"The Toyota Verso-S specialises in practicality, thanks to its clever use of space, lots of secret compartments and a triple-layered glovebox."
The Toyota Verso-S mini MPV certainly looks stylish and practical, but the reality is less appealing. It may have competent handling and a basic level of practicality, but the 1.33-litre petrol engine is the only option available under the bonnet – it can feel underpowered and slow, and certainly offers no fun for the driver. None of the stronger diesels that are available elsewhere across the Toyota range are on offer, which is a real shame. We’d suggest that keen drivers should steer clear of the CVT automatic gearbox - even though it improves the car's efficiency, it can be annoyingly noisy and blunts the Verso-S's limited acceleration even more.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
With no diesel option on offer (like the 1.4-litre D4D that's available in the rest of the Europe), the 1.33-litre VVT-I petrol engine on offer in the UK, paired with the manual gearbox, returns 51.4mpg in combined fuel economy and emits 127g/km in CO2, putting it in road tax band D, which will cost about £105 a year. However, going against industry norms, models with the CVT automatic gearbox are actually more efficient, promising fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures of 54.3mpg and 120g/km, respectively. The small and light MPV is also cheap to insure and servicing costs should be low because there won’t be too much wear and tear on the brakes or tyres.
Interior & comfort
You would expect a small MPV to put emphasis on a smooth and comfortable ride, which is why the firmness of the Verso-S's ride comes as a bit of a surprise. The upshot is that is very agile when driving on winding, twisty roads, but as soon as you hit some rough roads, life inside the car gets very bumpy indeed. The stiffness also really begins to show over long-distance journeys and everything gets pretty uncomfortable. We’d also recommend avoiding the CVT gearbox, because, while it is marginally more economical, it really compounded the stiff ride by adding in intrusive engine noise, which quickly becomes very irritating.
Practicality & boot space
You get a smart interior set-up that actually produces quite a lot of space in the back of the Verso-S, with even taller occupants being able to get comfortable. Plus, if you choose the optional glass roof, the interior is also pretty airy and bright. However, that's where the good news ends, as the boot space on offer isn’t great. As long as you don’t want a spare tyre and get enough peace of mind from a tyre repair kit, then the S offers 429 litres of luggage capacity. But if you need that spare to feel confident in your car, then the capacity drops down to 393 litres, which just isn’t good enough by today's standards. However, you can easily fold down the standard-fit split-fold back seats by pulling a pair of handles in the boot, which increases the boot space 1,352 litres. Unlike most of its main rivals in the small MPV class, though, the Verso-S doesn’t have sliding rear seats for that extra flexibility. You do get a flexible deck board to divide the boot into two layers, a three-level glove compartment and 19 storage bins dotted about the interior.
Reliability & safety
Toyota has a solid and hard-earned reputation for reliability, so take its four-place drop in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers rankings with a pinch of salt, because it still topped the table for reliability. The Verso-S didn’t crack the list of top 100 cars (most likely because of its rarity), but its cousin, the standard Verso, came in at 33rd, so you can be sure that the S will be equally reliable. All of the major parts used inside the Verso-S have been successfully tried and tested elsewhere in the Toyota line-up, so buyers can expect very few problems. One stumbling block is the three-star rating it got in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests in a day and age where nearly all new cars are destined to bag the maximum five-star safety rating. So, does that mean it isn’t safe? Well, not unsafe but less safe, yes, but it is sure to offer decent protection, with seven airbags and electronic stability control (ESP) fitted as standard equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
Well, the drive isn’t good. It doesn’t actually matter whether you choose the six-speed manual or the CVT automatic gearbox, because neither stop the 1.33-litre petrol engine from feeling terribly underpowered. If you get the manual, though, it is easier to keep the engine under control by staying in the right gear for the conditions. The automatic CVT frankly goes a bit bananas, with its excessive revving noise when you accelerate easily cancelling out the minor savings in economy and emissions that it brings. There's some body roll through the corners but not enough to be a pain, but just enough to stop it being fun to drive.
Price, value for money & options
The Verso-S is more expensive than many of its rivals, but it does come with a high level of standard equipment and accessories. It's only available in two main specifications – the entry-level TR and top-of-the-range T Spirit. Even if you opt for the cheaper base spec, you will still get Bluetooth phone connectivity, a USB socket and even a reversing camera fitted as standard equipment. Go for the range-topping T Spirit, and air-conditioning and alloy wheels are also included. There are plenty of reasonably priced optional extras available, too, including leather interior, sat-nav or style packs. You also get a five-year warranty as standard. All that said, it still doesn’t rise above the pack and many rivals really do offer better value.