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Car group tests

Volkswagen Passat vs Toyota Prius

Can the Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion diesel take down the king of efficiency, the petrol-electric Toyota Prius?

Toyota’s new Prius has seen off all of its hybrid challengers in our group tests so far, but it’s facing a different kind of eco-focused competitor here.

Volkswagen’s BlueMotion line of high-efficiency vehicles has always focused on maximising economy from conventional powertrains rather than hi-tech hybrid systems, and the new model takes this to the next level. VW claims the 1.6-litre turbodiesel Passat emits 95g/km of CO2, although this is still some way behind the Prius’ 70g/km output. But while the German brand’s reputation took a hit after the Dieselgate scandal, you can’t write off this diesel car.

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Most economical cars for sale

The BlueMotion’s impressive frugality means it shines on longer journeys, yet it should also return impressive economy figures around town. Being a hybrid, the Toyota is at its best in specific circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of its depth as a family car or a business vehicle; this new model promises better fuel economy than ever. Here, we see which type of car is more economical and makes more sense day-to-day.

Head-to-head 

Aerodynamics

Reducing drag is an effective way of improving efficiency. The VW has a closed-off grille and a bespoke bodykit, while the Prius’ intricate shape manages the airflow over the car in the cleanest path possible. Features like the rubber strip between the bonnet and bumper further reduce turbulence, with a decent drag coefficient of 0.24Cd.

Refinement

Volkswagen’s diesel is noisy when revved hard, while firmer suspension means there’s some road noise at higher speeds. Toyota has worked hard on its hybrid powertrain to cut decibels, helped by double-glazed windows. However, there is lots of tyre roar on motorways.

Saloon vs hatch

The Toyota doesn’t offer as much boot space as the Passat, but its big hatch makes it easier to load than the VW saloon with its smaller opening. With the rear seats down, a big load-through area boosts the Prius’ flexibility further – a bonus in a family car.

Verdict

First place: Toyota Prius

The Prius’ design won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying it looks and feels a lot more distinctive than the Passat. However, the big benefit comes from its hybrid powertrain, delivering useful savings over the conventionally powered Volkswagen. The smooth ride and capable chassis mean it’s also good to drive, and now more refined than ever.

Second place: Volkswagen Passat

The Passat’s lower fuel economy and higher CO2 emissions mean it can’t compete with the Prius. It’ll be more expensive to run as a result, with higher servicing costs and greater depreciation. The VW is roomier inside and provides a bigger boot in five-seat form, but the Toyota is just as practical and a more efficient solution for day-to-day use.

Is it worth waiting for this model?

Toyota Prius Plug-In

Toyota Prius Plug-in 2016 press front

Due: Late 2016  Price: £30k (est)Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl hybrid, 118bhp (est)

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Toyota claims its new Prius Plug-In will return 202mpg and emit 32g/km of CO2. Pricing hasn’t been revealed, but it’ll cost more than the standard car, as it takes efficiency to the next level.

Figures

 Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT-i ActiveVolkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI BlueMotion
On-the-road price/total as tested£23,295/£24,540£23,530/£25,605
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£11,349/48.7%£10,951/46.5%
Depreciation£11,946£12,579
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£511/£1,023£892/£1,784
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£981/£1,636£1,156/£1,927
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost14/£569/A/£015/£564/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£169/£219/£169£16 per month
   
Length/wheelbase4,540/2,700mm4,767/2,791mm
Height/width1,470/1,760mm1,456/1,832mm
EngineElec motor/4cyl/1,798cc4cyl in-line/1,598cc
Peak power 121^/5,200 bhp/rpm118/3,600 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 142/3,600 Nm/rpm250/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission CVT/fwd6-spd man/fwd
   
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel43 litres/space-saver59 litres/space-saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 343/1,558 litres586/1,152 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,375/415/725kg1,474/621/1,500kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.8 metres/0.24Cd11.7 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery5yrs (100,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers10,000 miles (1yr)/181Variable/223
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.8th/2nd22nd/30th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/starsN/A85/87/66/76/5
   
0-60/30-70mph10.4/10.2 secs10.1/9.1 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.0 secs (kickdown)4.5/7.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 6.1 secs (kickdown)9.2/13.5 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 112mph/N/A130mph/1,800rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 52.8/37.4/12.0m50.4/36.2/10.6m
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range57.8/12.7/547 miles49.3/10.8/640 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined97.4/91.1/94.2mpg65.7/85.6/76.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined21.4/20.0/20.7mpl14.5/18.8/16.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket131/70g/km/11%154/95g/km/19%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/yes/£495/yesNine/yes/£450/£315
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlYes/yes/adaptiveNo/yes/£255
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/no/noNo/no/£285*
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£495/yes/yes£545/£965/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£750/yes/yes/yes£675/yes/yes/yes
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