Under the bonnet of Toyota's Verso 1.6 D-4D diesel is a purebred slice of BMW and it's all the better for it as Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Toyota Verso was already a very competitive package in the seven-seater compact MPV sector. Its only real Achilles heel lay in diesel engines that were slightly off the pace in terms of economy and emissions. The latest 1.6 D-4D powerplant is sourced from BMW, gets 62.8mpg and now makes the Verso a seriously strong all-rounder.
Do you remember the Alfa Romeo Arna? That was a collaboration between Alfa Romeo and Nissan. We thought we were going to get some sexy Italian styling with brilliantly reliable Japanese mechanicals, but instead we got the opposite; dull as ditchwater Nissan styling with Alfa oily bits that seemed to have been signed off by the tea lady. It was a disaster. Some collaborations certainly work as a win-win though and Toyota's expertise in MPV vehicles combined with BMW's brilliance in diesel engine design seems, on the face of it, a flawless plan.
That's the formula behind the latest Toyota Verso 1.6 D-4D, a car that utilises much the same powerplant seen in the MINI Cooper D and the BMW 114d. While Toyota has developed its own diesels in the past, they've often been reliable but lacking the edge that distinguishes the very best diesel powerplants. In a tough corner of the market that was hurting sales. The Verso is now equipped to claim some illustrious scalps.
This 1.6 D-4D diesel engine might be similar to the engines found elsewhere in the BMW and MINI ranges, but Toyota realised that what works in a small, sporty car doesn't necessarily directly translate to an MPV. To that end, the company has made a series of detail modifications, including a revised dual-mass flywheel, re-engineered engine mounts and completely redesigned electrical interfaces. It is fitted to a Toyota six-speed manual transmission with stop-start technology, which is a first for the Verso range. The 1.6 diesel replaces the old 2.0-litre D-4D engine, delivering better efficiency and a 20kg weight saving. Maximum power is rated at 110bhp at 4,00rpm and peak torque is 270Nm, generated from 1,750 to 2,250rpm, so it'll never leave you feeling short-changed as you pull away from a junction. Acceleration to 62mph from a standstill is covered off in a briskish 12.7 seconds on the way to a 115mph top speed.
The engine has been tuned to deliver a fast throttle response throughout the rev range, with good initial response at low revs and, as turbo boost develops, a steady build-up of torque. The improved driveability the engine offers is also supported by the delivery of strong torque over a wider rev band, which means it will rev happily beyond 3,000rpm without feeling as if it's being punished. Spring settings have been modified to ensure the sort of body control and ride comfort that you expect from a Verso.
Design and Build
Unlike some similarly sized rivals, the Verso can seat seven and all five rear seats fold down into the floor to create a totally flat loading surface. This means that you won't need to haul heavy seats into and out of the car if ultimate carrying capacity is required. A lot of thought has gone into this system, the seats not only being the lightest in class but also requiring a simple one-touch operation to fold each one flat. As tends to be the case with compact MPVs, adult-sized persons will struggle to get into the rearmost seats.
The interior is resoundingly tough and well-built - something of a Toyota trademark. Soft-touch material has been introduced for the upper glovebox and, on some versions, Nappa leather is used around the steering wheel, door trims and armrest. There is now more storage around the cabin, including a twin-compartment glovebox that has a cooled upper section large enough to carry a 1.5-litre bottle, and an 8.2-litre lower section.
Market and Model
This latest Verso is a wholly European development, with vehicle planning, design and engineering all led in Europe where it's being built - at Toyota's Bursa plant in Turkey. As such, it's a product that should chime with the needs of European buyers and Toyota is bullish about its chances, predicting full year annual sales of about 50,000 units, although current sales actually look to be running at around 35,000 units per annum. The improved engine will help close the gap on the likes of the Citroen C4 Picasso, the Renault Scenic, the Ford C-MAX, the Volkswagen Touran and the Vauxhall Zafira. The engine deal is interesting because the last time Toyota Europe had to integrate another manufacturer's engine to an existing car was in the 1990s, when the Corolla used a 1.9-litre diesel from PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. With 32 per cent of the Verso's European sales coming from diesel engines, Toyota couldn't afford to fall off the pace.
All Verso models come with an MP3-compatible CD stereo as well as air-conditioning, electric front windows and electric wing mirrors. On higher grade versions, the seat bolsters are leather-covered with double stitching to match the armrest and door trims. Another detail touch is the introduction of a jack-knife style key. A full-length panoramic roof is also available, measuring 2,340 by 1,280mm, bringing significantly more light into the cabin and increasing the sense of spaciousness. The introduction of a value-packed Trend trim level to the range will appeal to private buyers. This gets Toyota Touch 2 with Go, adding satellite navigation, connected services, Google Street View and TomTom real time traffic data to the multimedia system's function. As well as a rear-view camera, the Verso Trend is equipped with front parking sensors as well.
Cost of Ownership
This 1.6-litre D-4D version scores extremely well at the pumps. Compared to the outgoing 2.0-litre D-4D which managed 57.6mpg and 129g/km while at the same time developing a maximum torque figure of 180Nm, the latest BMW-derived engine moves the game on quite clearly. Despite generating a stack more torque at 270Nm, the 1.6 D-4D unit gets 62.8mpg and emissions drop by 10g/km to just 119g/km. That's a wholly respectable figure for a seven-seat people carrier with the torque to drive seven people up a hill.
What's more, you can always buy a Toyota and feel reasonably confident that it isn't going to cripple you financially with repair bills as soon as the warranty runs out. The used market too has a healthy respect for the Japanese manufacturer's reliability record and the depreciation blow is softened as a result. The residual values of the old 2.0-litre D-4D looked extremely good compared to its key competitors. With this more competitive engine, the Verso looks set to be one of the very safest places to put your money in this particular sector.
The Toyota Verso is that very rarest of things, namely a car that credits its customers with knowing exactly what makes a great MPV. There aren't any headline-grabbing features, ostentatious styling quirks or marketing gimmicks to sucker you in. Instead what you get with this car is something that might at first seem a bit underwhelming but which becomes utterly indispensable to the extent that you'll soon wondered how you managed without it. In other words, a brilliant piece of product design.
Previously, this current generation Verso was a strong package let down by diesel engines that were falling a little off the pace. That Achilles heel has now been removed and unless you're looking for the very sportiest steer, it's hard to see how you'd be disappointed with this Toyota. It does what it's supposed to do extremely well. It was already one of our favourite compact seven-seaters. The addition of this excellent BMW-sourced engine only serves to cement that position.