To be honest, the last time I drove a Toyota Verso, I wasn’t that impressed. Yes, it was a Toyota and that meant that it was rigorously well built, smooth and comfortable but it just lacked the sense of pizzazz or style that its competition provided and I ended my time with it feeling distinctly underwhelmed.
This new Verso (you can’t quite, technically, call it all-new but it’s not far off) is something rather different though, and, while it’s not a massive car, it is massively impressive. To start with, it looks better on the outside, with a new beaky nose that’s much more distinctive than what was there before, and which brings it into line with the family look established by the Auris hatchback.
Under the bonnet, there have been improvements too. The 2.0-litre D4D diesel engine develops the same 125bhp as it did before, but now it comes with a planet-saving diesel particulate filter as standard, and there’s a new, more efficient turbocharger and less friction inside the engine. The upshot of which is that the torque (a very substantial 310Nm) kicks in harder and lower down the rev-band, and it’s more frugal than before. Co2 emissions have been trimmed from 139g/km to a Band B1-friendly 129g/km and the fuel consumption is very good too. Toyota claims 4.9-litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy test and we managed to get very close to that figure in everyday driving. That means mid-fifties mpg from a large, seven-seat car in real world conditions. Not bad at all.
Inside was where I felt the old Verso really let itself down, with a cabin that just looked and felt ordinary. Now though, things are much, much better. I’m still not keen on the centrally-mounted instrument (I’m not sure quite why but I always think they look cheap, although in fairness it does mean that the dials are up high, right in your natural line of sight) but in every other way, the cabin is very much improved. The chief improvement is that Toyota has clearly worked very hard on the surfacing and texture of the plastics used throughout the cabin. Whereas before it all felt a bit tinny, now it feels soft, subtle and welcoming. Little touches like the Nappa leather covering on the steering wheel of our top-spec test car, and the touches of chrome around the place go further to lift the ambience of the interior. It’s now a genuinely nice place in which to sit.
Space in the cabin is excellent too, and that is surely the raison d’etre of any MPV or people carrier. The middle row seats are very roomy and, with three individual seats across the car (instead of a split bench), you can fit three full size child car safety seats without needing to use the fold-flat seats in the boot. Do so, and the boot space shrinks from a decent 440-litres to a still-just-about-useful 155-litres, but those third row seats are very short on legroom (unless you also take legroom away from those in the middle row) and really only for occasional use. There are some nice touches in the boot though, including an under-floor storage bay that can also be used to stow the luggage cover when you’re using all seven seats.
Toyota has also improved the driving experience. You’d never call it an enthusiastic drive in the manner of the Ford C-Max, but it’s a better steer than the likes of the Citroen C4 or Peugeot 5008. The steering feels a touch too light and artificial, but the Verso responds crisply and smoothly to inputs, grips tenaciously and thankfully rides comfortably. Far too many car makers try to make their family cars feel needlessly sporty and ruin the ride as a result. Toyota hasn’t fallen into that trap, which is to its credit.
You can get a basic 5-seat Verso for the very sharp price of €25,750 while our bells-and-whistles Luan Skyview test model clocks in at €31,450. That’s quite a lot for a family car but then you do get an awful lot of toys for the money, including the panoramic glass Skyview roof of the title, 16” alloys, cruise control, climate control, rear seat picnic tables and the touch-screen ToyotaTouch infotainment system, which includes Bluetooth phone, iPod connection and a reversing camera.
You could potentially get better equipment or a sharper driving experience for the same, or even possibly less money but all of that, combined with Toyota’s deserved reputation for solidity and reliability, makes the Verso one of the best, if not the best, mid-size family seven-seaters around.
Facts & Figures
Model tested: Toyota Verso 2.0 D4D 125 Luna Skyview
Pricing: €31,450 (Verso range starts at €25,750)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door MPV
CO2 emissions: 129g/km (Band B1, €270 per annum)
Combined consumption: 4.9 litres/100km (57.6mpg)
Top speed: 190km/h
0-100km/h: 11.3 seconds
Power: 125hp at 3,600rpm
Torque: 310Nm at 1,600rpm