Toyota Verso’s veritable family values
- Credit: Toyota
Toyota's new Verso is easy to drive and live with – that's what most owners want, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
Toyota is not a brand that people get terribly excited about but it is one that has a loyal following of satisfield owners who keep coming back again and again.
In fact it's not that unusual to see two Toyotas side by side in the same driveway like faithful family retainers. That's because customers know what they want and know that Toyota delivers – reliability, long service, low running costs, a long warranty and superb back-up in the rare event of something going wrong.
What about those recent recalls you say. It happens with all manufacturers and Toyota has an 'honesty is the best policy' approach to being open about it when it lets customers down.
Toyota has brought a bit of pizazz into its range with the GT86 sports coupe but it is bread-and-butter cars likes the Yaris, Auris and Avensis that do the big business.
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Ahead of the Auris Sports Tourer, this line-up's first estate version, Toyota has strengthened its product offensive on the compact and family car market with a mid-life upgrade for the Verso multi-purpose vehicle.
As well as smart new styling which brings it into line with the Auris, the Verso benefits from improvements across the board to make it better to drive and better to own and travel in.
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In the world of compact people-carriers the Verso isn't a big player with 52,000 UK sales in 10 years with another 3,300 expected this year. Easy to drive, easy to live with it impresses in the way it goes about its business without a lot of fuss which is what most owners want.
A creditable alternative to both the family hatchback or estate the Verso, in all but entry model, has the added advantage of seven seats even though the two that fold out of the boot floor are really only suitable for children for any distance.
If you don't do lots of miles there's a 130bhp 1.6 and 145bhp 1.8-litre petrol engines, the latter only with automatic continuously-variable transmission, but the big seller is the 122bhp 2.0-litre turbo diesel, much revised for the facelifted Verso to be more economical, cleaner, quieter and deliver more low-down pulling power.
As 2.0-litre diesels go it's not particularly powerful but it capably propels the Verso along smoothly and quietly, cruising comfortably and regularly delivering 50-55mpg.
Toyota has also tweaked the suspension for the upgraded model to give greater ride comfort, body control and stability as well as improving the feel and response of the electric power steering.
If you want a dynamic drive the Verso is not for you but if you're looking for a compact seven-seater that's comfortable and confident, safe and surefooted in the handling department it fits the bill. The ride is generally supple and composed but is a little sensitive travelling light on poor road surfaces although it improves with more passengers on board.
The interior has been designed to be functional and family-friendly rather than fancy. I like the high driving position and good all-round visibility, simple controls and the instrument binnacle angled towards the driver on top of the centre of the fascia so there's nothing in front of the driver to distract attention away from the road.
Cabin storage is important in a people-carrier and the Verso's includes a twin glovebox, deep cubbyhole between the front seats, decent doorbins and two underfloor compartments in the middle row of seats.
Three individual, well-shaped second row seats independentlyh slide back and forth through 195mm and, right back, there's limousine-like legroom so tall adults can stretch out in comfort. The two 'dickie' seats in the boot have reclining backs but limited legroom for adults but they could manage on short trips if those in front gave up some of their ample space.
With all the seats in use there's only 155 litre of luggage space but a huge underfloor stowage compartment that will also take the boot cover when not being used. In five-seat mode the load bay grows to a useful 440 litres but there is some wheelarch intrusion.
Toyota's Easy Flat seating system makes turning the Verso into a small van a doddle. The rearmost seats drop flush into the boot floor as do the three middle row seat backs, with the head rests in place, to create a long, uninterrupted cargo compartment.
As we expect of Toyota fit and finish is spot-on but some materials are more durable than desirable but at least the hard plastics are nicely textured and should stand up to abuse from young passengers.
Available in Active, Icon and Excel trim levels, mid-spec Icon is the pick with its standard 16in alloy wheels, touchscreen multimedia system, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and DAB digital tuner.
The Toyota Verso's many talents make it a sound all-rounder. No one quality jumps out but, equally so, it's hard to find fault and that's what will make it attractive to so many motorists.