First DriveImpressive engine and mature ride and handling, but a bit sombre and short on usual MPV practicality
First DriveNew diesel engine is impressively refined, but the Verso remains less spacious and practical than its main rivals in this sector
In 2002 Toyota launched the Corolla Verso, a capable if bland midi-MPV. Just two years on there’s an all-new Verso, less anonymous and even more capable, with seven seats, nine airbags and a more grown-up cabin and driving experience.
Toyota reckons the 1.8 VVT-I will be the best seller, but it’s hard to fathom why. To make swift progress the unit has to be kept between 4000 and 6000rpm, a wearisome experience in a people carrier. Worse still, our test car was fitted with the optional £500 MMT (Multi-mode Manual Transmission) sequential gearbox. Like Citroën’s Sensodrive it’s an incredibly frustrating system: in auto mode it constantly hunts – and rarely finds – the correct gear, and even when swapping cogs manually the stop-start action leaves you yearning for a torque-converter auto.
Which is a shame, because there’s lots to be said in the Verso’s favour. It handles tidily, with sharp steering and decent body control, and it’s cheap to insure: the 1.8 is in group 7, though T-spirit spec boosts it to group 8. The cabin is classy, with almost Germanic dashboard quality, attractive dials and a handsome mini hi-fi-style silver/glass centre console.
Up front the seats are supportive, but the Verso’s party piece lies aft. Toyota’s Easy Flat-7 system offers a tilting and sliding middle row, yet all five rear seats will fold completely flat for a usefully large, if high, load bay. With the third row folded there’s a decent boot, but flip them up – it’s quick and easy – and you’ll find boot space all but disappears and the final pair of seats is for little ’uns only.
Our advice? Forget clever transmissions or petrols, opt for the £17,995 2.0 D-4D T3 and you’ll have a comfortable, capable people mover.