Toyota Avensis Verso T3 D-4D

According to the English dictionary, Verso means the flip-side of a coin. By that reckoning, the new Avensis Verso should be wildly entertaining, dramatically styled and lacking in practicality - the opposite of the familiar saloon, hatchback and estate versions of the big Toyota.

A fresh look and an inflated list of standard equipment have brought the Avensis Verso back into the limelight. The vast cabin and seven-seat layout will appeal to buyers, but the chairs have to be taken out to boost space. The Toyota is still a decent MPV - just not the most exciting.

According to the English dictionary, Verso means the flip-side of a coin. By that reckoning, the new Avensis Verso should be wildly entertaining, dramatically styled and lacking in practicality - the opposite of the familiar saloon, hatchback and estate versions of the big Toyota.

Predictably, this isn't the case, but the maker hopes a facelift and a raft of new standard kit will help convince MPV buyers to part with their cash. Fitting in Toyota's range between the forthcoming Corolla Verso - due in the UK in May - and the larger Previa, the Avensis Verso isn't easily pigeon-holed into a particular market sector, and will find itself on the shopping list of buyers looking at the mini and maxi MPV sectors. With seven seats and plenty of room for luggage, the in-between-sized Avensis will be ideal for many families' needs.

Toyota has opted to leave all the mechanical parts unchanged, instead concentrating its efforts on giving the car a visual makeover. At the front, the lights have been reshaped to provide a sleeker look, while the rear also gets a sharper finish. It's still an awkward shape, but the changes have smartened up the Verso, and it still looks modern.

Despite the name, this model isn't based on the British-built Avensis. Instead, the Verso edition is put together in Japan, where it is sold under an Ipsum badge. However, the on-road characteristics of the Verso variant are very similar to its Avensis siblings. That means decent ride quality and competent handling, although there's nothing to really excite the driver. Opt for this 2.0-litre D-4D oil-burner and you will get 43.5mpg economy and torquey, if not trailblazing, performance.

This Toyota is all about making family transport less stressful. Seven seats come as standard, and all but the front two are removable to provide a huge, flat load bay. Taking seats out is becoming a thing of the past, though, as rival manufacturers have developed chairs that fold flat into the floor. In the Avensis Verso, most of the luggage space is wasted by the seats even when they are folded, although there is a useful stowage bin beneath the boot floor.

Rather than redesigning the cabin, Toyota has simply changed the names and specifications of the line-up. Only two models are available - this entry-level T3 and the top-of-the-range T Spirit. The base car now comes with automatic air-conditioning and a high-spec CD player, as well as chrome and titanium-effect interior trim detailing. Go for the T Spirit and you get alloy wheels, DVD-based sat-nav and air-con for rear seat passengers on top. All models also now feature curtain airbags, ABS and EBD.

The flip-side of the coin? Unfortunately, Toyota has increased the prices as well as the specifications. The base petrol Avensis Verso now costs £18,513, while this T3 D-4D diesel weighs in at £19,513 - both £713 more than their predecessors.

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