What Car? says...
The Toyota Proace Verso could be the answer to the question: "What should I get if I need to carry more than seven people and all their luggage at once?"
You see, it's available in a nine-seat version so even families too big for most MPVs and SUVs are well catered for. There’s also an eight-seater and a semi-luxury VIP model with seating for "just" seven, and the versatility doesn't stop there – there are two lengths to choose from, the Long and Medium, and three engine options (all diesel).
If reading all that has left you with the impression that the Proace Verso is more like a minibus than a car, well, that's not actually far from the truth. It's similar to the Ford Tourneo Custom, Mercedes V-Class and Volkswagen Multivan in the sense that Toyota has taken what is basically a minibus underneath and sprinkled it with car-like creature comforts.
That formula doesn’t always add up to a winning combination. Van-based MPVs can suffer from less-than-inspiring driving dynamics and spartan interiors because of their commercial underpinnings. The best of them, though, offer the right blend of serious out-and-out practicality with just enough luxury to feel more like a car than a van.
So where does the Toyota Proace Verso fit into the broad spectrum of people carriers, and how does it compare with the rivals we've mentioned? Read on through this comprehensive review to find out whether it's good to drive, how comfortable all those passengers will be, whether the running costs are manageable, which trims and engines we rate and much more.
When you're ready to buy a new vehicle of any make and model, don't forget that you can track down the best prices available by using the free What Car? New Car Buying service, where you'll find some top new Toyota Proace Verso deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Toyota Proace Verso engine range kicks off with the 1.5-litre diesel with 118bhp, which is quite weedy for a car this size (especially if you go for the nine-seater). The 0-62mph sprint time is a leisurely 12.0sec, so we’d recommend spending a little more for the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel. It has more low-end power and doesn’t need to be worked as hard to get up to speed.
The final option is a 2.0-litre diesel with 178bhp and a standard automatic gearbox. It's considerably quicker (0-62mph is done in 8.8sec), the extra power makes motorway driving easier and the ’box is smooth, if a little slow, when changing gear. The only trouble is that it’s much more expensive than the 148bhp version and is not available with the full nine seats.
Overall, the performance on offer in the line-up is fairly similar to most other van-based MPVs, although if you are after out-and-out pace, the Mercedes V-Class is quicker.
The Proace Verso is relatively comfortable when you're ambling along (certainly more so than the stiffer-sprung Volkwagen Caravelle), and there's a gentle waftiness on smooth but undulating roads that suits relaxed driving. Sadly, the calm is shattered by suspension noise when you run over broken road surfaces or expansion joints, with the car bobbing noticeably.
Refinement is good in both 2.0 versions, with little vibration and hushed manners when you’re at a cruise. It’s far more pleasant an experience than in the Renault Trafic Passenger with its intolerable wind noise levels and higher road noise due to a lack of carpet in any version to dampen the sound.
On twisty roads, it's all too clear that the Proace Verso is a van underneath. The steering is quite slow and there’s a lot of body roll if you corner with even moderate enthusiasm. There's less grip than in a regular MPV, and the front end gently washes wide if you’re going too quickly. Smaller MPVs – including the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Touran – are significantly more satisfying to drive quickly than the Proace Verso behemoth.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The first thing you notice when you clamber into the Toyota Proace Verso is just how high up you sit. Even with the height-adjustable driver’s seat on its lowest setting, you tower over SUVs and have a commanding view of the road.
Visibility is, for the most part, very good because of the vehicle's boxy shape, but the shape of the nose means you're never quite sure where the front bumper is, making it tricky to park.
It’s also worth remembering that the Long version is, well, long. That can make finding a parking space a real chore. Fortunately, rear parking sensors are supplied across the range for when you do find a big enough slot, and VIP trim adds a reversing camera (front parking sensors are not available).
When you look around the interior, it’s clear that you’re in something that’s basically a van. There might be lashings of chrome-effect trim and, if selected, leather seats, but the acres of hard plastic give the game away. The Mercedes V-Class is quite a lot prettier inside.
All versions get a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, a DAB radio, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring and a USB socket. It’s a fairly easy system to navigate but some of the icons are small and it can be a bit sluggish to respond to commands.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The option of having your Toyota Proace Verso in one of two lengths (Medium and Long) is quite unusual for an MPV. It’s important to be aware, though, that the distance between the front and rear wheels is the same no matter which version you go for so passenger space is unaffected. The key difference is that Long models have a much bigger boot.
Compared with the Ford Galaxy – itself a very big MPV compared to regular cars – the Proace Verso feels huge inside, with space suitable for full-sized adults in all three rows.
Shuttle trim is your best bet if you need the maximum number of seats. It's available in Medium and Long lengths, and has nine seats as standard (three rows of three). Family versions (only available in Medium length) can take eight, with two individual seats replacing the front bench: both versions have Isofix child seat points across all second and third row seats.
Finally, Long-only VIP models seat seven. There are two seats for the second row and three at the back as standard, plus a sliding central armrest with pop-out tray tables for executives on the go.
All trims above Family have second and third rows of seats that can be slid backwards and forwards, and can also be reclined, depending on whether you want more space or more comfort. If needed, the two rows of seats can be removed entirely for a load area that’s as cavernous as (surprise, surprise) a van’s. Just bear in mind that the seats are pretty hefty.
There is lots of storage dotted around the interior, including some of the biggest door pockets around, two gloveboxes, a cubby on the top of the dash and a handy shelf by the USB port that’s the perfect size for a smartphone.
The useful 550-litre boot in the nine-seater Medium version doubles in size to 980 litres if you go for a Long version with the same number of seats – a Galaxy has a 300-litre boot, while a Mercedes V-Class gets 610 litres.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
You certainly get a lot of floor space for your money with the Toyota Proace Verso, and entry-level versions cost less than the smaller Ford Galaxy.
As you work your way up the trim levels, the price rockets, but even the most expensive version is cheaper than the entry-level Mercedes V-Class. Fuel economy will be worse than the Galaxy's, but on a par with similar-sized van-based MPVs.
We’d stick with the 148bhp 2.0 diesel engine, in Family trim if you want eight seats and a few luxuries, or the more basic Shuttle model to take advantage of the nine-seat option while keeping the price down.
Shuttle trim gets you the 7.0in touchscreen, automatic lights and wipers, and climate control, while Family trim adds automatic emergency braking (AEB), heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display and keyless entry. Range-topping VIP trim is far too expensive to recommend but gets additional safety kit including driver attention alert and blind-spot monitoring, as well as the seven-seat layout which includes second row ‘captain’ chairs with 180-degree rotation.
Every Proace Verso comes with a three-year warranty, with the option of extending that up to 10-years or 100,000 miles if you have your car serviced annually at a Toyota dealer. You probably won’t have to call on it, though, because Toyota has a fantastic record when it comes to dependability, finishing joint fifth out of 30 manufacturers in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey.