2014 Toyota Verso first drive

Toyota VersoWhen the world’s largest car manufacturer – Toyota – sold close to 10 million cars globally last year the introduction a new model is of significance.


Arriving in UK dealerships shortly is the ‘new’ Verso compact MPV or people carrier, built in Europe exclusively for European markets. The Verso was designed at Toyota’s ED2 centre in the South of France, it was developed at their R&D centre in Belgium and it is built at their facility in Turkey.

More than 700,000 have been sold since the launch of the first generation model in 2002 and in the UK around 3,500 were sold in the UK last year, an increase of 20% in a growing market sector. It is only a year ago that Toyota gave the Verso a significant mid-life upgrade in terms of styling, added equipment and improved handling performance.

Now, in time for the new registration plate month of March, we are about to receive what Toyota calls the ‘new’ Verso but in fact it is fairer to say it is a refreshed line up with their 2.0-litre D-4D turbodiesel engine being replaced by a BMW sourced 1.6 D-4D unit which has been re-tuned by Toyota to meet their specific needs. The current 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines are continued into the new range and prices are carry-over starting at £17,765.

Toyota VersoToyota VersoAlso introduced are a range of new wheel designs, new interior trims, the introduction of a Trend grade, new exterior colours plus Toyota’s new Touch 2 multimedia system.

Matt Harrison, President and Managing Director of Toyota GB said at the media launch of the latest Verso this week that out of their 105,731 sales of Toyota and Lexus models in the UK last year 24% of them were hybrid models but diesel still has a very important part to play in our sales programme.

He said, “By introducing our BMW sourced 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine to replace the Toyota 2.0-litre unit it is essential we follow the trend for engine down-sizing to improve CO2 emissions and fuel economy but without losing much in the way of performance. Diesel models in the compact MPV sector account for 69% of sales in the UK so we can now meet the needs of 66% of customers who want smaller diesel engines.”

Harrison added, “We expect to sell around 4,000 units of the new Verso in the UK this year with fleet and business user-chooser customers accounting for 56% of registrations. The new 1.6-litre diesel engine will be chosen by around 80% of all customers buying a Verso.

There are four equipment levels to choose from depending on the engine chosen. The starter level is Active which will only be taken up by 4% of UK customers followed by Icon appealing to 66% of buyers followed by the new Trend level taking 15% of sales and at the top of the range is Excel which will also take 15% of sales.

The Active specification with the 1.6-litre 130bhp petrol engine and manual transmission is the only model in the range to be offered with five and seven seats, all other specification levels have seven seats as standard. Only 2% of UK customers buy a five seat Verso.

The 1.8-litre 145bhp petrol engine has Multidrive S automatic transmission as standard and the new 1.6-litre D-4D, 110bhp turbodiesel unit is available with all four specification levels and has a six speed manual gearbox. This new to Toyota BMW sourced engine might have the lowest power output of the three units on offer but it has the highest torque, a design feature of the unit. Maximum torque of 270Nm (200lb ft) is developed from 1,750rpm but it has a wide rev-range for a diesel and even in third gear it will reach a shade over 70mph. Top speed is115mph, the same as the petrol engine and zero to 62mph takes 12.7 seconds 1.0 to 1.5 seconds slower than the petrol engines. The new diesel engine is much more fuel efficient officially recording 62.8mpg in the Combined Cycle. On my test drive with three people in the vehicle complete with our luggage and driving on the mountainous and winding rural roads in the South of France it returned 46mpg. The CO2 emissions are 119g/km which will mean a VED road tax cost of £0 in the First Year rate and then £30 per annum for Year Two onwards. By comparison both petrol engines will cost £175 a year in road tax. The diesel unit for company car users will result in 20% Benefit-in-Kind tax from next April against the 23 and 24% rate for the petrol engines.

Toyota VersoToyota VersoJust as important is the purchase price comparison. The new 1.6-litre diesel manual gearbox model with the best selling Icon specification costs £21,995. The 1.8-litre petrol Icon with the standard fit automatic transmission is £21,795 and the 1.6-litre petrol Icon with manual gearbox is £20,295. The insurance group for the new diesel is yet to be announced but going by the figures of the previous models expect it to be around Group 16, one or two groups higher than the petrol versions.

Specification-wise sees the base Active level have such standard items as air conditioning, front electric windows, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, front fog lights and vehicle stability programme. The best selling Icon gets 16-inch alloys which I think provides the best level of ride comfort, Duel zone air-con, DAB radio, Bluetooth, rear view camera, electric rear windows, cruise control and rear privacy glass. The new Trend level additions include 17-inch alloys, front parking sensors, Touch 2 with Go multimedia system, sat-nav with Google Street View and TomTom real time traffic data. The Toyota Touch 2 with Go is standard on the new Trend models but is available as a £650 option on Icon and Excel versions. Excel models gain HID headlights, smart entry and start button, automatic wipers and lights and leather seat bolsters. Various other extra cost options are available such as a £550 panoramic roof for Icon, Trend and Excel models.

The core to the changes for the new Verso is of course the use of the BMW sourced diesel engine, similar in specification to that used in the 1 Series and current MINI. However engine sharing is now commonplace amongst manufacturer reducing development costs and complying with customer demands for engine downsizing. Although the Toyota version of this engine is still built by BMW in Austria, the Toyota modifications include a newly developed dual-mass flywheel together with revised engine mounts and drive shafts to minimise vibrations and changes so it could be mated with Toyota’s own six speed gearbox. One of the main challenges was to redesign the electrical interface in the ECU engine management system so both BMW and Toyota systems ‘talk’ to each other. The ECU injection mapping and turbocharger response has been designed to provide more punch in first, second and third gears for maximum acceleration response. It also allows the engine to rev freely and with minimum noise to over 3,000rpm before smoothing out the torque delivery for effortless driving in fourth and fifth gears and in the overdrive sixth gear for motorway cruising.

Toyota VersoMostly it works very well with the engine very willing to rev in low gears giving punchy acceleration from standstill. Only rolling starts in second gear, say at roundabouts, did the turbo lag slightly before delivering it boost to get the Verso spritely underway again. Certainly Toyota didn’t choose a soft driving option for the European press launch using the challenging hilly and winding side roads in the South of France for our test drive.

All customers buying the latest 2014 Toyota Verso will see the benefits of the improved specification, the new Trend spec level and new bodywork colours plus the Touch 2 with Go multimedia and sat-nav system. But the main change is the 8% improvement in fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions from the 1.6-litre D-4D engine over the outgoing 2.0-litre D-4D unit. Engine down-sizing has become a way of life and Toyota for the Verso has fulfilled that objective with help from BMW. Watch out for future Toyota and BMW collaborations with engines, hybrid technology and platforms.

MILESTONES. 2014 Toyota Verso Icon 1.6 D-4D Manual 5-Door, 7-Seat compact MPV.
Price: £21,995 (Best selling model). Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, four cylinder, DOHC, turbodiesel, 110bhp, 200lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual gearbox. Performance: 115mph, 0-62mph 12.7 seconds, 62.8mpg Combined Cycle (46mpg on a hilly test drive), CO2 119g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 Year Two onwards, BIK company car tax 20% from April. Insurance group: Group 16 (tbc). Warranty: 5-years/100,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,460, W 1,790, H 1,620mm, boot/load space 155-litres with 7 seats in use expanding to 1,009-litres with two front seats in use. For: New fuel and CO2 efficient downsized diesel engine, low running and tax costs, responsive acceleration, improved specification, roomy, sharp styling, good ride comfort with 16-inch wheels, easy to live with. Against: Not the cleverest of fold-down seating system, bland but durable interior, poor rear corner visibility, the Touch 2 with Go screen could be larger. Miles Better News Agency

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