By Stewart Smith on 2016-09-11 - Stewart was the former motoring editor of the Coventry Telegraph and is now a freelance contributor to Eurekar. He is based in Scotland and specialises in First Drive reviews.
Toyota serves an ace
with new Verso
TOYOTA is introducing an all-new range of Proace vans and Verso people carriers to take advantage of the fast-growing medium-sized van and MPV market with a choice spanning wheelbases, powertrains and equipment specifications.
The Proace Verso signals a return to the large MPV sector for Toyota several years after it launched the Previa, one of the original large people carriers, which was discontinued in 2007.
Both van and MPV models are available in three body sizes - compact, medium and long - and the Verso can seat up to eight people which makes it suitable for families, taxi duty, airport runs and there's a VIP version for luxury transport.
The Verso comes with a choice of three body and two wheelbase lengths while power is from three turbodiesel engines, all with stop-start technology/
There's a 114bhp1.6-litre with six-speed manual transmission, a 148bhp 2.0-litre also with six-speed manual and a 172bhp 2.0-litre with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
Best economy figures are 54.3mpg for the 1.6 diesel.
All Proace versions come with good specification levels include user-friendly equipment such as rail-mounted sliding seats, opening rear tailgate glass, automatic sliding side doors and a multifunction roof.
The MPV comes in three grades, Shuttle, Family and VIP and has been awarded five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test programme. It is available with Toyota Safety Sense advanced active safety and driver assistance gear.
Although based on the Proace van the Verso has an attractive interior with the dashboard design featuring clear, analogue dials and ergonomic switchgear.
The driver gets good all-round visibility from the elevated, SUV-like driving position and use of a slick, short-throw gear lever mounted close to the flat-bottom steering wheel.
Versions equipped with automatic transmission have a stylish rotary gear selector positioned on the centre console.
The cabin is light and spacious especially with the two-section multifunction roof available for Family and VIP models.
There's plenty of storage points around the cabin, including door boxes, dashboard and sliding door cubbies, and cup holders.
Other standard equipment features include power windows, dark-tinted rear windows, dusk-sensing headlights, front fog lights, cornering lights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, electrically adjustable, heated door mirrors and body colour-matched bumpers and door handles.
The tailgate has a heater and rear wiper system and in the cabin there are curtain airbags, a multi-function roof and automatic dual-zone air conditioning.
Also included on all models is the useful Toyota Pro-Touch seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity. Satellite navigation is standard on the Family version.
If the eight seats are occupied there wouldn't be much room for luggage, and the back row is only suitable for children but the back seats can be removed to give up to 1,242 litres of usable luggage space with five on board.
I found the Proace Compact Family manual version I drove very easy to handle with enough power for overtaking and it is surprisingly quiet on the move with a minimum of engine, road or wind noise.
The gear shift is especially smooth which is something you don't always find on MPVs based on a van.
The version I drove comes in at £32,930, which seems a tad high, but you are getting Toyota quality and a lot of gear, space and flexibility.
I also had a brief drive in the Proace Compact Van which has three front seats and a cargo bay measuring a 2,162mm long by 1,628mm wide, giving a load volume of 4.6 cubic metres.
It also features an opening bulkhead and lifting front passenger seat base to increase load length capacity by 1.16 metres and overall load volume by an extra half a cubic metre.
A base Compact Proace Van costs from £18,660.
Toyota says the new van is well-placed to take advantage of the strong recovery in the European LCV market in recent years, where sales volumes rose by more than 12 per cent in 2015.
The company expects European sales to reach 2.2 million in 2016 and medium duty vans such as the Proace account for around 28 per cent of sales.
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