Toyota produced the Avensis Verso between 2002 and 2006, designed to be capable of seating seven people as a contender in the large MPV category. It's known only as the Avensis in Australia, as the original mid-size car was just sold in Europe and the US.
The Avensis Verso is a stub-nosed car, with a reclined windscreen that sharply drops off at the front. The roof has the slightest of curves, maintaining its height along the length of the vehicle. While not the most head-turning of MPVs on the market, the Avensis Verso does have massive boot space, and with the two rear seats dropped, it can hold 512L of suitcases, shopping, or DIY building materials.
Volume and versatility are its main selling points, with its diversity in seat arrangements - 18 available combinations in all - and its vast interior making for a multi-adjustable storage area. This makes carrying goods and people a comfortable affair. The front is roomy with plenty of legroom, and with the right seat placement, even rear-seated passengers experience relative ease.
The Avensis Verso was well received and won Best People Mover in both 2002 and 2003, allaying doubts about the car's credentials and respect within the automobile industry. The design was as a replacement for the Toyota Spacia, and it also provided Toyota with a commercially competitive, entry-level MPV car for the larger 7-seat Tarago. The Avensis Verso came in three trims: the basic Avensis, the higher-spec GLX, and the automatic-only transmission, top-range Ultima.
The Avensis Verso was based around the design of the second-generation Avensis and initially came fitted with a 2.0L VVTi engine, hooked up to either a 5-speed manual or automatic gearbox. This was able to produce 110kW and 192Nm torque, and with the pedal flat to the floor, it accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 11.4 seconds. Fuel consumption, as you'd expect from a large car, was on the thirsty side, draining around 11.5L/100km on city streets and 34L/100km on the open road.
Later versions were fitted with the larger 2.4L DOHC engine to counter concerns over the car's performance when fully loaded with kids and boxes.
Changing gears may require some mental adjustment for some drivers as Toyota has fitted a dash-mounted gearstick rather than the more common floor stick. There are reports of the occasional driver catching their knee whilst driving, but with a little practice, avoiding this soon becomes second nature.
When considering your family's carbon footprint, the Toyota Avensis Verso has been found in emissions testing to release 202g/km of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The 2.0L engine is surprisingly responsive and gives out quite a kick; however, there is some sluggishness with lots of gear changes to be expected, especially on hilly roads, when driving the car fully loaded.
The standard GLX version comes complete with dual airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, ABS with brake force distribution, dual control air-con, keyless entry, powered mirrors, CD player, and Toyota's one-touch power window mechanism. A little extra cash bought you 16-inch alloy wheels, front seat airbags, curtain airbags in the rear, roof bars and rear spoiler, front fog lamps, sumptuous leather upholstery and steering wheel cover, and warm, wooden interior trim.
Both trims are finished to a high standard, and other options include cassette player, satnav, remote locking, and a 6-speaker sound system. The interior, as well as being good looking, is hardwearing and durable - essential if you are using the car for transporting kids and dogs.
Toyota is known for producing reliable, steady, and secure cars. If you are looking for a vehicle that looks after your family well, provides a comfortable ride, and handles nicely on the road without making pretensions about breaking land speed records then the Avensis Verso is a good choice. It's a competent, well-engineered car that does the job.
Toyota expects the Avensis Verso to be seen alongside the likes of the trend-setting Honda Odyssey, the VW Caddy Life, a kind of Golf-version MPV, or the Passat. Where it does compete excellently is on refinement and price; cost-conscious buyers will find good value for their money. It is a less-expensive MPV than its rivals, but you won't miss out on interior quality or style.