Pro-ace for space
THOSE requiring a vehicle to have a shed-load of seats have either been roped into running their child’s football team or are operating an airport taxi business. Whatever the motivation, the Toyota Proace Verso is a big beast that will be welcomed by anyone needing lots of people-carrying capability that doesn’t mind their vehicle being based on a van.
Toyota launched the model last year as the Japanese motor manufacturer re-entered the big MPV market for the first time since the Previa got the chop in 2005.
There are three Verso versions beginning with the nine-seater Shuttle which is aimed at a self-employed person who needs the space and seating for business or family use.
Next up is the eight-seater Family model – no prizes for guessing its target market with a more leisure-orientated feel and focus on practicality – while the seven-seater VIP has its sights set on the executive transport market with lashings of leather upholstery, a top-notch hi-fi and a cosseting cabin for those needing to move top business people around.
Toyota’s large multi-purpose vehicle also comes in three body sizes – Compact, Medium and Long.
With all seats in use the Compact model has limited luggage carrying capability. That said the interior is flexible as the seats are mounted on rails allowing cabin space to be altered to suit.
Choosing the Medium or Long body models increases boot space to 627 and 977 litres respectively or you can take the back three seats out of the Compact making a five-seater with a cavernous 1,242 litres of luggage space.
Cubby holes and general storage space for all those nik-naks that inevitably accrue over time are plentiful.
All versions sit on the same platform – based on the new big Proace van – and are powered by a choice of two diesel engines – a 1.6-litre oil burner with a six-speed manual gearbox and a two-litre unit linked to an automatic transmission.
The larger 174bhp unit offers plenty of punch, accelerating from a standing start to 62mph in a shade over ten seconds – not bad for what is basically a minibus.
Fuel economy is pretty good as well with Toyota claiming an average consumption figure of close to 50mpg, which boils down to the low 40s in the real world.
The platform is also used by the latest Peugeot Traveller and the Citroen Space Tourer MPVs with the Verso built alongside both rivals at the PSA’s production line in northern France – once more showing Toyota’s savvy in returning to the MPV market via the most economical route.
The front-wheel drive Verso is surprisingly nimble to drive. The automatic version has a neat little rotary dial gear selector as well as steering column-mounted flappy paddles if you want to change gear manually.
Engine and transmission combine to make overtaking a joy and there’s plenty of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel so getting comfortable is not a problem. The steering is inevitably not that responsive considering the Verso’s roots but it gets the job done.
Once under way you initially notice the lack of wind and road noise – Toyota’s MPV is a refined beast – as well as the smooth car-like ride.
The next thing to grab the attention is the modern dashboard with all the dials and controls well sited and easy to use. There is a seven-inch touchscreen – home to the sat nav – and dual-zone air con.
The Verso comes equipped with a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating giving its owners motoring peace of mind.
Price-wise it is competitive in the big MPV market, undercutting its main rivals while not being as cheap as the more basic models on offer.
Toyota has ensured the Verso has appeal for both family and commercial buyers and it looks set to snare its share of sales.
TEST DRIVE TOYOTA PROACE VERSO
Model: Toyota Proace Verso Family Compact Price: £36,170 Mechanical: 174bhp, 1,997cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox Max speed: 106mph 0-62mph: 10.1 seconds Combined mpg: 49.6 Insurance group: 27 CO2 emissions: 151g/km BiK rating: 32% Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles