The Toyota Verso is one of those cars that a private investigator might drive. Why? Because it flies completely under the radar, while also offering seating for five or seven people. It’s also flexible enough to deal with whatever life can throw at it. All of which also makes it a superb family vehicle.
Try to think of the last time you saw a Toyota Verso, and describe what you made of it. You can’t, can you? That’s because the Verso is one of those cars that has what you might call a modest and unpretentious appearance. At the very front, the traditional Toyota grille resembles a downturned mouth, and is flanked by a couple of pods for the front fog lights.
Above this is a plastic front bumper that leads up into a central Toyota badge, which runs seamlessly up into the bonnet. Either side of the upwardly sloping upper grille are headlight units that cut right into the front wings. The large windscreen is rather steeply raked and leads up to a couple of standard roof rails, which are ideal for attaching a bicycle or luggage rack to.
The side doors are tall and have large windows, and feature a rising line that curves up to the trailing edge of the rear windows, to give the car a tail-high-nose-low stance. At the rear, a tail-light unit sits either side of the wide, almost vertical tailgate.
What's it like to drive?
The best engine to choose might be the 1.6-litre diesel, which was actually designed and developed by BMW and bought by Toyota.
It’s more than strong enough to cope with a cabin full of seven people, and it’ll do an official average of 62.8mpg, which you can’t really sniff at. There’s no getting away from the fact that it won’t exactly get your pulse racing, however, because performance is definitely on the leisurely side.
There’s also a 1.8-litre petrol, which is linked to an automatic transmission. This is smooth and quiet, and the auto takes any strain out of proceedings.
The steering is light, and the firm suspension keeps the body under control, so there’s little danger of kids becoming car sick. The large glass area and almost-vertical backend make parking really easy.
The steering is light, and the firm suspension keeps the body under control.
The entry-level model is the five-seater. Everything above that comes with seven seats, which is what most people desire from an MPV such as this. People also desire simple usability – which is what the Verso gives you in spades. As soon as you get into the Toyota Verso, you’re faced with… nothing. Yup, ahead of the driver is just a grey expanse of plastic and a large windscreen. Simple.
The instruments are housed in a central pod on top of the dashboard. The most prominent is the speedometer, and it’s surrounded by a rev counter and digital display for all the other information you’ll need, including water temperature and fuel level, plus how many seats are occupied (useful in a seven-seater).
The steering wheel, meanwhile, is a circular affair (no need for competition-inspired flat bottoms here), and also plays host to the controls for the audio system, Bluetooth mobile phone system and cruise control (where fitted).
The centre console is dominated by a central touchscreen (where fitted) or the audio system. The screen is a simple affair with graphics that are clear enough, but a step behind those on modern systems. Still, some models have sat-nav as well as Bluetooth audio, so you can keep the kids amused.
The controls for the climate system sit below this, and are simple enough, with a temperature rocker at either end, plus ventilation controls on a circular centre ‘dial’.
The door plays host to some robust plastics and the electric window switches, and the door pull is usefully far forward, to allow you to reach it when the door is fully open. The switches for the electric mirrors are on the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel, so not in a particularly natural position.
The Easy-life seating system in the Toyota Verso is a work of genius. It’s incredibly simple to use and allows the car to be turned from a five- or seven-seater into a van in a matter of seconds.
The middle-row seats also slide back and forth individually to allow you to adjust legroom or boot space (or increase legroom for those in the 3rd row), as required.
There’s a decent boot too when the rearmost seats are folded down, and the interior is full of little storage areas, which are great for the detritus of daily life. Bear in mind, though, that carrying seven people doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll also be able to carry luggage for seven; space isn’t quite that generous.
There’s a refrigerated glovebox on all models bar the entry-level one (great for storing bars of chocolate), and the backs of the front seats feature handy foldaway picnic tables.
Reliability and running costs
Any Toyota Verso is going to work out pretty cheap to run. The 1.6-litre diesel is the real star as it can do an official 62.8mpg. That said, the 1.8-litre petrol automatic isn’t that far behind, and is pretty good for a petrol machine, on 43.5mpg.
The Verso was tested by crash test body Euro NCAP way back in 2010 and earned a five-star rating, which helps to keep down insurance costs. It starts off in group 10 and high-spec versions sit in group 19, so it’s very affordable.
Reliability is what the Toyota brand has been built on for decades, and the Verso does nothing to alter that; there are no big issues for you to look out for. However, given that warranties will be all but expired, we would recommend you consider cinchCare.
What we love
When what you need is a car that can take you and a boisterous brood here, there and everywhere, the Toyota Verso could be the one for you. It can even double up as a working vehicle, as you can fold down all the seats and turn it into a van. All versions are well equipped, and you can feel safe in the knowledge that it’s passed crash tests with flying colours.
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You really can’t go wrong with a Toyota Verso. It’s truly one of the easiest cars to live with, with its incredibly simple seat-folding system, and clever touches such as the folding picnic tables and refrigerated glovebox. The engines are wonderfully fuel-efficient, and the Verso is easy to drive.
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