Versotility is the key

Toyota has become the latest in a steady stream of manufacturers to embrace the concept of a seven-seater mid-sized MPV. Priced from £14,495, the Toyota Corolla Verso will compete head-on with the Renault Grand Scénic, VW Touran and Vauxhall Zafira.

Despite the familiar name, this car is all new and replaces the five-seater Corolla Verso, launched just two years ago. It also features a new platform as Toyota seeks to differentiate the Verso models from their hatchback siblings.

There is an all-pervading quest for novelty in this sector and Toyota reckons it’s scored a first by providing five fold-flat seats in the rear quarters. The system, called Toyota Easy-Flat 7, is impressively simple and the individual seats can be raised or lowered using just one hand.

Sadly, the Verso is less good at carrying people. The middle row of passengers is well catered for, thanks to sliding rear seats, but the claustrophobic rear quarters are suitable only for small children. And with all seven seats in place, the available luggage space shrinks to a pitiful 63 litres, in contrast to the Grand Scénic’s 200 litres.

This is a shame because, in every other way, the Verso is a fine car. The interior quality – both perceived and real – is superb and even the entry-level T2 model offers air-conditioning, a CD player and no fewer than nine airbags, including a knee-bag for the driver. Opt for the flagship T Spirit and you get a rear-seat DVD system as standard.

The driving position is pleasingly car-like and contributes to a surprisingly good drive. The ride can occasionally feel fidgety at low speed, but the trade off is good body control and composed handling.There are two petrol engines – 109bhp 1.6 and 127bhp 1.8 petrols – and a 114bhp, 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which is the pick of the range. The standard manual gearbox is also preferable to the jerky, semi-automatic MMT, which is available as an option on the 1.8.

For customers who prioritise style, versatility and quality, the new Corolla Verso is a convincing proposition, but those seeking maximum practicality might need to look elsewhere.

Martin Stephenson

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