Ask most people to name the original mini-MPV and they'll probably plump for the Renault Scenic. Toyota executives sigh wearily when they hear this, painfully aware that their version of the concept, the Picnic, was on sale at least six months earlier than the French car, but never really managed to capture the public's imagination in quite the same way as the Renault. Not to worry. The came back, unbowed and unapologetic, with another stab at the burgeoning market sector, the Avensis Verso competent in all the areas the Picnic was ineffectual.
The Verso boasts seven seats, now de rigeur for this particular class, and two engine options, a 147bhp 2.0-litre VVT-i petrol unit and the excellent D-4D 2.0-litre diesel that's good for 114bhp. The styling is tidy without being anything too wacky, which makes sound economic sense. MPV buyers tend to be a conservative bunch and steer clear of gratuitously indulgent designs. Safe styling sells. As does clever packaging, which the Avensis Verso boasts in spades. In order to fit seven people in, you need a long wheelbase. Therefore, the Toyota moves the fuel tank and spare wheel to free up extra passenger room, and even manages to provide a decent luggage capacity, although if loaded with seven people it may well be credit card, passport and toothbrush time.
That long wheelbase of 2825mm allows the Avensis Verso to offer the lowest overall height in its class along with a spacious interior. Dispensing with the usual altitude problem of mini-MPVs in turn has a beneficial effect on the Verso's centre of gravity. Whilst the third row of seats are fixed, the second row are on runners and all seats can be folded or removed entirely to create a viable five-person holiday wagon, and like most MPV contenders the seats can be folded into tables that can launch a McFlurry at incredible velocities during spirited braking. Gazing back into the gaping fuselage, the Verso seems more akin to a Ford Galaxy than a Renault Scenic and the tape measure certainly backs this assertion up.
Equipment is generous; the GS model being supplied with twin airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control, front air conditioning, a CD player, dark metallic trim and 15" alloys. The GLS adds, amongst other items, a satellite navigation system, 16" wheels, roof rails, air conditioning all round and a leather steering wheel/gearknob/handbrake ensemble.
No reported faults as yet. As with any mini-MPV the Avensis Verso will have been used to ferry children back and forth, so check for rips, stains and other damage to upholstery and minor trim parts. Also bear in mind that most Versos are used in urban areas, so check for parking knocks.
(Based on a 2.0-litre Avensis Verso GS - ex Vat) Bear in mind that many spares will be covered under the three-year/60,000 mile warranty. Consumable, on the other hand, are fairly cheap, with an air filter retailing at around £22, a fuel filter costing £27, an oil filter around £14 and spark plugs priced at approximately £4 each. There's a minor service to consider at 10,000 miles and a major one at 20,000.
As well as the impressive space, you'll also get an engine good for 43.5mpg in the diesel D-4D, or able to sprint to 60mph in 11.2 seconds in the case of the 2.0-litre VVT-i. The diesel is only a second slower to 60mph, and is only 7mph shy of the 2.0-litre model's 119mph top speed. Toyota also claim the shortest stopping distances in class due to the Verso's powerful brakes, boosted by electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. Toyota make great play of the car's light weight of just 1445kg - although this is more than a Zafira, a Multipla or even the outgoing Picnic model.
The 2.0-litre VVT-i versions offer the option of a Super Electronically Controlled Transmission, known to most of us as an automatic. This is controlled by a pistol grip lever on the dashboard that shoots between four gears, unfortunately denying you the pleasure of loosing off a whole clip of six. That's not too much of a hardship, however, as the gearchange is smoother than a soft focus 10x8 of Des Lynam
An excellent used buy for the family. Choose with the usual care and be rewarded with years of peace of mind.