Toyota’s medium people-carrier is in its third incarnation now, complete with seven seats as standard for every model, this time. Trouble is, it’s a crowded market, with everyone in on the act since Renault’s Megane Scenic kick-started things in 1996. Can Toyota’s latest effort be enough to make it stand out?
Okay, it’s a Toyota, so I’m not expecting an Earth-shattering drive
And you’d be right not to. But that’s not to damn the Verso from the off. You’ll be interested in this car if painless ownership means more to you than a visceral B-road experience. And while it doesn’t excite, the Verso is certainly painless to drive.
For a start, in spite of its modest 125bhp, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel provides effortless go, never feels underpowered, and is always smooth if a little gruff under acceleration. And promised fuel economy of 51.4mpg is ample compensation for 0-62mph in 11.3sec. It feels faster.
The six-speeder’s gearshift is satisfyingly snappy and the Verso rides well too, cushioning the surface of any road in return for a touch of roll and less-than-snappy steering response. Yep, it’s a bit woolly, yet not offensively so. If you like relaxing at the wheel, you’ll like the Verso. And so will your passengers.
Is it useful?
Course it is. Like Vauxhall’s Zafira, the Verso secretes a pair of proper seats under the boot floor. Just pull a strap and each pops into position individually. Then you need only adjust the position of the middle row to work out a decent space compromise for all aft of the front row. There’s plenty of room to go round (a couple of sub-six-footers could manage an hour or so on row three), and access via the sliding, tipping and folding middle row is easy enough for most, and a doddle for kids.
Okay, how about the ambience in there?
This is where the Verso falls down a bit. It feels tautly made, although some of the panel fit around the test car’s dashboard edges was a little suspect by tight Toyota standards. The materials are nothing special, and the styling is incoherent. The dashtop apes the Scenic’s, there’s a bit of iQ in the centre-vent, the outer vents look a bit Lexus, and the centre console and doortrims are blandly generic. Your £19k gets you no unexpected gadgets (sat-nav is an option) so value for money is middling.
The seats are generous though, and their cloth trim is hardwearing.
How does it weigh up against the competition?
It’s difficult to think of anything truly desirable in this sector, particularly now the Scenic has taken a dive in the looks department. But only a grand more will buy you a base-spec diesel-powered Ford S-Max, which is bigger, looks sexier, and will entertain you behind the wheel while keeping queasiness at bay from your passengers.
Nobody could blame you for buying a Verso. It’s the kind of car that will impress the kind of people who research their car purchase with the same logic they’d apply to buying a washing machine. It’s all about customer satisfaction, in which ease of use, reliability and the promise of decent dealer service count for much more than sex appeal or driving enjoyment.
The Verso rides comfortably, will last you and shouldn’t go wrong. But if you’ve an ounce of soul and need a compact-ish seven-seater for less than £20k, buy an S-Max.