By Mike Torpey on 2012-01-04 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
TOYOTA is heading back to the future with a fresh assault on a mini-MPV market it created in 1999.
It comes via the launch of the new Verso-S model to compete in a European arena that has tripled in size inside eight years.
The car is designed to showcase efficient use of space and although it measures less than four metres long - the shortest model of its type - clever packaging delivers top notch passenger and luggage space.
Short front and rear overhangs define the character of the Verso-S along with sweeping lines and a large, though optional, panoramic sunroof.
Inside, soft touch materials are used on the two-tier dashboard and sculpted door panels, while there are brushed metal surrounds for the instrument cluster and centre console.
Space has been boosted thanks to streamlined front seat and door panel design, giving extra front passenger headroom, rear seat knee room and load space.
Toyota has also raised the hip points for front and rear seat occupants to ensure good visibility and to make it easier to get in and out of the car.
The 60-40 split rear seats have a centre arm rest and a one-touch fold-flat mechanism and unlike any rival model, the seats can also be folded down from the boot, thanks to tilt-down levers provided on the sidewalls.
And for extra convenience the top-hinged tailgate is cut into the rear bumper, allowing lip-free access to the boot.
Verso-S is available with the Toyota Optimal Drive 1.33-litre Dual VVT-i petrol engine which, matched to a six-speed manual transmission, generates 98bhp, while Toyota targets a combined cycle fuel economy of 51.4mpg with CO emissions of 127g/km.
The Japanese company also marks a first in mini-MPVs by equipping the Verso-S with a new 6.1-inch colour Touch Screen Multimedia Interface with access to controls for the radio, CD/MP3 player and Bluetooth.
There's a USB port for connecting portable music players and the screen can display album cover artwork and at a later date, Toyota will introduce Navi-Box as an option.
It enhances the sat-nav with speed camera warnings and motorway signs, as well as giving access to Google-connected services like points of interest that can be downloaded from the internet and entered as destinations.
Equipment grades for the UK will be announced nearer the launch date next February.
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