Toyota Verso review review (2013 onwards) – MSN Cars UK

26 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Toyota Verso review review (2013 onwards) – MSN Cars UK

Toyota Verso

review review (2013 onwards)

Summary

Far more than a facelift, the Verso is first to benefit from Toyota’s new localisation programme – giving European designers and engineers the chance to make a difference, and boy does it show.

What: Toyota Verso 2013 facelift

Where: Nice – Cannes, France

Toyota

First impressions

Unlikely as it seems, the 2013 Verso might just be a watershed for Toyota in Europe. Although it’s not all new, this compact MPV is the first model to benefit from a localisation programme – which means it’s been developed with leading input from Toyota’s European operation.

In hindsight, the quiet confidence radiating from the project’s Assistant Chief Engineer (and European Lead Engineer), Mehmet Kiliç, during the press conference should have been a big clue. But the difference this programme has apparently made to the car is genuinely outstanding.

Approximately 600 parts have been changed

Toyota Europe has been involved throughout the renewal process, including the visual makeover that brings it into line with the firm’s new styling direction –  giving the Verso much greater road presence – and improvements to interior quality, refinement and driving dynamics.

Approximately 600 parts from a vehicle total of around 2,000 have been changed here, making this much more the usual modest midlife revision. And all of alterations build on the Verso’s already solid family-friendly attributes, such as the Easy Flat seating.

Add in a thoroughly overhauled diesel engine, aggressive pricing and a decent amount of standard kit, and suddenly this looks like a very promising people carrying proposition indeed.

Performance

Depending on trim level, the Verso is available with a choice of three engines – 130hp 1.6-litre petrol, 145hp 1.8-litre petrol and 122hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Both petrols get a fettle, but the best selling diesel has received the most attention, and was the only option available for us to drive on the launch.

The engine feels far smoother than before

An updated version of this ‘D-4D’ unit has already appeared in the latest Toyota Avensis, sporting a variable nozzle turbocharger amongst other new bits and pieces. Yet as part of the localisation procedure, Europe has been empowered to develop it further still.

This means new electronic mapping for better linearity and response, combined with a set of gear ratios that place a pleasing driving experience ahead of absolutely maximising the fuel economy. That these represent a decision well made is obvious as soon as you set off.

While maximum power isn’t much to write home about, peak torque rises to 228lb ft and comes in 200rpm earlier – from 1,600rpm to 2,400rpm; the engine feels far smoother than it ever has before, and thanks to those well-chosen cogs you’re rarely left desperately wanting by what’s under your right foot.

Sure, it hasn’t got exceptional overtaking performance. But the satisfyingly mechanical precision of the six-speed gearbox and improvements to cabin refinement make a significant difference to the perceived depth of quality. Toyota has always built reliable cars – now it’s finally given us a truly polished one.

Toyota

Ride and handling

This is reflected in the ride and handling as well. It’s become so commonplace for manufacturers to lay on the spiel about tweaked chassis settings whenever a facelift comes around we were beginning to get a touch cynical. For a car like the Verso to restore our faith is incredibly remarkable.

Yet here we are.

The changes here aren’t just tangible, they’re substantial – to the point where, putting aside the GT86, this is the best Toyota we’ve driven in quite some time.

It’s no hot hatch, unsurprisingly

From the way the steering reaction is matched to the weighting, your expectation and the actual body control, to the impressive bump absorption and comfort, it’s amazing to say it, but this Verso is approaching Ford levels of involvement and composure. Which is extremely high praise indeed.

It’s no hot hatch, unsurprisingly. Yet the way we always wanted to drive faster – and even doubled-back over a twisting section of mountain road – is testament to the job that’s been done here.

Even if you don’t care how well your MPV goes round corners, you can still appreciate the advances in ride quality and stability, which make it much more enjoyable to both pilot and passenger in. Perhaps something to think about if you have travelsick sensitive children.

Making the difference, in addition to changing the springs and dampers, the localisation programme has added stronger suspension mountings and increased the Verso’s overall rigidity by demanding 38 additional welds in the body construction process. A comprehensive, detailed undertaking, and it shows.

Interior

Most of this extra body strengthening is focused around the tailgate opening and rear doors; given the Verso still rings like a cheap biscuit tin if you slam the latter it makes you realise just how wobbly it must have been before.

However, these upgrades and some strategic modifications to the sound insulation have made a massive difference to how quiet the cabin is. Conversation is easy at motorway speeds now, and the reduction in high frequency buzzing noises again engenders a much more polished ambience.

The increased sense of quality this instils makes it easier to overlook some of the harder interior plastics – and while the choice of so many different finishes remains strange, it does at least look like someone has designed the dashboard this time round, rather than just thrown buttons at it.

The final level of detail continues to leave a little to be desired – the flappy covers for the sockets are cheap in a way that Hyundai and Kia look down on from a height these days – but the amount of standard equipment on the mid-level Icon grade we tested should more than satisfy.

Toyota

With features such as dual-zone climate control and a rear parking camera included it’s expected to be the best seller by a big margin, for good reason.

All but the very entry-level five-seater (which is new for 2013) get seven Easy Flat seats, which slide and fold into no less than 32 different configurations, simply adjusted via obvious pull straps and levers.

Although space is child-only tight in the final row, overall the passenger packaging is excellent for the Verso’s relatively compact size.

Economy and safety

The new diesel engine isn’t just smoother; it’s also more efficient. CO2 emissions are down 10g/km to 129g/km, while on paper fuel economy goes up from 53.3mpg to 57.6mpg. This despite the refreshing rejection of drive compromising eco gearing; it wouldn’t have made the new £100 annual car tax bill any lower.

Toyota still doesn’t offer range wide stop-start on its cars, even though it’s becoming increasing ubiquitous amongst other manufacturers. The technology is expensive to develop and implement, so for the time being it’s resisting passing that cost onto consumers across the board.

Similarly, the Verso features none of the latest high-tech safety systems that are becoming increasingly common. Buyers will have to make do with vehicle stability control and seven airbags. Not to mention the improved driving manners, which boost driver confidence, and should make the car easier to manage in a crisis.

The MSN Cars verdict

The 2013 Toyota Verso is a fantastic enhancement over the car it replaces. With its striking looks, drastically better driving experience, refined quality and familiar versatility it deserves the attention of anyone shopping for a well-rounded MPV. The five-year, 100,000-mile warranty doesn’t hurt, either.

In fact, even if you were previously considering a Toyota Auris hatchback we’d urge you to have a go in one of these – the difference made by Europe’s extensive involvement in the Verso’s development process could not be clearer. Toyota, let’s have more of this. Please.

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