Toyota Verso-S so versatile
Iain Dooley says it's easy to see the functional appeal of Toyota's new Verso-S compact MPV.
In the race to fill the market full of 'soft-roader' sport utility vehicles for buyers who think they have an active lifestyle, it's easy to forget other equally important sectors of the market.
More recently there's been an opening in the small car end of the market. In true Goldilocks fashion, when the traditional supermini is too small and the conventional family hatchback is too big, a new model has stepped in to take the 'just right' mantle.
This B-multi-purpose vehicle class of car offers the raised driving position and versatile cabin of an activity-led car and the footprint of something that'll easily fit in the supermarket car park.
For some, Toyota probably isn't the first name that comes to mind for such a car. Company executives have been brave enough to admit that, since phasing out the Yaris Verso, there's been a gap in its line-up that's been exploited by the competition, not least Honda's Jazz.
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With its Verso-S, Toyota aims to claw back some market share. Tallish and longer than the norm by supermini standards, the Verso-S has a practical, flexible loadspace plus an accommodating, spacious cabin. Crucially, the not too big, not too small Toyota also seeks to make friends with your wallet; its small capacity 1.33-litre petrol engine boasts modest fuel consumption and CO2 figures.
In the metal the Verso-S is something of a departure from the more boxy Yaris Verso of old. Streamlined in profile and surprisingly angular compared to softer offerings such as the Auris and Yaris, this middle-order compact model is designed to be functional.
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Inside that practical shape is room for five plus the ability to fold forward the 60/40 split rear seats. In flagship T-Spirit trim there's a generous 429 litres of boot space, thanks in part to the absence of a spare wheel (and the presence of a hidden storage compartment plus the tyre inflation kit) plus the dual-height boot floor. In other models it's 393 litres with and 336 litres without changing the boot layout.
Up front the situation is just as good for passengers as it is for their belongings. Being on the tall side, cabin occupants are unlikely to feel the pinch with head or legroom.
The highest specification Verso-S can be had with a full-length glass panoramic roof. Granted, it's likely to be viewed as a luxury by many, but there's no mistaking its light-giving qualities. The electric powered blind is also a nice touch.
In the real world, Toyota's claims of wallet-friendly motoring are more likely to turn heads in the showroom. The 1.33-litre petrol engine – the only option in the UK – the Verso-S produces 98hp and can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed CVT auto. The latter is a fraction cleaner, with the result that you'll pay less tax. For the record it's 51.4mpg and 127g/km CO2 for the manual and 54.3mpg and 120g/km CO2 for the auto.
The CVT-equipped car is happiest in an urban environment. The continually-variable transmission copes well with stop-start city motoring, and trumps the manual when it comes to ease of use – even if you choose not to use the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters.
For longer, more challenging journeys you'll find the manual car easier to react quickly to subtle, long power-sapping inclines.
Either way the Verso-S delivers competent, solid performance – easy car to drive and all the controls are clear and close to hand. Speaking of which, the central multimedia touchscreen offers a great way of accessing the car's main functions.
Factor in a good level of standard kit plus an intelligently laid-out interior and the car's practical and versatile nature and it's easy to see the functional Toyota's appeal.
Model: Toyota Verso-S 1.33 VVT-i T Spirit, from �15,745
Engine: 1.33-litre, 98bhp four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission with manual override, driving the front wheels
Performance: 0-62mph 13.7 seconds; top speed 103mph
CO2 Rating: 120g/km