New diesel engine is impressively refined, but the Verso remains less spacious and practical than its main rivals in this sector

What is it?

A revised version of the Toyota Verso, the already facelifted version of which has been on sale for a year now.

The Toyota Touch multimedia system has been updated and there’s a new trim line called Trend – but the biggest news is the installation of a BMW-sourced 1.6-litre diesel engine in place of the old 2.0-litre unit. Expect to see this engine in plenty of other Toyotas in the not-too-distant future.

The Verso saw a 20 per cent improvement in sales following 2013’s facelift, shifting more than 3500 units, and Toyota GB is targeting annual sales of 4000 in 2014, with 60 per cent of those being 1.6-litre diesel models.

In an already crowded market, the Toyota faces stiff competition from other seven-seat MPVs, such as the refreshed Peugeot 5008 and Vauxhall Zafira Touring.

What's it like?

Very much the same as the old model, which is no bad thing in itself.

The new 1.6 D-4D engine is good. It offers decent low-rev response and a reasonably strong mid-range pull. It gets a little bit noisy if you push beyond 3000rpm, and going beyond 4000rpm is not recommended, but despite having a small displacement, it offers acceptable progress in the Verso.

The car is also extremely quiet and vibration-free if you drive it in a more relaxed manner. The diesel engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox that has been tweaked by Toyota’s European team, and features well-spaced ratios that make the most of the engine’s 199lb ft of torque.

Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are better than on the outgoing 2.0 D-4D and the Verso seems capable of meeting its quoted combined figures. With two passengers on board, it returned an average 48.7mpg on a difficult French test route which involved heavy traffic, mountain roads and some motorway driving.

It’s not exactly exciting, though. The Verso lacks the final extra dynamic sparkle that you’d find in Ford’s ageing Ford S-Max, for instance, as the steering and brakes are pretty lacklustre. But then, fast driving is not really the Verso’s USP.

While the addition of the new engine has not changed the Verso’s cabin greatly, the manufacturer has updated its Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system, adding a higher resolution screen and a reversing camera. This is standard on all models bar the entry-level Active version. The Touch 2 with Go – which includes satellite navigation – is fitted to new mid-spec Trend models.

Should I buy one?

There’s no obvious reason not to – the BMW-derived engine is a smooth operator, offering decent flexibility and a willingness to rev, at least to 4000rpm. Downsizing from a 2.0 to a 1.6 diesel has improved the Verso, rather than hindered it.

The Verso remains small for a seven seater in this class, plus the back two seats are for small children only – around 95 per cent of Versos in the UK are expected to have the full complement of seats. The middle row has decent room and there are all sorts of useful storage bins within the cabin which make up for this lack of outright space, plus the ride and subdued noise levels within are worthy of high praise.

The Verso looks competitive on price and kit, with the range starting at £17,765 and rising to £23,995 for the top-spec Excel D-4D. The cheapest diesel Verso is the Active seven-seat at £19,990. It’s in VED band C and its BIK rate is 19 per cent.

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It’s not the most appealing car in this sector in terms of interior finish or exterior glamour, and its driving manners are predictable but not inspiring. If you’re not absolutely dependent on tons of interior space, the Verso would be the sensible option in a class featuring more versatile and eye-catching machinery.

Toyota Verso 1.6 D-4D

Price £19,990; 0-62mph 12.7sec; Top speed 115mph; Economy 62.8mpg; CO2 119g/km; Kerb weight 1520kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 110bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 199lb ft at 1750-2250pm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Matt Robinson

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