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Toyota Verso

Cheapest car in this test scores on flexibility

Reliability used to be Toyota’s biggest draw, but with other car makers closing the gap, can the Verso compete in the cut-throat compact MPV class?

One thing you can rely on from the Japanese brand is conservative styling, and its people carrier doesn’t disappoint. The Verso is neither as flashy as the Mazda nor as awkward as the Ford, so 

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it cuts an unremarkable figure. 

A set of glitzy tail-light clusters are the only concession to style, but even these look like cheap aftermarket additions.

Such details are unlikely to dissuade Toyota’s core buyers – and besides, the interior is simple but incredibly effective. The 2+3+2 seating configuration follows the template laid down by MPV pioneer Renault, with the trio of second-row seats sliding and folding individually to aid versatility. Yet accessing this flexible cabin isn’t as easy as in the other cars, due to the conventional rear doors and the smaller gap you have to squeeze through to access the rear row. 

Still, when you want to fold the seats for maximum luggage capacity, the Verso scores on its simplicity. The bases don’t have to be raised before you stow the middle row, and once down 

you get a level boot floor. It also provides the largest capacity – at 565 litres – when only five seats are needed. And this is the only car with a cubby to accommodate its roller-blind style load cover when all the seats are occupied.

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This versatility is counter-balanced by the rest of the cabin, which is disappointing. The soft-touch dash has a greasy, tacky feel, and looks cheap, while the off-centre instruments are more likely to reinforce that opinion than dispel it. Even the faint amber backlighting looks low-rent in this company.

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The kit count doesn’t provide much in the way of relief, either. Yes, our TR model comes with a panoramic sunroof, but it does without’ rear parking sensors and cruise control. The latter isn’t even an option, and if you want more toys, the flagship T Spirit carries a hefty premium. Parking sensors would be welcome, as the angled D-pillar creates a big blind spot when reversing.

Forward momentum is not a problem thanks to the D-4D engine. It’s easily the most torquey unit on test, although the Toyota doesn’t seem much faster on the road. You won’t feel the real benefits until you load up, as this car will cope better with a full compliment of passengers than its rivals. 

Even if you’re driving alone, though, it discourages speedy progress. The diesel produces the most clatter, and the lifeless steering is accurate but sluggish. Although the soft suspension smooths out bumps, body roll is more pronounced than in either the Ford or Mazda, and the inert chassis and lack of front-end bite will bother keen drivers.

Details

Chart position: 3
WHY: Can diesel-engined Verso restore some pride to the Toyota brand after its reputation was rocked by the recall scandal? It’s the only car here with a five-year warranty.

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