Verso TR 1.8 V-Matic M-Drive S
by name, versatile by
nature thats Toyotas new
family-friendly MPV. And just
in time for a long hot summer...
THE HOLIDAY SEASON IS WHEN THE FAMILY MPV really comes into its own, whether
families are transporting themselves and luggage to an airport or for a drive
to and from a holiday venue. Sales of new MPVs have not been strong in the last
year due to the recession but now summer sales, particularly of medium-sized
used ones, are healthy.
Having just come back from a few days in sunny Cornwall I can vouch for the
fact that young couples with pre-school age children, couples without offspring
and older couples (most with dogs), are now using mid-sized MPVs and this seems
to be their solution to versatile and cost-effective family transport.
The previously popular SUV/4x4s were not much in evidence this year, except
for a few towing caravans. It appears those users who still need a spacious
mode of family transport have ditched the 4x4 and gone to the mid-sized MPV,
both new and used.
A new MPV on the scene, replacing the previous model, is the seven-seat Toyota
Verso. It now sits on a bespoke platform and, consequently, it is roomier. And
it is no longer an extension of an existing model range: previously it was the
Corolla Verso; now it is just Verso and it is much better for that in
the style stakes. It looks aerodynamic and relatively sporty and gives off a
The new Verso features the latest Toyota Optimal Drive technology to reduce
fuel consumption and increase power all while producing less CO2. The
new option to the latest range of a 2.0-litre diesel engine rather than
the just the single 2.2-litre diesel unit will also broaden appeal and
there is further engine choice with the new 1.8-litre Valvematic petrol engine.
There are also three specification levels: T2, TR and T Spirit. Around 70% of
customers will go for the middle TR level of equipment and trim.
Priced from £16,750, a Toyota Verso, seven-seat, five-door MPV with improvements
in driving dynamics, quality, specification and 5-star Euro NCAP safety looks
to be a smart purchase if, that is, an MPV is what you need.
Families through to 'empty-nesters' to mini-cab drivers all use MPVs because
of their load and passenger carrying versatility, so there will always be a
market for such vehicles our needs do not change that much in the real
world. It might mean that today we do not buy a new vehicle as often, but an
MPV remains an important model. If it's more rewarding to drive then that is
an advantage, because for many just mentioning an MPV can be boring.
Toyota does not sell huge numbers of Versos and they see around 4,500 of the
new model being delivered to UK customers this year; the majority of them diesel.
And for many buyers, the £18,950 Verso 2.0D-4D six-speed manual TR will be the
Currently, prices go up to £20,675 for the top specification version and prices
are yet to be released for the 2.2-litre diesel, which arrives later in the
year and only comes with automatic transmission.
My test model was the £18,750 Verso TR 1.8-litre Valvematic petrol with a CVT
automatic transmission ('M-Drive
probably not the most popular single model in the range but useful because of
the auto option and a likely choice for the older or less able driver.
Toyota designers may have visited, amongst other places, IKEA car parks where
they interviewed shoppers to get their ideas on what a mid-sized family MPV
must offer, but in truth the new Verso is not much different to any other well
made, mid-sized people-carrier.
The vehicle accommodates up to seven people within three rows of seats. The
seats easily fold flat if required to form a level load floor and the doors
are wide opening for easy access. All normal stuff. The reliability and build
quality, because it is a Toyota, is first class and forward and side large glass
areas make visibility almost perfect. However, the rear quarter windows are
small and visibility is not good in this area. Even though my test model was
fitted with a rear-view reversing camera, I would still insist on the option
of front and rear parking distance sensors which I found I needed squeezing
the vehicle in and out of busy Cornish harbour-side car parks.
The 1.8-litre Valvematic petrol engine is new and uses lift and duration control
of the variable timing of the inlet valves to deliver more power for less fuel
with less CO2 emissions. Power over the old 1.8-VVT-I unit is up by a significant
18bhp to 145bhp; torque increases by 7lb ft to 133lb ft at 4,600rpm. CO2 emissions
are also down, by 19g/km to 164g/km and fuel consumption in the combined cycle
improves from 36.7 to 40.4mpg.
My 1.8 TR test car returned an average 35.8mpg for typical holiday driving,
motorways, main roads and hilly Cornish lanes and, don't forget, this was with
a CVT automatic gearbox. So I was impressed and for most non-business users
I reckon the cost saving on the purchase price when compared to a diesel-powered
Verso means the 1.8-litre petrol unit is really a better buy.
The petrol engine was lively, it revved freely, it was generally pretty responsive
and for most low to medium mileage users would be the best choice. The £150
road tax bill is not too bad either. My only slight criticism concerns the CVT
transmission because it tended to hold onto lower gears longer than necessary
whilst overtaking or climbing hills. But with the instrument panel Eco light
showing green most of the time, the petrol engine/auto CVT combination appeared
to work well.
The handling was safe and secure; the ride comfort was very good with the suspension
tuned to the soft end of the range. This is a set-up that real-life customers
want rather than the firm, hard and tiring ride qualities seemingly loved by
some go-faster members of the motoring media. In reality, customers prefer comfort
and a non-tiring travel experience. The Verso gives you that although road noise
intrusion is marginally higher than I would have liked.
The steering is perfectly predictable but it doesn't give much feedback to the
driver. It just gets slowly on with the job and it is consistent no matter what
the road surface.
The Easy-Flat 7 seating is exactly that: easy to use, easy to fold, seven seats
in three rows and any combinations in between. The rear two rows of seats fold
down to create a completely flat load floor great for two people and
their activity equipment or the family dog and so on. In truth, the rear row
in most seven-seat MPVs is used only rarely (when guests need to travel) and
most families like the five-seat layout and then loads of extra luggage space.
It also means no drag-inducing roof boxes.
However, leg space in the rear row is very limited so they really are only for
occasional use. That noted, the legroom for the three middle seats is very good
and the new Verso makes a very comfortable five-seater with lots of load space
(178-1,696 litres) all in a body 4,440mm long, 1,790mm wide and 1,620mm high.
The good news it that it will easily go into multi-story car parks or fit in
a normal domestic garage.
All in all the new Toyota Verso is a sound and safe buy. Well equipped from
the bottom model up with most of the usual items such as electric windows and
door mirrors plus air conditioning, alloy road wheels, Vehicle Stability Assist
and traction control as well. The interior plastic trim looked drab but then
it is wipe-clean and functional.
Against? With the rear row of seats in use the boot is small and at the same
time rear legroom for the third row is very limited, there are some cheap interior
plastics and tyre noise intrusion is too high. On the plus side there's now
a wider range of models, improved fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions, a new fuel-efficient
1.8-litre petrol engine with CVT auto transmission option, clever and easy to
use foldaway seating, a comfortable ride, comprehensive safety equipment and
strong residual values. So while the Verso may not be exciting, it is fit-for-purpose
and, not to be overlooked, it is a Toyota. David Miles
Toyota Verso TR 1.8 V-Matic M-Drive S | £18,750
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds | Overall test MPG: 35.8mpg
Power: 145bhp | Torque: 133lb ft | CO2 164g/km | Insurance group 7E