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Toyota Corolla Verso review (2002-2007)
Bodystyle: Compact MPV
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail turbodiesel
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: 2003
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What is it?
The Corolla Verso is the compact MPV version of the multi-million selling Corolla hatchback. Part of an ever expanding 'Verso' MPV range in the Toyota line up the Corolla version is a direct rival for vehicles like the trend-setting Renault Scenic, Citroen Picasso, Mazda Premacy and forthcoming models from Ford and VW. Like the majority of its intended competition it's only available as a five-seater, those wanting more pews will have to choose the bigger Avensis Verso model should they need the space.
Where does it fit?
The Corolla Verso fits in between the odd looking, but very practical, Yaris Verso and the larger Avensis Verso. Toyota's MPV range is rather extensive, especially compared the likes of Ford and Vauxhall. Compact MPVs seem to be the cars of choice at the moment for the family buyer. Taking up about the same space as a conventional family hatchback, but offering a loftier driving position allied to a spacious and versatile interior and it's easy to see why they've become so popular. Toyota's range is very impressive, the Corolla Verso being a worthy alternative to the established competition, indeed, of all the Corolla derivatives, hatch, saloon and estate it's easily the most attractive proposition.
Is it for you?
If you've got children or are the type who spends the weekend hauling around mountain bikes surf boards, skis and the like to the country the Corolla Verso could well be the vehicle for you. Like its rivals the Verso offers versatile rear seating which can be tumbled out of the way, reclined, detached or slide fore and aft for additional legroom. Luggage space is right up there with the competition too, and there's plenty of cupholders scattered around for those visits to the drive-thru with the kids. The rear seats offer ISO-FIX mountings for child seats and there are two junior seats as standard in the rear seat for small children. If practicality and reliability are high on your list of priorities then the Corolla Verso is a worthy rival in this busy marketplace.
What does it do well?
Like the majority of its rivals it's based on the platform of its hatchback brethren. That means it takes up little more road space than the standard five-door Corolla, but crams so much more inside. It's taller than the standard car, has more versatile seating and a larger boot too. Despite the lofty driving position it retains its car-like drive, it actually being rather enjoyable to drive. The diesel engine is frugal and offers respectable performance and the ride is smooth and compliant. Body control is good too, the Corolla Verso resisting body roll well. Inside and out the design is neat and smart, the Verso having a quality feel that betters many of its rivals.
What doesn't it do well?
That diesel engine can get a touch noisy when pushed, refinement suffering in the pursuit of power. The 60/40 split offered by the rear seats isn't as versatile as the individual chairs offered by alternatives like the Citroen Picasso, and they're not that easy to remove, though that's complaint that can be levelled at the majority of the competition. The thick pillars can obstruct vision and there's only seating for five- rivals like Fiat's Doblo and the Vauxhall Zafira offer six and seven seats respectively.
What's it like to live with?
Being a Toyota the ownership experience should be about as pain-free as they come. The Japanese firm has an unsurpassed reputation for reliability and dealers too are often praised in customer satisfaction surveys for their service. The quality of the design inside and out is a quantum leap over Toyotas of old, which although sturdy used to be dull and uninspired. With its new neater, cleaner quality feel there's no loss in the integrity of the fixtures and fittings. Look after it and it'll last forever.
Would we buy it?
Toyota was relatively late into the compact MPV market with the Corolla Verso, but they've produced an excellent alternative to competition like the best selling Citroen Picasso and the Renault Scenic. Like these rivals it only offers five seats, though the integrated child seats in the rear are a welcome standard addition. Toyota's reputation for reliability is deserved - they really do go on and on without any problems. It might lack some of the novel features of some rivals, but it's one of the best driving compact MPVs around. With the quality feeling interior, neat exterior design and legendary reliability we'd certainly put the Toyota at the top of our list if we were after a comfortable and practical family vehicle.
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