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The Toyota Verso-S might be billed as an MPV-style vehicle but it's targeted at a quite different clientele to others apparently of its ilk. Andy Enright drives it.

Ten Second Review

The Toyota Verso-S is a very smart piece of product development, aimed at offering older buyers a practical, well built and well equipped car that comes with minuscule ongoing running costs. Replacing the popular Yaris Verso, this Verso-S more than justifies a solid recommendation.

Background

Marketing people aren't short of terms designed to describe one's age group and buyer profile. Generation Xers, baby boomers, DINKYs, boomerangers; you're probably on a database somewhere labelled as some such. The Toyota Verso-S is a car aimed at just one such group, the so-called 'empty nesters.'
In case you're not familiar, these are people who have had children grow up and leave the family home and who now have a little more disposable income and a fair deal more free time. Watch any sort of car advertising on TV and you'd never believe anybody over the age of 35 existed, yet this is a significant market and the Verso-S targets it unswervingly.

Its predecessor, the Yaris Verso, carved out a profitable niche amongst customers who needed space and reliability but didn't hanker for horsepower or, for that matter, sassy styling. The Verso-S looks a good deal more conventional than the old Yaris Verso but is a whole lot smarter.

Driving Experience

If you can live with the fact that the Verso-S is by no means quick, then there's precious little reason to dislike the way it drives. It's no entertainer, its 98bhp 1.33-litre petrol engine hauling it to 60mph in a leisurely 13.3 seconds, but a racy drive is usually fairly low down the priority list of its target customers. If you base your car buying decision on how easy a car is to drive, there aren't many that can hold a candle to this Toyota, especially when its specified with the Multidrive S gearbox. This continuously variable transmission dispenses with a clutch pedal and makes city driving effortless. A fair degree of body roll discourages enthusiastic progress but ride quality is admirable for a car with such a short wheelbase.

The seating position is fairly elevated, which means a good view of the road and easy access to the cabin. The control weights are all very modest, so you won't get worn out manoeuvring the Verso-S into tight spots. A diesel model is offered in other European markets but it was decided that the pound versus yen exchange rate would have made it prohibitively expensive and given the modest mileages of the typical Verso-S driver, it wouldn't justify itself financially against the petrol model.

Design and Build

Given that the Verso-S measures a mere 399cm from stem to stern, it's incredible what Toyota has managed to cram into it. To put that figure into perspective a Ford Fiesta is a mere 4cm shorter. With the rear seats and parcel shelf in place, there's 429 litres of luggage space on offer, which dwarfs the Ford's 295 litre hatch. The rear seats of the Verso can be folded from the luggage bay by using levers on each side and once the seats go down, there's up to 1388 litres of space available. The luggage bay features a concealed floor where valuables can be kept. The floor itself can be raised level with the hatch lip for sliding heavy items in or with a tip and a flip can be lowered for ultimate carrying capacity.

There's a decent amount of space inside the car, with more rear legroom than in most supermini hatches. The impression of space is helped by the vast full length panoramic glass roof fitted to the T Spirit model which really does add to the experience of travel. Passengers will be able to take in city architecture, indulge in amateur ornithology or just gaze at the passing clouds. It's a feature that sets the Verso-S apart from virtually all its rivals. As you would expect from Toyota, build quality is strong without being showy. The central feature of the dash is a big 6.1 inch touch screen display which again gives the Verso-S the feel of something a little removed from the mainstream norm.

Market and Model

Perhaps you might well expect the Verso-S to feel a grade or two above its mainstream competitors because Toyota is asking a bit more. Quite a lot more in fact. You'll pay around £1,500 over the price of an entry-level Citroen C3 Picasso and nearly £3,000 on top of an entry-level Kia Venga to land a Verso-S. It does feel a markedly classier product than both but that's quite an ask. Again, blame the exchange rate, not Toyota per se.

Equipment levels are strong, as you might reasonably expect. Two trim levels are offered, TR and upspec T-Spirit, with Toyota expecting over 70 per cent of all customers to go for the range-topper which carries an £1,100 premium over the TR. For that, customers receive 16-inch alloy wheels, rear electric windows, rear privacy glass and the panoramic glass roof. The TR isn't at all badly appointed, with the Toyota Touch multimedia system, Bluetooth, air conditioning, a reversing camera and leather trim for the steering wheel and gear knob.

Cost of Ownership

The reason the Verso-S isn't particularly rapid is that power has been sacrificed at the altar of minuscule running costs. This has been a conscious decision on Toyota's part and one it clearly believes most target buyers will deem a sensible trade-off. Weight is the enemy of economy and Toyota has gone to great lengths to pare back the kilos with the result that the car tips the scales at just 1070kg. The combined fuel consumption figure of 51.4mpg for the manual car is just pipped by the 54.3mpg you'll achieve with the CVT version. It's a similar story on emissions, where the manual model returns 127g/km and the CVT 120g/km.

Insurance is a modest Group 8E right across the board while residual values look extremely solid. These values are helped by the fact that Toyota is changing its strategy and not targeting bulk discounters like the Motability scheme, which was a massive Yaris Verso customer. Toyota is even launching an apps facility for the car's navigation system,helping to further save money with functions such as local fuel prices and parking space availability Bluetoothed from your mobile to the car's navigation system. While this sounds great in principle, I wonder what take up will be amongst more mature customers.

Summary

In many respects, the Toyota Yaris Verso-S is a car that's just as clearly focused on its target market as a Porsche 911 is on its. If you're not part of that demographic you may well struggle to see the appeal, but were I in my late fifties or sixties and was looking for an easy-driving, practical, safe and well-built car, it would be hard to better the Verso-S.

What it is isn't is cheap. You'll need to be firmly sold on its virtues to plump for it over more aggressively priced rivals, but if you're looking to keep the car for the longer term, that becomes proportionately less of an issue. It's by no means an exciting steer, but the Verso-S is fantastically easy to drive and the full-length panoramic glass roof of the T Spirit model is something very special. It's not going to set the sales charts on fire, but the Toyota Verso-S more than justifies Toyota's faith in it.

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