Toyota Verso 2013 - car review
Compact MPVs, not the kind subject to get the after-dinner conversation buzzing, but sales of these cars with the flexible cabins suggests many families consider them essential even if they chose not the chat about it.
You've reached that time when cheeky coupes and three-door hot hatchbacks are no longer viable.Handling dynamics have made way for seat flexibility, 19-inch alloy wheels replaced by ample apertures and luggage capacity replaces cubic capacity.
It is time to accept that the car on your driveway has morphed into something more functional.
A tool for transportation, laden with shopping, toys, the ever-present smell of wet dog and sticky sweets clinging to the seat fabric. There's no love here, just a need, a need to get around with as much of life's detritus on board as possible.
But wait, the flexible family transport need not be functional without the fun. Manufacturers are striving to offer a more appealing package in which to ferry your offspring and their friends. Forget Vauxhall Zafiras of old and early Toyota Versos, these new models wear the robes of far slicker machines.
The new Toyota Verso is one such machine. It is part of the company's drive make the brand more enticing. There's no doubting people like Toyotas, if they didn't it wouldn't be the world's leading car seller, posting global sales in excess of 9.7 million in 2012.
But that it seems is not enough.
Under the stewardship of Akio Toyoda the company is aiming to introduce more exciting motors, cars which you'll want to drive rather than just have to.
And the new Verso is certainly a step in the right direction. It's still a seven seat MPV (a five-seat version is available in Active trim) but the penmen at Toyota's European design centre have made a decent job of disguising the reality. It's broader, longer and appears to sit lower than the model it ousts. And that's no bad thing. That alone makes it at a least appear more dynamic. Now, although the nose has undergone substantial remodelling, the tail has remained much the same as the last version and here's where some confusion occurs. If the company is so concerned about dynamic experience of the new Verso why leave the tail pretty much unchanged?
Could it be that functionality is still more important in a car of this ilk?
It would certainly seem so.
The load lip is both low and level with the boot floor and the door appeture is wide enough to accept bulkier items. But, unfortunately, the rear wheel arches do take a decent bite out of the available floor-space.
Despite the drive for dynamic, surely the triumph for the Verso is the entirely functional folding seat system, which is ridiculously easy to use. All five of the independent rear seats can be folded flat with just the pull of one lever per seat. This Toyota explains offers 32 different seating permutations. My guess is you'll use, at most, five, but it'll be nice to know you have a further 27 at your disposal.
As with any compact MPV, the final pair of seats are strictly off limits to adults, they are the domain of children. Oh, you will get an adult in there, but chances are you won't be able to get them out again.
But beyond the little people's realm in the rear the rest of the cabin is ample. The second row seats offer a good deal room for three adults and no transmission tunnel to stifle legroom. Move to the front and the combination of sweeping dash and large rakish windscreen make the Verso feel grand indeed. Satin silver plastics have never appealed to me, memories of my Airfix P51 Mustang crashing to its doom from the bedroom window must have scared me emotionally.
But it seems enough buyers like them for car manufacturers to keep making ample use of them. Apart from that gripe, materials used throughout the cabin are of good quality. The dash itself is soft enough to press your fingers into and the overall feel is of a car well-bolted together.
For the UK, three powertrains are available with the choice of two transmissions. Toyota expects the D-4D diesel married to the six-speed manual gearbox to claim the bulk of purchases.
It proves a pretty good mix, although never brisk the 2.0-litre diesel unit pulls well from low down in the rev range and on the whole goes unnoticed in the cabin.
Surprisingly, the Verso is well sorted on the road. It's no hatchback in the handling stakes, but that's not why you're considering it. What you will get is a smooth ride untroubled by potholes and speed humps, a decent driving experience and reasonable fuel returns.
Designed and engineered at Toyota's European design centre close to Nice, France, Verso is the first Toyota to be created in Europe for a European market, whether that boosts its appeal remains to be seen, but the company is hopeful that 50,000 will be sold across the continent this year, with more than 3,000 finding new homes here in the UK. Will one be on your drive?
The Verso is priced from £17,495