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 is a much 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?
The 2013 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.
Toyota has also worked on refinement: previously, the diesels were pretty gruff things, with far too much rumble and clatter coming from under the bonnet. That’s been hushed significantly in the current one – even the grating screech of the petrols when revved is now less objectionable (pity the 1.8’s Multidrive CVT gearbox is no less annoying). 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.
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 2013 diesel is preferable, with 10 per cent better fuel economy and sub-130g/km CO2 emissions.