Toyota Verso

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Toyota Verso 2.0 D-4D TR

Road Test

Toyota Verso 2.0 D-4D TR

Driven April 2009

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Here's the trick: think of the Toyota Verso as a domestic appliance to be bought with head over heart. That way, the Zafira-rivalling MPV makes a whole lot of sense. Expect it to appeal to you on any emotional level whatsoever and you'll be disappointed.

Such nondescriptness isn't necessarily a problem in this sort of car. Family MPVs need convenience over character, practicality over performance. And the Verso has the sensible stuff in spades, clubs and any other suit you care to mention.

It's an all-new car, not based on the previous-gen Corolla Verso or, as might be expected, the Auris, but instead sitting on a new platform that shares much with the Avensis. Like the Renault Grand Scenic, there's seating for five-plus-two-gnomes - despite Toyota's claim that rear legroom is best-in-class, you shouldn't put proper humans in the rearmost seats unless they've done something to dishonour your family name. That said, the Verso is the first MPV to get curtain airbags in its third row, so though your gnomes won't be comfortable, at least they'll be safe.

Airbags. That's the stuff Toyota does well. The safe stuff, the useful stuff. The seats that fold flat with a single pull, allowing you to operate them one-handed. The satnav instructions that only play in the driver's speaker so as not to interrupt everyone else's enjoyment of the Harry Potter audiobook. Surfaces that feel as if they'll survive years of abuse at hands of tartrazine-addled toddlers.

Toyota doesn't do laugh-a-minute handling so well. Like the Urban Cruiser, the Verso is about as entertaining as a DIY tax return kit. We tried out the 2.0-litre diesel, the volume seller - the UK will also get 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines and, later in the year, a 2.2-litre diesel - and it's a predictable story: competent, quick enough, quiet, but devoid of anything resembling fun. Toyota is pitching the Verso as the perfect vehicle for the family who'll head to the beach for a weekend and stop off for a lap of the Nürburgring on the way back, but don't believe the spiel. It is dull. 

But dull is permissable. If you want more charisma from your people-lugger, Ford's S-Max - despite being a half-size bigger - has proved it's possible, but if sensibleness is higher up your list of requirements, the Verso will do you just fine.

Sam Philip

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