Pro-ace for space

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Keenan

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

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