In today’s competitive new car market more new models sell more new cars – fact. Keeping a brand’s range of models refreshed and updated is of paramount importance to meet the demands of today’s ‘must-have the latest model’ image conscious customers.
Toyota GB are currently part way through launching four core new ranges, the British built Auris family hatchback, the Verso mid-sized MPV, the RAV4 SUV/4×4 and the Auris Touring Sports estate. The world’s largest car manufacturer is on a product offensive but the latest component re-call issues, albeit older models, do the brand no favours and ultimately it will harm their high customer loyalty rating even with their product’s five year warranty.
The new Verso five-door, five or seven seat mid-sized MPV range, which has recently gone on sale, is available in an eight version line-up with prices starting from £17,500. The new Verso should not be confused with the Verso-S, a five seat mini MPV based on Toyota’s Yaris ‘supermini’ with prices from £15,145.
The new mainstream Verso, expected to sell over 3,300 units in the UK in the remainder of this year, has a five seat entry level model with a 1.6-litre 130bhp petrol engine and manual gearbox. Other variants are all seven seat models with the choice of 1.6-litre 130bhp petrol manual or a 1.8-litre 145bhp petrol unit with a Multidrive automatic transmission, engine options. By far the best selling engine choice will be the much revised 2.0-litre D4-D 125bhp turbodiesel unit, but this is only available with a 6-speed manual gearbox.
The new range does away with the previous ‘T’ grade system and now adopts the European Active, Icon and Excel levels of trim and equipment. The main selling Icon level gains DAB digital radio, cruise control, Bluetooth, rear privacy glass, retractable door mirrors and importantly a rear view camera to aid parking. Of course air conditioning, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, on board computer and comprehensive passenger safety equipment are standard fit anyway. Unfortunately a spare wheel is not so the driver only gets a less than ideal inflation kit.
Seven seat versions all have Toyota’s Easy Flat rear seat folding system with three individual seats making up the middle row and two small individual seats with very limited legroom at the rear. The middle row of seats slide, fold and recline individually and the two rear seats fold out of the boot floor. There are under-floor storage boxes, a chilled upper glovebox and aircraft style folding seat-back trays, all in keeping with its ‘family mover’ role in life.
For five people the new Verso is exceptionally roomy and for just two people up-front the interior load space is enormous with 1,696-litres of carrying room with a totally flat load floor and a low loading height. This is ideal for transporting the family dog, carrying sports equipment and the transportation needs of the less mobile that need to carry with them walking aids or wheelchairs. The Verso also will meet the needs of business users, workhorse during the week and roomy family transport at weekends. With the front and middle row of seats in use, the most likely configuration, there is still 440-litres of space, ideal for family holidays and the private hire passenger carrying business. With all three rows of seats in use the boot offers only 155-litres of load space, enough for a few soft bags or shopping. Seating and load carrying versatility is one of the new Verso’s major selling points.
The upgraded interior finish of the new Verso is also a big improvement although the black trim is still a bit gloomy but the controls and instruments are well laid out and easy to use as is the centre lower fascia mounted slick manual gearchange. The elevated seating positions are also easy to live with giving good front and side visibility and ease of access. The front seats are impressively comfortable and supportive which together with the stiffened body and revised suspension gives a supple and compliant ride quality. The ride is flat and level during cornering, excellent for a tall people-carrier and the high speed stability is also improved. Another improvement is the quietness for occupants as the wind and road noise intrusion is significantly improved. The Verso now feels and looks like a more polished vehicle.
The exterior design is also better and looks more dynamic with a positive move away from the dated rounded styling lines of older type ‘family buses’. The new appearance, which follows the new Toyota family-face, includes a larger eye-catching grille between sharper styled headlights with LED daytime running lights. The sporty front bumper houses a larger under-grille, fog lights and the sharper styling lines run around the front corners and continue over the wheelarches down the length of the body. A roof mounted rear spoiler adds to the sporty style of the new Verso. The vehicle is finished off with 16-inch alloy wheels for the main selling Icon version.
I tried the main selling latest Verso, the 2.2 D4-D seven seat Icon priced at £21,445.This turbodiesel, four cylinder, DOHC, common-rail turbodiesel 122bhp engine has been revised for better torque at lower revs and quieter operation. The maximum torque of 229 lb ft is now available from a low 1,600rpm so it’s responsive and flexible at low through to medium range speeds, the ideal operating range for this engine. Top speed is a modest 115mph and zero to 62mph takes another modest 11.3 seconds but it does it all quietly and without any stress. The official Combined Cycle fuel economy is shown as 57.6mpg but my week long test driving period covering all types of driving returned just 43.6mpg, good enough but another example of how far some figures differ from the official laboratory obtained ones. The CO2 emissions have been lowered by 10g/km to 129g/km so VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate increasing to £105 for the second year onwards. For company car drives the Benefit-in-Kind tax is 20%. The insurance group is 16 which is competitive in this sector.
With its wide range of improvements from design and construction through to the cleaner diesel engine this is the best Toyota MPV yet and the seating and load carrying flexibility and the competitive pricing makes it a strong contender for MPV sales and should not be overlooked.
MILESTONES. Toyota Verso 2.0 D4-D manual Icon 7-seater, 5-door mid-sized MPV. Price: £21,445. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder, DOHC, common-rail turbodiesel, 122bhp, 229lb ft of torque from 1,600rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 115mph, 0-62mph 11.3 seconds, 57.6mpg (43.6mpg on test), CO2 129g/km, VED road tax First Year rate £0 then £105 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 20%. Insurance group: 16. Dimensions/capacities L 4,460mm, W 1,790mm, H 1,620mm, boot/load space 155 to 1,696-litres. Warranty: 5-years/100,000 miles. For: New sharp sports styling, better quality interior, good driving position, improved ride comfort and better handling, lots of safety equipment, torquey engine with reduced CO2 emissions and low road tax, clever interior with fold flat seating, huge load space with rear seats folded down to provide a flat load floor, attractive pricing. Against: No spare wheel, real-life fuel economy doesn’t come close to the official figures, very limited third row seating leg room, minimal boot space with all three rows of seats in use, no automatic gearbox option. By Miles Better News Agency