Versatile Verso high

on value

Toyota Verso-S, side
Toyota Verso-S, front
Toyota Verso-S, rear
Toyota Verso-S, interior
Toyota Verso-S, boot
Toyota Verso-S, touchscreen

A HINT that the days of diesel may be numbered is coming from Toyota with the launch of its new mini-MPV.

The Verso-S is going on sale purely with petrol power using a lean burn 1.3-litre engine.

Priced initially from £13,995 Toyota says it is placing the emphasis on value for money and is aiming the Verso-S well and truly at the private buyer.

Fitted with a CVT gearbox the car is capable of averaging 54 to the gallon - 51 for the six-speed manual version.

Elsewhere in Europe a 1.4-litre diesel engine will be offered in the Verso-S but with diesel in the UK costing up to 30p a gallon more than petrol and with the engine delivering only three mpg more, Toyota says it just does not stack up in Britain.

Neither do the benefits of a stop/start system which Toyota says gives only a marginal boost to fuel economy.

With CO2 emissions below 130g/km the Verso-S is road tax free in its first year and £30 a year thereafter for the CVT version - figures which again cannot be improved by going diesel.

Empty nesters - mature couples whose children have left home - are being targeted as the most likely buyers and the Verso-S will be up against the likes of the Vauxhall Meriva, the Renault Grand Modus and the Honda Jazz.

Its price is competitive and so is its versatility but where the Verso-S scores is with its onboard systems.

Fitted to all models is a state of the art multimedia system which outstrips anything on offer elsewhere in this class of vehicle.

Complete with a six-inch touchscreen mounted in the centre of the dash, the set up includes Bluetooth, a full colour display from a reversing camera, radio, CD and iPod connections.

The system also has a comprehensive trip information display showing fuel economy performance and journey by journey comparisons which supplements the normal trip computer housed in the instrument panel.

From May the Toyota Touch software can be upgraded with a navigation system which can be linked via a smart phone to Google online services.

Later on Toyota plans to introduce downloadable Apps which will provide information about fuel prices in the vicinity of the car, directions to filling stations and available parking spaces.

The navigation upgrade will cost around £500 and will be one of four option packs available - the others offering extra chrome trim outside, leather seats inside or a boot liner and scuff plates if the car is going to see some heavy use.

Only two trims will be available, TR and T Spirit - the main difference being 16-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof and rear privacy glass on the higher grade models.

Although officially priced from £14,645 for the manual and £15,745 for the CVT Toyota is already discounting the Verso-S by some £700.

On the road it does the job without fuss.

The continuously variable transmission versions have manual shifters on the steering wheel to work through the six available speeds and there is also a power mode to give the car a little more life.

The box makes driving easy and is the more economical of the two powertrains.

Inside, the amount of room is surprisingly generous and the layout of the dash is very sophisticated for a car of this price.

It's relatively upright with large, clearly marked buttons around the centre display screen and that will have wide appeal - especially to the more mature motorist.

Leg and head room in the room is such that it will fit a six-footer while the boot floor can be placed in a variety of positions enabling three suitcases to be carried without trouble.

Luggage space varies from 393 to 1,352 litres thanks to the adjustable floor and folding rear seats and there is slightly more room in the T Spirit which does away with a spare wheel in favour of a tyre repair kit.

As with any car which calls itself an MPV there are plenty of storage spaces and bottle holders front and rear while the glove box is a double compartment with a small shelf between the two lids.

Vanity mirrors are fitted in the sun visors but are not illuminated.

The sunroof on the higher trim Verso-S is a huge expanse of glass some four feet long. Not only does it look classy but the effect it has on the feel of the interior on a bright day moves it up a league.

An electric roller blind can be operated at the touch of a button and takes only a few seconds to close.

From the outside the Verso-S is a smart looking car - much more of a hatch design than its rather boxy predecessor of 11 years ago.

Angular features especially in the headlamp clusters and fog lamp nacelles set off the nose and overall it is very tidy.

At less than 14ft long it is the smallest of the current crop of mini-MPVs and the lightest too at less than a tonne.

Like the larger, seven seat Verso the S - Toyota says it stands for small, spacious and smart - is versatile enough for most purposes, pleasant enough to drive and relatively cheap to run.

Pound for pound it ticks all the boxes and with Toyota now offering a five year unlimited mileage warranty it is a solid proposition for no fuss motoring.

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