The first Toyota Verso was perhaps a surprisingly big success, even for local distributor, Toyota South Africa. After all, it had not really been known previously for its MPVs, whereas rivals Renault and Opel have historically been far more active in this category. Counting in the Verso’s favour, however, was not only the Toyota badge. It also offered interesting looks, a well-made and comfortable cabin, and a clever seven-seat system. Now the second-generation Toyota Verso is here and, at first glance, it appears to offer much of the same.
Neat and inoffensive looks for Toyota VersoWith its clear tail lamps the previous (Corolla) Verso was quite a looker in a segment dominated by bland products. The newcomer follows the theme and is immediately recognisable as a Toyota, by virtue of its Yaris-like front-end and, once again, quirky, clear-lens tail lamps. Of course, the surfacing of the Toyota Verso bodywork is more modern this time round, with a curve here and there, yet overall the look is familiar. Still, the newcomer does look ever so slightly sportier, mostly because it boasts wider track widths and a longer wheelbase.
In terms of overall length, though, the Toyota Verso is similar to its predecessor. Smart 16-inch alloy wheels are standard. It is inside where the move upmarket is most apparent. The facia materials are mostly of the soft-touch variety, and the old model’s quirky ice-blue plastic centre panel has made way for a more conservative (and stylish) satin silver unit. Everything has a quality look and feel, and it’s only the slightly old-fashioned orange backlighting of the instrumentation that somewhat spoils the effect.
Like many MPVs, the Toyota Verso uses a central instrumentation cluster, with the dials angled aggressively towards to the driver. One wonders, then, what the point of mounting them in the middle was in the first place! The previously mentioned silver-backed section sits high-up, and places the controls for the audio and ventilation systems within easy reach. The gearlever is similarly elevated for convenience. Overall, the driving position is excellent, even though it takes a while to get used to the empty facia in front of you. The steering wheel boasts plenty of range for its rake/reach adjustment, and the seat can be moved up and down, too.
Clever Seating SystemComfort levels are high throughout the spacious cabin of the Toyota Verso. Both the second- and third-row seats offer reclining backrests, and legroom is good in both rows, though obviously the third is not really suitable for tall adults. Those seated in the second row will also enjoy the airliner-style flip-up trays affixed the front seatbacks, roll-up sunblinds and storage boxes underneath their feet. With the third row occupied, boot space is negligible (as is the case with most seven-seat MPVs of this size). But Toyota’s Easy-Flat7 system allows for many configurations, including flat folding of the middle row while leaving the third row in place.
With five passengers occupying the front two rows, and the third row folded flat, boot space is very impressive. The standard specification is comprehensive, including dual-zone climate control, auto lights/wipers, radio/CD (with aux input), remote audio controls, Bluetooth and cruise control. It should also be very safe, as it features no fewer than seven airbags, rear Isofix child-seat mountings and Toyota’s VSC stability control system. Perhaps the only slight disappointment (for some) will be the standard cloth upholstery.
Economical and RefinedPower comes from Toyota’s 2,0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that develops 93 kW and an impressive 310 Nm of torque. Besides very slight low-speed turbo-lag and too much clatter at start-up, this is a very good powerplant. Once past the initial lag, the flow of power remains strong all the way to 2 400 rpm, and it also exhibits excellent refinement. The six-speed manual transmission is commendably slick, and when cruising in sixth on the open road, the fuel economy is truly exceptional. During normal driving, expect to achieve a fuel consumption figure of around 6,5 L/100 km. But as impressive as the gearbox is, for this kind of vehicle perhaps an automatic transmission would be a preferable choice, as it would also to a large degree address the low-speed lag issue. The ride quality of the Toyota Verso is similarly refined, offering exceptional compliancy, yet also remaining quite resistant to roll in the corners. For the target market its combination of suppleness and stability is probably spot-on. The Toyota Verso is a very relaxing vehicle to drive over long distances, at least partly because it also feels very composed and “safe” in all conditions.
Toyota Verso - VerdictIn short, Toyota has refined a winning recipe with this latest Verso. The packaging of the cabin is probably class-leading, the standard specification very carefully considered and the ride set-up pretty much spot-on. The engine delivers exceptional fuel economy and is beautifully refined (once it gets going), but we can’t help but feel that the six-speed manual ‘box is unnecessary in this vehicle, and that a simple automatic would please most likely customers more. Still, Toyota remains at the forefront of this now shrinking market segment. Renault’s new Grand Scenic is its strongest competitor, but the Toyota pretty much matches it in all respects, and offers the allure of that Toyota servicing network and peace of mind. It can’t fail.
• Fuel economy • Equipment level • Comfort • Excellent ride refinement • Quality
We don’t like:
• Slight low-speed lag • Fitment of manual transmission
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel Power: 93 kW @ 3 600 rpm Torque: 310 N.m @ 1 800 rpm Transmission: six-speed manual Wheels: 16-inch alloy Top speed: n/a km/h 0-100 km/h: n/a seconds (11,8 sec est.) Fuel economy: n/a L/100 km (6 L/100 km est.)
• Volkswagen Touran 1,9 TDI Trendline: Cheaper than the Toyota Verso but it is not as well-equipped and also down on power. If you want a comparable VW, you’ll have to spend extra and get the very impressive 2,0 TDI Highline. But the Toyota Verso is a match for it.
• Renault Grand Scenic 1,9dCi Dynamique: Also new on the market and without doubt the Verso’s deadliest rival. It offers an exceptionally clever cabin loaded with gadgets and is a superbly economical and comfortable tourer.
• Fiat Multipla 1,9 MultiJet Dynamic: Laugh all you want but this quirky Fiat is actually a good vehicle. Offering two rows of three seats, it is ultimately not quite as practical as the Toyota Verso, but there’s huge packing space.