Of versatile MPVs and male frailties

Toyota's comprehensively facelifted Verso MPV is a compelling option as a family transporter.
Picture: Toyota SA
Date:20 May 2013 Author: Alan Duggan Tags:,

People are weird. Apparently a good number of new-car buyers care so deeply about the perceived image of their wheels that they will sacrifice common sense, a comfortable driving experience and a fair amount of cash in pursuit of the aspirational option – and here we’re generally talking SUVs.*

(* Of course, there’s nothing at all wrong with SUVs. In fact, I love the sense of power that courses through me as I slip Brutus – that’s a pet name for my three-ton SUV – into first gear, mount the pavement and crush a lesser vehicle whose owner had the temerity to park outside my front gate.)

Market intelligence informs us that some new-car buyers have shied away from MPVs in recent years, perhaps put off by the “mom’s taxi” association. If they’re talking about male customers, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised: men are very strange and unpredictable animals, with self-confidence issues you wouldn’t believe.

Of course, this is not how Toyota tell it. Rather than addressing the frailty of male egos, they quote forecasts by trend analysts (in essence, reinvented fashion editors) who say people carriers, and especially compact MPVs, are destined to become the darlings of the automotive world as more and more young families outgrow their subcompact and compact sedans and “fall for the seductive charms of space that only this breed of vehicle can offer”.

I’m not sure about this claim, but I can say that the comprehensively facelifted Toyota Verso for 2013 is an excellent family transporter. Although the manufacturer has made literally hundreds of changes and/or improvements, it looks near-as-dammit the same and feels very similar to its predecessor. Having said that, the ride comfort has definitely improved, the handling is significantly better (Vehicle Stability Control is now standard across the range), and Toyota’s engineers have succeeded in reducing the intrusion of road and engine noise to deliver a quieter ride.

Having spent a weekend in the country with the Verso and two small children, I’m happy to confirm that it delivers the levels of comfort and versatility you’d expect from a modest-sized MPV in this price range. In fact, it’s a pleasure to drive. We covered several hundred kilometres of highways, country roads and twisty bits, emerging from the experience feeling quite relaxed and ache-free. Perhaps more importantly, the miniature humans in the back seat – both of them strong-willed and assertive – were equally content.

You have a choice of three powerplants – two Valvematic petrol engines (a 1,6-litre and a 1,8-litre) and the 2.0 D-4D (diesel). The 97 kW 1.6 petrol is matched to a six-speed manual transmission and posts a combined-cycle fuel economy of 6,8 litres/100 km. The 108 kW 1.8 Valvematic is available with a choice of six-speed manual transmission or Toyota’s Multidrive S CVT. The latter has been adjusted to give a more “stepped” gearshift feel, with engine revs building in a way that is more closely aligned to vehicle acceleration. The official fuel consumption figures for the manual and CVT are 7 litres/100 km and 7,1 litres/100 km respectively. The 1.8 Valvematic dispatches the 0-100 km/h sprint in 10,4 seconds, which isn’t at all bad. Moving on to the D-4D turbodiesel, you get a six-speed manual transmission and 91 kW of power at 3 600 r/min, with 310 N.m coming on stream between 1 600 and 2 400 r/min. This combo records a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 5,5 litres/100 km.

The new Verso carries over the three-grade strategy of its predecessor.

  • S grade equipment now includes front fog lamps and the addition of heating and integrated turn signal lights to the electrically adjustable door mirrors.
  • SX grade adds electrically folding door mirrors, a height-adjustable front passenger seat, two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and a touch-screen display that incorporates a rear monitor camera.
  • TX grade adds exterior chrome accents, leather seat bolsters, and armrest and door trim with double stitching. It features Smart Entry with push start, dual zone automatic air-conditioning, a Sensor Pack (automatic wiper and headlamp operation and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear side window sunshades, and High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps.

Toyota’s celebrated Easy Flat-7 seating system offers all of 32 seating permutations, providing individual seats in both second and third rows, and a second row seat sliding range of 195 mm. With the second- and third-row seats folded, the Verso’s loadspace is 1 575 mm long and 1 430 mm wide. With all three seating rows in place, the luggage volume measures 155 litres, increasing to 440 litres with the third-row seats folded.

Pricing

Verso 1.6 S 6-spd manual  R261 900

Verso 1.6 SX 6-spd manual  R284 300

Verso 1.8 TX 6-spd manual  R314 200

Verso 1.8 TX CVT R326 100

Verso 2.0D TX 6-spd manual  R329 900

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