We’ve got the Toyota Proace Verso Compact Family MPV in for review and test. Is a van-based people carrier still relevant.
In a world where car buyers are obsessed by SUVs and Crossovers, the market for traditional saloons and Hatchbacks continues to decline, and MPVs and People Carriers have been eschewed, to a great extent, in favour of SUVs too, with many, like the Peugeot 3008 morphing from one to the other.
For many years the Toyota Previa was as good a People Carrier as you could get, but in the face of a declining market in the UK – and low price competition – the Previa, despite still being sold in much of the rest of the world, was dropped from the UK market in 2005.
But Toyota does still deliver an MPV / People Carrier in the guise of the Toyota Proace Verso, in a choice of three grades – Shuttle, Family and VIP – and three body lengths – Compact, Medium and Long – to offer a wide enough choice to suit families and commercial users.
We’ve got the Compact Family version in for review and test to see what it has to offer for the larger family looking for a way to transport a bigger brood and/or more stuff. Just a van with windows, or a properly useful People Shifter?
Toyota Proace Verso Inside and Out
Sitting on the drive, this Proace Verso, despite being the ‘Compact’ size, looks like a modern day Black Mariah, with its dark windows, sliding doors and ‘peephole’ back windows. But, despite being based on the Proace Van it’s not as big as you might think.
In fact, in this ‘Compact’ spec, it’s only 4.6 metres long, which almost exactly the same length as a Toyota RAV4. Which is very deceptive, and makes the amount of room Toyota has packed in to the Proace even more remarkable.
It’s quite a jump up in to the Proace, and you do seem to look down on even full-sized SUVs, but it does inspire ‘I’m in Charge’ confidence.
The full height opening tail gate makes it easy to get stuff in and out of the back (although small drivers may need a ladder to shut it), and the sliding rear doors mean you can get bodies in and out even in confined parking spaces. Always a plus, particularly when you’ve got little ‘uns onboard.
Inside there really is plenty of room even in the back row – which will seat three – although you might need to shuffle positions to allocate enough leg room in the back two rows if you’re trying to fit full size adults in the back row.
But if you only need top transport five up most of the time, removing the back seats (they don’t fully fold away) is sensible, and if you do that you could certainly drive across the country with plenty of space for all, and their luggage for a fortnight.
Surprisingly, considering this is effectively a Proace van with seats and windows, it does feel car-like inside, with good fit and finish, quality (if not necessarily the greatest looking) plastics on show, and a decent spec.
In this Family model that means Toyota Safety Sense with Adaptive Cruise, AEB with pedestrian detection, cornering lights, forward collision warning, blind spot and HUD.
Comforts aren’t excluded from the standard spec list either, with electric windows, Air Con, cooled glovebox, Toyota Pro Touch Multimedia, Sat Nav, drop-down tables in the back, Auto lights and wipers and the ability to remove the back two rows of seats for a proper van load. And this ‘Premium Pack’ model also adds leather, heated electric front seats with massage, multi-function roof and surround sound.
It’s a versatile and well-equipped place.
Toyota Proace Verso On the Road
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Proace Verso started life as a van, so expectations of how it performs have to be tempered by that.
But despite its van origins, and in some ways because of them, the Proace is actually more capable than you might expect.
The high-riding position and relatively modest footprint make it very easy to negotiate congested urban areas, and on motorways it will sit happily at 80mph all day with a full payload. Which is probably as much as you could realistically expect.
Outright performance isn’t stellar, although the 2.0 litre diesel under the bonnet, mated here to a six-speed automatic ‘box, is good enough to keep up with normal traffic, gets to 62mph in 10.1 seconds and doesn’t feel like its struggling, and we managed around 40mpg in a week of mixed use. Which is admirable.
Yes, the engine is a bit noisy if pushed, the gearbox isn’t silky, the steering isn’t pin sharp and you do get the odd crash and bang over some surfaces, but none of it really matters when you consider what you’re in and how Toyota has managed to make the Proace Verso a relatively comfortable, easy drive.
An enthusiastic back road drive – which isn’t something owners will probably ever do – does reveal some weaknesses, with a fair bit of rock and roll going on and a tendency to push straight on if you head through a bend at a brisk pace. But who cares?
What matters is that the Proace Verso is safe, commodious and comfortable (most of the time), that it can keep up with traffic and not make passengers queasy. On the things that actually matter in the real world, the Proace Verso ticks the right boxes.
Toyota Proace Verso Verdict
We always thought it a shame that Toyota dropped the Previa in the UK in the face of competition from SUVs and low price alternatives, but if you have a big brood, or need to shift lots of stuff on a regular basis, there’s a lot to recommend the Proace Verso.
It’s relatively compact dimensions stop it from being cumbersome, its ability to take eight passengers makes it more versatile than a regular people carrier, and Toyota has done a pretty good job of making it feel car-like inside – with a big spec helping – even if it does drive like a well sorted van.
Its real competition is cars like the Citroen SpaceTourer and Peugeot Traveller – both the same under the skin as the Proace Verso – and the Mercedes-Benz V-Class, all offering proper family ‘Mini Bus’ credentials, and if you need the capacity and flexibility all that cleverly packaged space provides, the Toyota Verso Proace Compact Family is as good a way to go as any.
Toyota Proace Verso Compact Family Review Photo Gallery
Toyota Proace Verso Compact Family Review Tech Specs
- Engine: 1997cc: 130bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 10.1 seconds / Top Speed 106mph
- Economy: 49.6mpg – Official / 41.6mpg – Test
- Emissions: 151g/km
- Price: £37,055 – Price as Tested £40,385
- Test car supplied by Toyota UK