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Toyota Verso

£17,535£26,490
5/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Solid, reliable, flexible, now better to drive

Against: 

More space required, still not quite a match for a Ford C-Max
A household appliance of a car, but easy to live with and well priced.

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Our choice

Toyota

1.6 D-4D Icon 5dr

£21,940
N/A
62mpg
12.70s
110bhp
119g/km

What we say: 

The Verso has a smart new look and is better to drive. Pity interior space isn't better

What is it?

Toyota seems to be on a bit of a style crusade at the moment: the latest car to benefit is the fiendishly dreary Verso compact MPV. New for 2013 was a more distinctive front end, more cohesive interior, revised engines and other detail changes to make it, hopefully, a bit more memorable than the old one.

All but the base 1.6 Active now get seven-seat capability and Toyota has upped the equipment levels on all versions, but without raising prices. In all, the firm says it has made more than 300 changes to help lift the Verso: question is, have they turned an utterly forgettable people carrier into one you’ll now consider alongside the fine Ford C-Max, Vauxhall Zafira Tourer and Renault Scenic?

Driving

The latest Verso is a bit of a surprise to drive, in that it’s quite a bit better than the old one and, thus, better than the average all-rounder you expect of Toyota. Handling and body control were actually not bad in the outgoing car, but this did result in rather a choppy ride. Toyota’s smoothed that off rather well in this one, while also making hundreds of detail changes to hone the way it rolls along. We didn’t expect it, but it’s actually rather appealing. Well, for a Toyota people carrier, at least.

The introduction of a 1.6-litre diesel engine supplied by BMW helps no end here. Previously, diesel was the weakest part of the Verso; now, it’s one of the best, thanks to the strong 114bhp motor. The grating screech of the petrol alternatives is now less objectionable as well (pity the 1.8’s Multidrive CVT is no less annoying – avoid for this reason alone). The fact it’s very aerodynamic also helps cut noise.

On the inside

The boot is massive, albeit encroached by the wheelarches, and the rear seats flip down to form a flat-floored loading bonanza.

But, overall, you do wish that Toyota had made the Verso a little bigger, rather than try to squeeze so much from a smallish outer shell – second-row legroom is tight, third-row wafer-thin. It doesn’t do cubbyholes, either – why so slender door pockets? And why two small gloveboxes rather than one big one? At least the driving position is good, the instruments clear, and the general air one of long-lasting Japanese solidity – with Toyota promising the facelift has added more premium tactility, too.

Owning

Toyota is strong on reliability, and if anything it’s so on-edge now that you can be guaranteed A-grade customer service. Plus, the warranty is an excellent five years and 100,000 miles. As is the MPV norm, the petrols aren’t ideal because of lower pulling power and higher fuel consumption: the new BMW diesel is much more like it, with economy of 62mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
1.8 V-matic Excel Nav 5dr M-Drive S
11.1s 150g/km 43.5 147 £24,100
The cheapest
1.6 V-matic Active 5dr [5 Seats]
11.7s 157g/km 41.5 132 £17,535
The greenest
1.6 D-4D Active 5dr
12.7s 119g/km 62.0 110 £19,935

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

8/10

Subaru Outback

£27,795£32,760
A Subaru Outback has all the reliability but infinitely more left-field cool