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Toyota Verso-S review (2011 onwards)
What: Toyota Verso-S
Where: Bedfordshire - Hertfordshire, UK
Date: June 2011
Price: £13,995 - £16,145
Key rivals: Citroen C3 Picasso, Honda Jazz, Kia Soul, Nissan Note, Renault Modus, Skoda Roomster, Vauxhall Meriva
Summary: The Toyota Verso-S mini-MPV is roomy for its size and likely to be reliable, but petrol power only and anything but engaging.
We like: plenty of room inside, glass roof means lots of light, well equipped
We don't like: noisy engine, uninspiring to drive, soulless design
The Toyota Verso-S is a five-seat 'B-MPV', which means it competes in the people-carrying equivalent of the supermini sector - a segment of the market Toyota claims to have fostered with the original Yaris Verso.
The Verso-S is based on the same basic platform as the next-generation Yaris. Taken at a glance it features the latest Toyota styling principles - so pointy, bulging headlights ftw - but beneath the surface the emphasis is on clever, lightweight, space-efficient engineering.
It's a strange car. On the one hand, Toyota seems to have taken attention to detail to extremes - from the reduced-bulk anti-whiplash seats to impressive aerodynamics and the standard-fit touchscreen multimedia system.
On the other, there's an interior assembled from a curious mish-mash of different plastics, a noisy, uncouth driving experience and very, very limited emotional appeal. We find ourselves wondering exactly who is going to buy one?
You get just the one engine choice in the Verso-S - Toyota's technically impressive but rather coarse 1.33-litre petrol. It produces a heady 99hp and comes attached to a six-speed manual or Multidrive S CVT auto.
Our test car came with the auto. This is an intriguing proposition, because although it costs you a tiny amount of performance compared to the manual, the official combined fuel economy actually increases.
We'll cover that aspect in more detail below. But in terms of driving appeal, the heavy-footed will find the CVT turns an already thrashy engine into a headline heavy metal act - and you don't get much return for your enthusiasm.
Fine, then, if you're happy to potter. Except that with a modest 92lb ft of torque you'll need to do more than tickle the accelerator to make sensible progress five-up with all the luggage on board. Even given the relatively low 1,070kg basic kerb weight.
Ride and handling
It's a similar story here - as long as you don't try to challenge it, the Verso S will comfortably and compliantly get you from door to door without any kind of major incident. Just don't expect a thrill ride along the way.
That said, driven unladen it does exhibit rather skittish rear-end tendencies - which is to say if you encounter a mid-corner bump you may find the back of the car gets quite considerably livelier than you'd be forgiven for expecting.
This didn't cause us any serious issues, but it rather underlines a driving experience that smacks of limited sophistication. Toyota clearly isn't concerned with anyone actually enjoying life behind the wheel of this car.
Compared to some rivals - the Nissan Note particularly springs to mind (even though that car is now several years old) - this leaves the Verso-S feeling like little more than basic transport. Hmmm.
The interior could potentially be the Verso-S' redeeming feature - Toyota explaining it combines the shortest overall vehicle length with loads of passenger room and user-friendly features.
The top T-Spirit specification of our test car - as opposed to the entry-level TR spec - means a staggeringly mahoosive glass roof as standard, which certainly makes the Verso-S very light and airy. And it is spacious, too.
Both versions get a brand new touchscreen multimedia system included in the asking price, including both Bluetooth and a reversing camera, and with a USB socket hidden away in one of the 19 cabin storage compartments.
As is becoming increasingly common, this system features a button for the satnav, even when this isn't installed; however Toyota has designed the system to be upgradable after initial purchase.
So you can always add navigation later on; likewise, Toyota says it will soon also offer a variety of apps to increase the unit's functionality - including Google local search (via a compatible smart phone), fuel prices and live parking space information.
Boot space is a minimum of 393 litres (T-Spirit offers 429 litres by binning the spare wheel), and includes a two-position shelf that can be re-arranged with one hand, and a one-touch seat folding mechanism revealing a 1,388-litre maximum.
What's more, the 'Whiplash Injury Lessening' front seats are slimmer, improving rear legroom and reducing weight, while the door trims are narrower at the bottom, to make it easier to get in and out.
So it's very thoughtful and convenient. And yet when you come to actually look at the dashboard you can't help thinking something has gone horribly wrong - the odd mix of materials, the strange shapes - it's as if assembly occurred without waiting for a design.
Economy and safety
No Euro NCAP test results yet. Toyota generally does well here - and the Verso-S is loaded up with seven airbags and stability control - but there have been blips, including the Urban Cruiser, which only scores three stars.
Moving on to the economy, the official figures have the manual gearbox version 51.4mpg combined and the CVT at 54.3mpg - that's 127g/km CO2 and 120g/km CO2, respectively.
This means the manual will cost you £95 a year in road tax and the CVT just £30 a year - but perhaps that's small change compared to the £1,150 premium the CVT demands at the time of purchase.
Out in the real world, the CVT is only really efficient if you consciously drive it in an efficient manner - foot down everywhere will see the fuel gauge plunge south with gusto.
Fortunately there's a little 'Eco' light on the dashboard to guide your responses - and this does seem to make a difference.
The MSN Cars Verdict
Toyota does a small people carrier, and the Verso-S is the result. No surprises, and little endearing to really recommend it - but it's hardly a terrible car, and Toyota's fabled reliability may lend it some sensible purchase appeal.
Plus you get a five-year warranty these days. But goodness, we wish Toyota had tried to make it just a little bit interesting.
|Need to know|
|Torque, lb ft||92|
|0-62 mph, secs||13.3 - 13.7|
|Top speed, mph||103 - 106|
|Mpg combined||58.9 - 61.4|
|CO2, tax||120 - 127g/km, 10% - 15%|
|Ratings||Toyota Verso-S T-Spirit Multidrive S|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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