Fleet News

Toyota Corolla Verso

Toyota

Review

And it predicts that demand for this type of car will grow even more as part of a general trend towards MPVs.

The manufacturer is sure that ease of use will be one of the key points to its sales success and that is why engineers have designed the forthcoming Corolla Verso so the rear five seats fold flat to the floor – not having to manually remove them and then store them somewhere is a major bonus.

Due for launch next month, the car will compete against the likes of the Volkswagen Touran, Renault Grand Scenic and Vauxhall Zafira, but Toyota is confident, through the clinics it has run with the public, that it will prove a popular draw with MPV adherents.

At the launch in southern Spain, Johannes Thammer, vice-president for product and sales planning, said: 'The new Corolla Verso aims to break new ground in terms of design and modularity.

'We are sure that its unique characteristics, which we refer to as dynamic versatility, will appeal especially to young parents who are looking for ways to continue their active lifestyles despite the fact that they have children and who are not willing to compromise on style.'

Toyota's research suggests that today's MPV buyers want to be able to transport more than five people in the car, explaining why seven-seaters are becoming increasingly popular. A spokesman for the company added: 'The interior size is now considered second to the usability and practicality of the space. A full flat floor is an asset.'

Among rivals, the Vauxhall Zafira has a rear pair of seats that can fold flat and a middle row with folding backrests and the Grand Scenic a rear pair where the bases fold forwards and the backs fold flat.

Toyota expects to sell about 6,000 units in the UK this year, increasing sales to 10,000 units a year by 2006.

User-choosers will be targeted with the new vehicle but corporate sales are likely to account for less than 20% of total sales.

It will come with a choice of three trim levels: T2, T3 and T Spirit.

The manufacturer says the car is the first in its segment to have nine airbags as standard, including a driver's knee airbag.

Other competitive standard features include seven three-point seatbelts, ISOFIX child seat mounts, ABS brakes, remote central locking with card-key and push-button start, electric front windows, a CD player and manual air-conditioning.

T3 versions get full climate control, electric rear windows, alloy wheels and stability control while the T Spirit adds an in-car entertainment system with headrest-mounted DVD screens.

There will be a choice of three engines, a 1.6-litre (T2 only) and 1.8 petrol and 2.0 D-4D turbodiesel.

Each one is offered with five-speed manual transmission, although the 1.8-litre VVT-i is also available with an automated manual gearbox.

This system promises to improve fuel consumption when driven in automatic mode over manual.

Behind the wheel

ALTHOUGH from the outside the new Corolla Verso looks like a typical MPV – and that's not intended as a criticism – I immediately fell for its funky, minimalist interior.

It uses colours well to create an area that feels light and airy but also looks great. The centre console is neat and trendy.

At its launch in Seville, we drove the 1.8-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel versions. The 1.8, with a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds, needed plenty of revs to really get it going but ride quality was car-like and comfortable, with wind and road noise kept to a minimum.

Although our chosen route avoided any tight mountainous roads, it did include a mixture of country lanes and motorways and steering proved to be light and ideal for weaving in and out of those narrow-laned Spanish villages.

The 2.0-litre turbodiesel proved an impressive performer, boasting the attributes of common rail engineering such as low engine noise and smooth acceleration. Power is up to 114bhp from 89bhp in the outgoing model, giving a quick response to pressure on the accelerator. Economy is impressive, too, at 45.6mpg.

There's not much room around the Corolla Verso's rear set of seats, but they'll be fine for the kids. Loyal Toyota owners wanting more space can instead opt for the Avensis Verso, which fits into the premium MPV market.

Space available to passengers in the second row of seats is generous and headroom inside the vehicle is enormous. Laying the rear seats flat is an easy procedure and it removes the hassle of having to remove the seats manually and find somewhere to store them.

Passengers in the middle row of three seats can also slide them back and forth independently, adding to comfort levels.

Options worthy of note fitted to our test cars included a DVD system which is guaranteed to keep the youngsters quiet for at least a couple of hours (see picture below) and a 'cornering assist' camera, which comes as part of the optional sat-nav system.

Although quirky in that it allows you to 'see' around blind corners using a camera built into the middle of the grille, it is not something you should rely upon, as its range is only 20 metres in both directions. It's probably best used as an extra safety feature to help spot cyclists or pedestrians rather than a fast-approaching car.

Driving verdict

The new kid on the block of the popular MPV sector is a fine contender with some competitive price and equipment levels – and the fact you can fold the seats flat without having to remove them is a major plus.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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