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Toyota Prius


BMW 2 Series

Summary

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 Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency3.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

BMW 2 Series

There’s occasional wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the question of whether a four-door car can be called a coupe.

Rover set tongues wagging close to 60 years ago with its P5 Coupe; to all intents and purposes a sedan with a lower, slightly swoopier roofline.

But in the 21st century, BMW has wiped the conversation aside and gone four-door coupe mad, even applying the tag to a couple of its X Series SUVs as well as a series of more conventional models.

So, rather than call in the coupe police, after they’ve visited Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, we’ll go with the flow and introduce you to the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, launching in two variants - the 218i (front-wheel drive, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo), and M235i xDrive (all-wheel drive, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo).

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

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?


BMW 2 Series7.8/10

Small four-door cars aren’t exactly flavour-of-the-month in the current Australian new car market, but this newcomer offers solid value, and good dynamic balance in a premium compact package. It’s aimed at a niche within a niche, but for seekers of sleek, inner-city-sized four-door luxury, the 2 Series Gran Coupe has a lot to offer. 

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Design

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

The whole BMW Gran Coupe ‘thing’ kicked off in 2012 with a lower, longer, extra-doored version of the 6 Series coupe.

Following in its fashionable wheel tracks were the 4 Series Gran Coupe in 2014, an 8 Series model in 2019, and now this diminutive 2 Series.

The formula is broadly similar in each case. Take the two-door coupe, stretch it length-wise, add a couple of doors and remove the frames from all of them, then let the wind tunnel smooth out the overall form.

In line with that design approach, at just over 4.5m long the Gran Coupe is 94mm longer than the 2 Series two-door, as well as fractionally wider (+26mm), and a little taller (+7.0mm).

But the surprise is a shorter wheelbase (2670mm) for this front-wheel drive model (based on the 1 Series platform), compared to the rear-wheel drive two-door (2690mm).

A big grille is a key part of BMW’s current design language, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe obliges with a suitably large version of the brand’s signature ‘kidney’ grille with a single surround unifying it graphically. 

Angry, angular LED headlights combine with large air vents either side of the front clip to conjure up a confident, assertive face.

The car’s profile conforms to the BMW Gran Coupe template with the roofline tapering markedly towards the rear and strategically placed character lines along the car’s flanks adding visual interest and enhancing the its lengthy look.

BMW devotees will recognise the term ‘Hofmeister Kink’, a characteristic up-turn of the trailing edge of a BMW’s side window glass, This time around BMW refers to the element as an ‘upright’ Hofmeister Kink, which is a misnomer, because it’s so upright it no longer conforms to the vision of Wilhelm Hofmeister (the Bavarian maker’s head of design in the early 1960s).

Slim, long, distinctly horizontal LED tail-lights define the rear view, with other lateral lines and trim elements enhancing the car’s wide, planted stance.

The interior will be instantly familiar to any current model BMW owner with the neatly arranged dash featuring the ‘Cockpit Professional’ set-up including a 10.25-inch configurable instrument display, and another same-size multimedia screen annexed to the main binnacle.

All instrumentation and key controls are angled towards the driver and attention to detail in terms of quality is high.

It’s now an accepted truth that lights and screens are the new chrome in terms of automotive design, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe compliments its sleek screens with an interior ambient lighting package, as well as brushed metal elements and BMW’s usual array of logically arranged, legible and user-friendly switchgear.

Practicality

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.


BMW 2 Series6/10

No matter how hard you shut your eyes and spit out a Harry Potter-style incantation, you can’t magic-up a big interior in a small car.

BMW’s packaging boffins will have sweated bullets to eke out every extra millimetre, but the hard fact is this 2 Series Gran Coupe is diminutive.

Cozy is the best way to describe the front section, and the front seats are snug, be they the cloth-trimmed sports seats in the 218i, or even racier leather-trimmed chairs in the 235i xDrive.

Access to the rear requires mild gymnastic prowess because the door aperture is modest, and once you’re in there it’s tight. Sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position, my shiny pate made firm contact with the headliner, and my knees were striking up a close relationship with the front seatback.

Forget three grown-ups abreast in there. I’d describe the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s seating arrangement as a ‘2+2+1’.

Storage is provided in all the right places, but scaled down to suit the available space. There’s a lidded storage box between the front seats, two cupholders and a wireless charging bay in the front centre console, decent door bins with room for bottles, and a glove box (able to accommodate several pairs of gloves).

Backseaters have access to small door bins and a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders in it. The primo M235i xDrive features adjustable rear air vents, while the entry-level 218i misses out.

The boot chips in with 430 litres of load space, which is okay rather than cavernous, and it’s worth remembering the opening is narrow relative to a similarly-sized hatch. But a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat increases flexibility, and liberates more space.

Don’t bother looking for a spare of any description as a repair/inflator kit is your only option.

Towing is possible in the 218i, but sadly the dual-axle caravan is off the agenda. Maximum capacity for a braked trailer is 1300kg (with a 75kg towball download), and 710kg unbraked. The M235i xDrive is a no-tow zone.

Price and features

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

The two-model 2 Series Gran Coupe line-up kicks off with the 218i at $47,490, before on-road costs, and BMW’s aiming up at Merc’s CLA 200 ($60,700) with this car, at a more than $13K differential.

Aside from the standard active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section) that cost-of-entry includes: 18-inch alloy rims, a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, sports front seats, head-up display, the 'Live Cockpit Professional’ pack (10.25-inch instrument cluster, 10.25-inch operating system 7.0 media display and ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant’), Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is coming later in 2020), cruise control, keyless entry and start, ambient interior lighting, LED headlights, tail-lights, and fog lights, ‘Parking Assistant’ (front and rear sensors, reversing camera, ‘Auto Parking Assistant’ and ‘Reversing Assistant’) and a six-speaker (100-watt) audio system.

Yes, the Merc features an AMG bodykit and rims, as well as active cruise, and it has a bit more oomph, but that’s a pretty handy batch of standard features for a lot less money. 

In similar fashion, at $69,990, before on-road costs, the M235i xDrive lines up price-wise against Merc’s CLA 250 4Matic ($70,200), but knocks it for six in terms of performance. In fact, BMW wants a piece of the Merc-AMG CLA 35 ($85,500) with this mini-muscle coupe.

Over and above the 218i’s equipment list the top-spec car features: 19-inch alloys, M-Sport brakes (four-piston front calipers, up from single piston), M steering calibration, M rear spoiler, M Sport front seats, leather upholstery, electric front seat adjustment (including memory on the driver’s side), adaptive LED headlights (including ‘High-beam Assistant), and harman/kardon 16-speaker (464-watt) audio. Not bad at all.

Engine & trans

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.


BMW 2 Series9/10

The 218i Gran Coupe is powered by a version of BMW’s B38 in-line three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, used in various BMW and Mini models. The all-alloy unit features direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing and ‘Double-VANOS variable cam timing to produce 103kW from 4600-6500rpm, and 220Nm from 1480-4200rpm. It sends drive to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The M235i Gran Coupe is powered by a version of BMW’s B48 in-line four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, also used in various BMW and Mini models, including the Mini John Cooper Works GP.

Another all-alloy design, it also uses a twin-scroll turbo set-up, direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing and ‘Double-VANOS variable cam timing to produce no less than 225kW from 5000-6250rpm, and a whopping 450Nm from 1750-4500rpm.

It sends power to all four wheels through an eight-speed (conventional torque-converter) automatic transmission and a dedicated transfer gearbox, guided by multiple sensors and processors, to send drive to the wheels that can make best use of it. 

Fuel consumption

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.9L/100km, the 218i, emitting 135g/km of CO2 in the process.

Not surprisingly, the high-performance M235i xDrive is thirstier, the combined cycle figure rising to 7.6L/100km, and emissions sitting at 173g/km of CO2.  During a post-launch week of city, suburban and freeway running in this version, we recorded a real-world number of 10.2L/100km.

Stop-start is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded in the 215i, and 98 RON premium in the M235i, and you’ll need 50 litres to brim the tank on both. 

Driving

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

For most driving circumstances the 218i offers enough performance to get the job done, with 0-100km/h acceleration for the 1375kg four-door claimed at 8.7sec.

With more than twice the power and torque the M235i is able to blast it’s heavier (1570kg) frame to the same mark in just 4.9sec, and anything under five seconds is properly fast.

The three-cylinder car is smooth, surprisingly quiet, and responsive, the little turbo providing a satisfyingly linear response, with maximum torque available from just 1480rpm all the way to 4200rpm. The seven-speed auto is most un-dual-clutch like in that it’s unobtrusive, but very dual-clutch-like in that it shifts rapidly and precisely.

Step into the M235i and you’re entering an altogether more serious world of performance. The in-line four is crisp and lights up with only a modest flexing of the right ankle. The four-cylinder’s raspy engine induction noise is smile-inducing, and in Sport mode the exhaust adds furious blurts and bangs to full-throttle up-shifts, and entertaining crackles and pops on the way back down the ratios.

The eight-speed auto doesn’t give anything away to the 218i’s dual-clutch, especially in manual mode, where a flick of either wheel mounted paddle results in almost instant changes. And the xDrive system keeps the car planted, the transfer gearbox on the back of the main transmission seamlessly distributing torque to all four wheels on a needs basis.

Pushing along some B-road bends on the BMW launch drive program, the M235i remained planted and felt eager, picking up the throttle quickly out of tight corners, the bigger brakes keeping the car stable as load transfers to the front axle.

But no matter which version of the 2 Series Gran Coupe you’re in, the ride/handling balance is impressive. Suspension is strut front, multi-link rear in both, and the car’s ability to blend great cornering with a comfy ride is the mark of a company that knows its way around engineering dynamics. The 218i comes with an M Sport suspension tune, although the standard set-up is a no-cost option., 

Steering is accurate, feelsome, and nicely weighted in both models, the M235i upping the ante with meatier variable rate settings. And the sports seats in each car are grippy, although, despite adjustability of the side bolsters, the M235i runs the risk of sacrificing long-distance comfort for firm location. 

Safety

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

All the expected active safety tech is on-board, including ABS, EBD, BA and stability and traction controls. Then the 218i adds ‘Driving Assistant’ (including lane departure warning, lane change warning, ‘Approach control Warning’ with city-braking intervention, ‘Rear Cross Traffic Warning’, ‘Rear Collision Prevention’ and ‘Speed Limit Information’. As well as, Parking Assistant’ (front and rear sensors, reversing camera, ‘Auto Parking Assistant’ and ‘Reversing Assistant’). As well as, a dry braking function, fading compensation, ‘Start-Off Assistant’, ‘Electronic Differential Lock Control’, and trailer stability control.

All that, but no AEB. At urban speeds, the 'City Brake' system will detect a potential forward collision and slow the car if necessary, but not bring it to a complete stop. For that you'll need to option in adaptive cruise control at $654 for the 218i and $850 for the M235i.

If an impact is unavoidable there are head and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as curtain airbags covering both rows.

There are also three top tether points for baby capsules/child seats across the rear seat, which ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe hadn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP at the time of writing.

Ownership

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.


BMW 2 Series7/10

BMW offers a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is off the pace with the majority of mainstream brands stepping up to five-year cover, with some at seven. And the pressure is on with Mercedes-Benz announcing its shift to five years/unlimited km.

That said, the BMW's body is warranted against rust (perforation) for 12 years/unlimited km, and roadside assistance is provided free-of-charge for three years/unlimited km.

Maintenance is 'condition based' with sensors and on-board algorithms (mileage, time since last service, fuel consumption, driving style) determining whether an annual vehicle inspection or oil service is required.

The 'BMW Service Inclusive' package, offering a single, one-off advance payment to cover selected service and maintenance costs, is available in two levels - 'Basic' or 'Plus.'