Since its launch in 2009, Toyota’s Verso MPV has been a slow burner, appealing to families with its no-nonsense practicality and impeccable reliability. However, with buyers now favouring small capacity diesel engines, the Verso has been losing out to its rivals in this crowded marketplace. Toyota has responded to this by replacing the 2.0-litre oil-burner of old with a brand-new 1.6-litre unit. We’ve been behind the wheel to see if it’s any good.
What is it?
Toyota’s seven-seater for Europe, fitted with a new diesel motor provided courtesy of the Japanese marque’s partnership agreement with BMW. It’s the same unit found in the Mini lineup, and brings the Verso’s emissions and fuel economy to more competitive levels. The existing 1.6- and 1.8-litre petrol options will continue to be offered. Elsewhere the car is largely unchanged, save for some new additions to the options list, as well as a new paint finish and alloy wheels.
What is it like to drive?
The new diesel engine certainly doesn’t betray its presence by filling the cabin with a cacophony of clatter. Fire it up and you’re treated to a feathery idle, which gives way to a dull grumble under load. Toyota has worked hard to ensure the Verso is a thoroughly peaceful place behind the wheel, and it’s astonishing just how quiet it is on the move, with only the roar of the tyres on harsher surfaces and the whip of the wind around the door mirrors at higher speeds, disturbing the tranquility.
This quietness is matched by a compliant ride, and combined with light steering, makes for an excellent companion in city driving. However, get the Verso on a twisting B-road, and you’ll find it too slow to change direction, requiring more steering inputs than some rivals, notably the more pointy feeling Kia Carens. However, the gear-change is unobtrusive and the brakes bite well, meaning the Verso is a relaxed drive where it is likely to spend most of its time – on the school run and the motorway.
What is it like inside?
Function takes precedent to form in Toyota products, so don’t expect visually engaging design style. Instead, the generic looking dash is punctuated only with a centre stack housing all of the infotainment and climate controls, and dials angled towards the driver. Some of the plastics feel cheap to the touch, but on the whole everything is well screwed together, and feels as though it could withstand the worst a family could throw at it.
The introduction of the 1.6-litre diesel sees a new ‘Trend’ trim level added to the range. It offers choice toys such as front parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels and sat-nav with Google street view, but even one-from-the-bottom ‘Icon’ models get air conditioning, USB connectivity, cruise control, digital radio and a rear-view camera, so you won’t feel as though you’re slumming it if you have to opt for a cheaper model.
Is it practical?
The Verso is able to carry up to five adults and two children in the small rear perches that fold flat into the boot floor. Access into those rearmost seats is tight, though, and legroom for passengers sat there disappears altogether if the middle row is slid backwards. With all seven seats in place, boot space is limited, at 155 litres. This expands to 440 litres with the rear seats down, though the space on offer is only average for the class. All-round visibility is only hampered by a relatively thick C-pillar, but rear parking sensors and the rear-view camera available on mid-range models should ensure you avoid any embarrassing car park mishaps.
Should I buy one?
While objectively the Verso provides for all the needs of a busy family, it does so without even a hint of excitement. It isn’t the sort of car you’ll turn back and take a second glance at when you’ve parked up at night, but will provide years of faithful, trouble-free service. However, with rivals such as the Carens offering lengthier warranties, and a more upmarket feel, the Verso’s utilitarian demeanour will appeal to only a select few.
Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Toyota Verso in our classifieds here.
Toyota Verso 1.6 D-4D
List price: From £19,990
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Top speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 12.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 62.8mpg (urban), 72.4mpg (extra-urban) 51.4mpg (combined)
Emissions: 119g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five stars