If you think it’s a Mercedes-Benz A-Class you want or maybe an Audi A3 Sportback or even a Volkswagen Golf, then stop and read this first before making a purchase.

The BMW 1 Series alternative isn’t just another prestige little car, because there are some fundamental differences between this 1 and those others, and they could cause you to totally rethink your decision.

If you’re already keen on getting a 1 Series then you need to read this, too, not only to help you find the right one, but also to alert you to what might be a couple of uncomfortable truths.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Toyota Prius

Tree-huggers get a bad rap, especially when they're accused of driving Priuses, a particularly targeted form of abuse inspired by the Malibu movie set. Hollywood types who stepped out of gas-guzzling private jets to tool around humbly in Toyota's trailblazing hybrid used to include dapper chaps like Clooney, Damon and di Caprio.

They must have been pleased when Tesla arrived with bigger, faster, fully electric cars. Sometimes you really need to get to your private jet in a hurry.

And I say they were pleased because driving a Prius forced these folks to consider what life would have been like had they not played that dead body on CSI, before rising through the ranks to owning chunks of a coffee-pod company and marrying lawyers who make speeches at the UN.

The Prius was a run-of-the-mill car that appealed to them only via its new hybrid technology, whicht helped assuage their guilt at burning several tonnes of avgas instead of mixing it with the general public on commercial airlines.

In 2019, Toyota has four hybrids (including a RAV4) with which to attract your attention, and one of those is the 20-year-old Prius. Still odd-looking, still a hybrid, still pretty much the same proposition as that first, nose-diving sedan all those years ago. Its own bretheren are out to consign it to irrelevance. Or is it still worth another look?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency3.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 1 series7.5/10

I’m the first to say the 1 Series is kind of the ugly duckling of the BMW family, but those looks grow on you, especially when you consider that this is exactly what a BMW hatch should look like. That this is one of the only rear-wheel-drive hatches left on the planet makes it even more special – and of course engaging to pilot. The downside is the price and the lack of value from a features perspective, plus safety could be bolstered with more technology. Still, anybody who likes to drive will commend you on your choice of a BMW.  

Is the BMW 1 Series better at doing the small prestige hatch thing than the A-Class or A3 Sportback? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Toyota Prius 7.1/10

In 2019, the Prius is a head scratcher. Toyota has the hybrid Corolla on the same TNGA platform but it's a better overall proposition, cheaper and vastly better looking. If you can find one, you can have a hybrid Camry for a similar money. 

Committed EV buyers can now buy a fully electric Hyundai Ioniq for a few bucks more. It almost feels like the Prius is hanging on for the fans so it rather has the feeling of an Eagles concert... without the hits.

It's difficult to see why you wouldn't save a significant amount of money and go for a Corolla Hybrid. The ZR I drove last year was $13,000 cheaper than the Prius, and a far more satisfying drive.

With cheaper Korean options hoving into view - and Toyota's own Corolla - is the Prius' day done?

Design

BMW 1 series8/10

The 1 Series looks exactly how a BMW hatchback should. I know that sounds silly but what I mean is BMW could easily have designed something that was proportioned more like other hatches; that popular sort of bubble on wheels.

Instead, what you have is a hatch that retains BMW’s traditional attributes – there’s the long nose, the cabin set back, the high sides and the wheels placed almost at the very corners.

Seriously, look at the image of the orange 1 Series side on, now hold your out your hand and use it to cover just the windows – see, it looks just like a BMW 2 Series convertible. Does it look good? To me it does, right up until you get to the hatchback, and then it looks a bit awkward. But I do admire BMW’s designers for creating something unique looking.

That orange 120i ('Sunset Orange' is the official colour) is the most recent 1 Series I’ve tested. Those wheels aren’t standard, they’re 18-inch M ones and they are part of the optional 'M Sport Package', which also includes the body kit, complete with side skirts and the lower grille in gloss black.

The 1 Series is as affordable as BMWs get, but it’s still a real BMW. The cabin, for example, looks much like  every BMW, only smaller.

There’s the large, slab-like dash with the display sitting atop, below are the air vents and below that is the radio and then the climate-control dials. It’s a stack that’s kept its familiar order and shape on nearly all BMWs for what seems like forever.

The centre console has a similar layout as the one in a 3 Series or 5 Series or any Series, with the shifter and rotating media controller. Even the doors have the same design as those cars higher up in the BMW family, with the big moulded pockets and large pull handles.

That steering wheel is part of the M-Package too, but the leather upholstery is a separate option.

The signs that this isn’t a more expensive BMW are the manual handbrake, the compact instrument cluster with analogue dials, the small dash-top display and the fact that  there’s a lot less real estate to be covered by trim pieces and material, which doesn’t have the same high-quality feel as those fancier models.

The cabin isn’t as ‘blingy’ as the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but it’s not as plain as the cockpit of an Audi A3 – it’s somewhere in between; refined and well designed.

At 4.3m end to end, the 1 Series is 16mm shorter that the A3 Sportback and 20mm narrower, at just over 1.7m across.


Toyota Prius

My goodness this is an awkward-looking car. The Prius set the template almost two decades ago and it seemed like any hybrid, no matter where it was from, looked like Toyota's pioneer for a while.

Part of the awkwardness is a result of wind-tunnel styling to maximise the benefit of the hybrid power unit - that high, boxed-off tail makes the Prius slippery, but weird looking. The adventurous shapes of the lights front and rear really don't work (for me, anyway). The tiddly wheels amplify the slabbiness of the sides.

I say tiddly because, as you know, they're just 17-inchers. The base model Prius has a laughable set of 15s bolted on.

You know, just by looking, that this is a Prius and, by extension, a hybrid.

The interior is a bit more contemporary, but littered with cheap Toyota staples like that dodgy LCD clock that used to be in my Mum's Echo. Speaking of the Echo, Toyota has recycled and expanded on the idea of a centrally placed dashboard, all of which is digital but without the inventiveness of a German, or even a Korean car. It works really well, to be fair, but there's not much in it to amuse or delight.

The central touchscreen is nice and close and shows additional information about the hybrid-drive system. The profusion of piano black is a bit passe, though, and picks up dust and fingerprints.

Practicality

BMW 1 series7/10

The 1 Series’ boot has a cargo capacity of 360 litres, which is more than the boot space of the Audi A3 Sportback (340 litres) but less than the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class’s 370 litres of luggage room.

What does that mean in real-world terms? It’s not a lot of space, and you might struggle to get a pram in, so check that  beforehand if you have small ones. That said, there was enough room for two carry-on sized bags, a computer bag and a scooter when my wife and I went on a weekend away with our four year old.

Space in the second row is also limited. Headroom isn’t too bad, but at 191cm tall I can’t sit behind my driving position without my knees digging into the seatback. I can just fit back there in the A3 and I have even more room for my knees in the A-Class.

Room up front is good with plenty of shoulder, head and elbow room for somebody my size.

Storage could be better: you’ll only find cup holders up front (two of them), the centre-console storage bin is small and so are the door pockets in the rear, but all is not lost because the door bottle holders in the front are massive, the glove box is a decent size and there are nets on the backs of the front seats.

It’s good to see directional air vents in the second row and a 12V power outlet, but there aren’t any USB ports back there – if you want to plug in a device there’s only one and it’s up front, along with another 12-volt outlet.

The rear doors appear large from the outside but the aperture to get in and out isn’t huge – again look at the images to see what I’m on about.


Toyota Prius

Passenger space in the Prius is excellent for its footprint. Slightly roomier than the Corolla, front and rear passengers have generous head and legroom, although the narrowing hips pinch the shoulders a bit with five aboard. The roofline also abbreviates headroom for anyone over about six feet. The seats are comfortable, though.

Front and rear rows are each treated to two cupholders and bottle holders, for a total of four of each. The front centre console also has a Qi wireless charging pad, as well as a deep bin under the armrest.

Boot space starts at a modest 343 litres to the parcel shelf but if you drop the rear seats, you've got a very generous 1633 litres. The lower-spec Prius has a much smaller boot (297 litres) but does have a spare tyre.

Toyota hasn't certified the Prius with a towing figure.

Price and features

BMW 1 series7/10

So, it’s a little BMW, does that mean the price is little? Nope. It’s like asking if a little Rolex is cheap. it might be cheap for a Rolex, but not for a watch in general, and it's the same for the 1 Series.

The 1 Series range starts at $39,990 for the petrol 118i, while its 118d diesel twin is $44,990. Both come with the standard Sport Line package, which adds 16-inch light alloy wheels and LED headlights, while in the cabin it brings cloth upholstery, sports seats and a leather sports steering wheel, high-gloss black trim and BMW scuff plates. Other standard features include a 6.5-inch display, with sat nav, reversing camera, six-speaker stereo, a digital radio and air-conditioning.

For another $7000 you can get into the 120i grade, which lists for $46,990 and comes standard with the Urban Line package, which fits 17-inch alloy wheels in the double-spoke style, adds front and rear bumpers with matt finish air intakes, plus dual chrome tail pipes, while the cockpit gets leather upholstery, and gloss-black and pearl-effect trim.

Along with the Urban Line gear, the 120i has all of the 118i’s standard features and adds more of its own, including front and rear parking sensors, LED fog lights, dual-zone climate control, the interior lights package, plus smart phone connectivity with voice control.

The 125i is only a tempting $3000 above the 120i at $49,990 and it comes standard with the M Sport Package, which is what our most recent test car was fitted with (see the images of the orange 120i). The M Sport pack adds 18-inch light-alloy wheels and the tough body kit, the M Sport steering wheel and aluminium trim to the interior.

Apart from the M Sport package, also standard is an 8.8-inch screen with a DVD player and, somewhat disappointingly, cloth and Alcantara seats. Sure, they look nice, but how did the 120i get real leather and the 125i didn’t?

Still the 125i comes with more impressive performance hardware than the grades below, such as sports suspension, variable steering, M Sport brakes (inner vented rear discs) and blue calipers.

At the top of the 1 Series range is the M140i and while it’s getting into pricey territory at $59,990 (don’t forget that’s not including the on-road costs), you are getting what I’m predicting will be a sought after car in years to come. And possibly even a collector's item.

The M140i isn’t a fully fledged M car – it’s a diet version from the M Performance section of BMW, which gives cars a bit of a taste of the hardcore world of beasties like the M2 and M3, without costing as much or being quite as brutal to drive.

I’ll talk about the high-performance parts more in the sections on driving and engines, but briefly, you might like to know the M140 gets adaptive suspension and a six-cylinder turbo petrol engine – yes in a tiny hatch. Powerful.

The M140i also has the standard features of the 125i and adds its own, such as the 18-inch alloy wheels, black chrome tail pipe, adaptive LED headlights, leather upholstery, keyless entry, power front seats and a Harmon/Kardon 12-speaker stereo.

So, is the 1 Series good value? The price is bang-on compared to rivals such as the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3 (click those to see my reviews of them, too), but the 1 Series gets less in standard features compared to the Benz (such as Apple CarPlay) and about the same level of equipment as the A3.

If you’re a fan of black and white, you might be relieved to know these are the only two colours you won’t have to pay for. The rest, including Sunset Orange (see the images), Seaside Blue, Melbourne Red, Glacial Silver and Mineral Grey cost $1190.


Toyota Prius

The 2019 Prius update is available in two specs - entry level for $36,590 and this i-Tech for a stout $44,050. For that outlay you score 17-inch alloys, a 10-speaker JBL-branded stereo, keyless entry and start, Qi wireless charging pad, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, reversing camera, electric everything (except the tailgate), fake leather trim, climate control, head-up display, sat nav and a tyre-repair kit.

Toyota's worse-than-the-final-season-of-Game-of-Thrones multimedia system soliders on. It's hard to use, terrible to look at and, even with the Kluger-style shortcut buttons, leaves me screaming, alternately, for a hug and for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

There's just no excuse for a system this bad in the modern world. Toyota Australia's stubborness is admirable, in a way. The sound is really good, though, and it comes with DAB, which is fine if you can work out how to find the station you want in the confusing user interface.

Engine & trans

BMW 1 series8/10

As you step up through the grades the engines become more powerful. The entry-grade 118i has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol making 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque, while its diesel twin has a 2.0-litre turbo-four making 110kW and much more torque at 320Nm.

The 120i has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder and an output of 135kW and 270Nm. Then above that is the 125i, which is getting into performance territory with its 2.0-litre turbo four petrol making 165kW and 310Nm.

But all hail the M140i and its beautiful 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol, with 250kW and 500Nm that it wants to share with you.

All cars are rear-wheel drive and all have an eight – hang on, that’s important: all cars are rear-wheel drive. Do you know how many other hatchbacks are rear-wheel drive? Try next to none – not the A-Class, not the A3, not the Golf. Rear-wheel drive is favoured for performance cars because it offers better balance and better acceleration thanks to the weight shift to the rear of the car. BMW has long claimed that RWD is one of the keys to its "sheer driving pleasure".

Now let me finish the sentence... all have an eight-speed automatic, and it’s a beauty – a little slow, but smoother for driving than a dual clutch, and way more fun than a CVT.

But wait, because there’s a manual gearbox, too. It’s a no-cost option and you can get it on any variant apart from the 125i.


Toyota Prius

The 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine produces 72kW and 142Nm. Due to the vagaries of hybrid-power calculations, the combined power output is 90kW, but there is no combined torque figure. It's unlikely - given the 1400kg kerb weight - that it's only 142Nm.

Along with the Atkinson-cycle internal-combustion engine, the Prius has two electric motors - one acting as a generator and one to drive the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel consumption

BMW 1 series8/10

BMW says its most efficient petrol engine in the 1 Series range is the three-cylinder in the 118i, which uses just 5.2L/100km after a combination of urban and open roads.

The diesel unit in the 118d will use 4.2L/100km. Let that sink in for a moment – petrol engines are becoming so fuel efficient that they’re rivalling diesels, which have long been lauded for their frugality.

So don't just buy the diesel just because it’s more efficient, because you may never recoup the extra money you paid over the 118i.

Thirstier but still super-efficient is the 2.0-litre in the 120i. BMW’s claim is 5.9L/100km. During my week with the 120i I put 413km on the clock and used 15.57 litres doing so (measured at the pump), which comes to 7.7L/100km. The car’s computer said 7.8L/100km.

That’s great fuel economy, even if it is higher than the claimed figures. The 125i’s official fuel consumption is also 5.9L/100km.

It’s not surprising that the M140i, with its 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, is the least fuel efficient but its official figure of 7.1L/100km is still low.


Toyota Prius

Official figures are always worth a chuckle, but the combined-cycle figure for a hybrid is always an interesting pointer. In the Prius, the ADR figure is 3.4L/100km. My week with the Prius in almost exclusively city driving - its natural habitat - yielded an impressive 4.3L/100km.

Driving

BMW 1 series8/10

If I could run into a showroom and take whichever 1 Series I wanted it’d be the M140i – and not just because it would give me the best chance of outrunning the police after they discovered the break-in, but because the thing is so much fun to drive.

It’s also the most expensive, of course, but it’s worth it for that screaming straight six and for its agility.

You’ll have fun, though, in every grade of the line-up – they’re all engaging to pilot with great driving positions, good pedal feel and that eight-speed auto is smooth in traffic yet will shift hard when you have your race face on.

You might find the 118i, with its three-cylinder, a little under powered, especially with five people and their bags on board. If you’re keen on this grade, then consider the diesel, which will give you more torque. Our 120i test car proved to have enough oomph for overtaking and moving quickly when needed.

The 125i is less tame, with its throatier exhaust note, firmer ride and better handling thanks to the M suspension.

If you plan on choosing the M Sport Package for, say, the 120i keep in mind that you’ll lose the comfortable ride these cars have on their standard tyres.

Our 120i had the pack and while the body kit looks tough, the 18-inch alloy wheels shod in low-profile rubber (225/40 R18 Bridgestone Potenza 5001s front and 245/35 R18 at the rear) meant the ride was overly jarring on bad roads.

Given that Sydney was my test bed for the 120i and its roads are shocking, the ride was less than comfy. The M-sport suspension will only make the ride less comfortable, but in return you’ll have a 120i with better handling.

Run-flat tyres are common on BMWs and you may have heard of a few issues surrounding noise and a harsher ride. While that can be true, it's the price you pay for having a tyre you won’t immediately have to change if you get a puncture. Only the 120i and the M140i don’t have run-flats as standard.


Toyota Prius

Despite rolling on Toyota's TNGA platform, it's not a particularly interesting car to drive. As with the old Prius, there's a fair bit of body roll and not a small amount of dive under heavier braking.

Neither of these are likely to trouble you, as the underpowered nature of the Prius enforces a relaxed pace, much like the hybrid Corolla I drove last year.

The uninspiring combination of modest power outputs and a CVT transmission is a Toyota staple and never fails to set my teeth on edge.

Having said that, the Prius is very quiet and an easy place to spend the commute. Again, the target buyer isn't looking for an excitement machine - fast hybrids are vastly more expensive - this car smashes its KPIs.

Toyota's early progress has been engulfed by its competitors, however. The Prius has all the clicks and whirrs but it's still essentially the same car it always has been - press the accelerator a bit, you get a few metres of near-silent progress, then the engine kicks into life and off you go.

The whacky joystick gear selector features D position and B. Other hybrids and BEVs have what I thought was a similar feature, a separate mode to increase the aggression of the energy harvesting from braking. Not the Prius - B means braking, which you can use on a long downhill run to reduce the strain on the tiny brakes. Switching to B mode induces engine braking by lowering the gear ratio in the CVT.

And, on that point, the Prius pretty much drives like a normal car. Some hybrids use the drag of the generator to assist with braking and therefore charge the battery, but the Toyota is almost entirely conventional-feeling.

Safety

BMW 1 series8/10

The BMW 1 Series has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but this was awarded in 2011 and a lot has changed since then – particularly expected levels of safety.

BMW has updated the advanced technology to keep up with AEB (city) with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning standard on all grades. It would be good to see more safety tech in the form of blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane-keeping assistance.

For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the rear row.

A spare tyre is not something you will find – all apart from the 120i and the M140i have run flats, while those two have puncture-repair kits.


Toyota Prius

The Prius i-Tech ships with seven airbags (including driver's knee bag), ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and forward AEB.

For the kiddies, there are three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX points.

The current Prius scored five ANCAP stars in October 2016.

Ownership

BMW 1 series6/10

The 1 Series is covered by BMW’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is condition-based – the car will let you know when it needs a check-up.

BMW offers two service packages, which cover the car for five years/80,000km: the Basic is $1340 and the Plus costs $3550.


Toyota Prius

Toyota has joined its rivals in the long-warranty camp, now offering five years/unlimited kilometres on its whole range. Roadside assist is an extra cost, though. 

Your Prius' service costs are capped for the first three years/60,000km and you have to take it back to Toyota every six months/10,000km. Thankfully, the services only cost $140 a pop.