Toyota hatches the Verso S
TOYOTA’S spring sales offensive kicks into its stride with a brand new car called the Verso S. It is a five-seater hatchback with bold upright styling giving more space inside than a racier hatch like the Fiesta. Its boxier peers include the Honda Jazz, Nissan Note, Vauxhall Meriva.
Unlike most car makers when they launch a new model, Toyota GB boss Jon Williams is not chasing bright young thrusters, but going for the older generation of empty-nesters and “mature families”.
“We are looking at customers who have a little more time on their hands, needing a car with good flexibility in terms of carrying passengers or cargo and who perhaps don’t do that many miles.”
Britain takes only one engine, the familiar 1.33litre 98bhp petrol from the Yaris. Gears are either a six-speed manual or, for an additional £1,150, a variableratio automatic, with paddle shifting. Only the Jazz in the sector offers a similar CVT transmission.
A six-month reduction of £650 brings an opening price of £13,995 for the wellequipped TR model. The Spirit, with a full-length fixed sunroof and powered blind, 16-inch alloys, power rear windows and privacy glass, is £14,995. At 120g/km for CVT, that means no road tax in the first year.
The car is being advertised as an MPV, but that is a marketing conceit. It is no more a multi-purpose vehicle than a Jazz, and actually not as clever as the Jazz or Meriva, both of which have more versatile rear seats. In the Verso, they just fold away conventionally, though top marks for easily reached release levers just inside the tailgate.
Both the TR and the Spirit have a “media” screen with touch-type control for audio etc. It incorporates a reversing camera for safer parking. From May, it can be upgraded for £500 (estimate) with navigation, incorporating Google searching, linked to your mobile phone, for things like local petrol prices and directions to the forecourt, hotels and so on.
It will not only give you the fastest or most scenic route to your destination, it can also find the greenest one. This Touch & Go navigation system can work out an ‘ecological’ route designed to minimise emissions and fuel consumption over the course of a journey.
Other options are two-tone grey leather and reversing sensors. The TR model can be fitted with 15-inch alloys instead of the stock steel wheels.
Toyota inaugurated this compact utility hold-all sector in 2000 with the Yaris Verso, ungainly to look at yet liked by the (usually) older buyers for its additional passenger space, tall doors and easy-fold rear seats. That model faded away, today replaced by the new Verso S – not to be confused with the Verso, which is a much larger seven-seater real MPV based on the Avensis
The S in Verso S is said to spell “small, spacious, smart”. What it does not stand for is svelte, sexy or swift. Sensible, certainly, and that’s where the Verso S scores. Storage spaces abound, with compartments on the central tunnel, a tray under a front seat and upper and lower gloves boxes plus a handy external shelf between them.
There is a fold-away rest for the driver’s left arm, and a central arm rest in the rear seats. These are fixed seats – not adjustable. One surprising omission in an anti-trap cutoff on the power windows. It is many years since I brought this potential safety hazard to the attention of Toyota when launching the Picnic – another precursor to the onset of the MPV culture.
The European press launch of the Verso S was held in the province of Toledo – the historic sword-making centre of Spain. The hill-top capital is a World Heritage site. Its cobbled alleys did not upset the Verso S too much. There was some vibration and pattering but, generally, the suspension is set for comfort,
The S in Verso S is said to spell “small, spacious, smart”. What it does not stand for is svelte.
riding on supple-walled Bridgestones – engineered for low rolling resistance and shorter stopping distances. The climb up from the plain into the citadel did suggest that the Verso S may get weary in hilly terrain.
The advanced petrol engine and lightweight construction gives the Verso S the lowest running costs in its sector. Its modest performance should not frighten the insurers.
The low C02 emissions for a car of this size (it is 90mm longer than Jazz) are welcome. Toyota GB sees no demand for fitting it with stop-start ignition, which would raise the price by £200 but have minimal effect of MPG and C02 and not change UK road tax levies. Nor will TGB offer the available diesel motor. The typical British buyer will not do large mileages and this not recoup the four-figure price hike for diesel power.
I said this car is not swift. The 0-62mph time with manual gears is given as 13.3 seconds. The CVT is 13.7 seconds but gains a few miles a gallon because of its longer top gear, which sees it running on 2,500rpm at 70mph. It does get a bit noisy if you accelerate hard.
The manual car is quieter picking up speed but feels too stretched at motorway pace. For a relaxed cruise the top gear needs to be a higher ratio.
Neither gearbox gives lively acceleration and unless you keep an ear open for the warning signs there are times when the Verso S runs out of puff. Then it’s time to drop a couple of gears to regain momentum.
Of course it is not designed to be a rival to a Ford Fiesta. Toyota tends to make unexciting cars, the bread and butter vehicles for A-B journeys. Reliability has been its forte until the recent technical hitches.
Hopefully, for owners as well as Toyota and its dealers, that episode is finished. (Hours after I typed those words, Toyota announced a recall for left-hand-drive Lexus RX models to “address a potential issue with the fastening of the floor carpet cover. Right-hand drive models do not have the same potential issue”.
CONTINENTAL DRIFT: The Toyota Verso S, in Spain.