The 2014 Toyota Verso is the first model to benefit from the company's new partnership with BMW. It gets a BMW-sourced 1.6-litre diesel engine, which has been adapted with the aim of delivering enough performance and economy to keep up with newer rivals.
The new 1.6 D-4D version – which borrows its engine from the previous generation Mini Cooper D – is 8% more efficient that the 2.0 D-4D it replaces, and brings CO2 emissions down to 119g/km. However, the Verso still isn't as efficient as diesel versions of the class-leading Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, which emit 109g/km and 105g/km respectively.
This new 1.6 diesel version is available with seven seats only, although the cheaper petrol version is available with five seats.
What’s the 2014 Toyota Verso 1.6 D-4D like to drive?
Even before you’ve got inside, you’ll notice that the Verso is remarkably compact for a seven-seat MPV. In fact, it’s about the same size as the five-seat Citroen C4 Picasso.
Its relatively small footprint will appeal to anyone nervous about parking a larger car, and most models get a reversing camera which makes the Verso even easier to manoeuvre with confidence.
The new 1.6-litre diesel engine is less impressive, though. It's gruff on start up, and things only get worse when you pull away because even under gentle acceleration you feel lots of vibration through the steering column, pedals and floorpan.
Rev the engine harder and the low-frequency resonance and turbo whoosh quickly changes to a lorry-like clatter, and even slowing down isn't a hushed experience because you hear the transmission whining away loudly.
Perfomance isn't anything to write home about, either, because although the Verso's engine picks up from low revs, it runs out of puff earlier than many modern diesel engines, so ultimately the Toyota isn't as fast as its key rivals.
The ride is a mixed bag; the Verso soaks up big bumps well enough and feels more tied down than a Grand C4 Picasso along undulating roads – it does fidget around a bit too much over patchy surfaces, though, and you can hear the suspension going about its business quite loudly.
Body control is fairly good by MPV standards, especially through corners, which keeps occupants relatively upright.
Wind and road noise are also fairly well suppressed, meaning the Verso is pretty hushed at a steady motorway cruise.
What’s 2014 the Toyota Verso 1.6 D-4D like inside?
The seats in the middle row all slide and fold independently, so the Verso is more practical than some smaller MPVs. However, the system isn’t as quick or easy to use as those in the best rivals – including the Grand C4 Picasso.
It’s a relatively compact seven-seater, so boot space isn’t as generous as in larger MPVs, either. You get 155 litres with all the seats upright, or 440 if you stow the third row. By comparison, the Citroen has 632 litres in five-seat configuration.
There’s a reasonable range of adjustment for the driver, and the space inside means that four adults will be comfortable enough, too. The rear row of seats is suitable for children only.
The dashboard is uninspiring, but entirely functional. The controls are easy to get used to, and all the plastics and trim feel solid and well put together.
The company’s new 'Touch 2' infotainment system is standard on all bar the base model. This 6.1-inch touch-screen set-up adds Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a rear-view camera. The optional 'Touch 2 and Go' system adds sat-nav and access to Google Street View.
Entry-level Active trim gets electric front windows, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver's seat.
Mid-spec Icon trim (at £21,995) is the best value for most buyers. It includes climate control, cruise control, front and rear electric windows and Bluetooth, plus 16-inch alloys and the Touch 2 infotainment system.
Adding the sat-nav function costs an extra £650, or you can get it as standard on the new – and pricier – Trend trim.
Should I buy one?
If you rarely need seating for seven, and care more about reliability than outright practicality, the Verso 1.6 D-4D is worth a look. However, for most people, the whole point of buying an MPV is that they need lots of space and seating flexibility, so the fact the plenty of rivals do these things better (and for similar money) is an issue.
Then there's the new 1.6 diesel engine. It's seriously coarse and noisy, and while it's more efficient than the old 2.0-litre diesel it replaces, the Verso is still considerably more expensive to run as a company car than rivals from Vauxhall and Citroen.
The Zafira Tourer 1.6 CDTi is also better to drive, more comfortable and much more refined, plus it's also more practical and actually costs a similar amount to buy when you factor in discounts.
The Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 e-HDi is where our money would go, though – it’s priced almost identically to comparable Verso models, and while it doesn't handle any better, it's more comfortable, more refined, has a larger and more user-friendly cabin and is much classier inside.
What Car? says…
Specification 1.6 D-4D
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £19,215
Torque 199lb ft
0-62mph 12.7 seconds
Top speed 115mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg
CO2 output 119g/km