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Proud of its versatility.

Byline: EDWARD STEPHENS

PUT an S on the end of a car's name and it normally stands for Sport.

But Toyota is breaking the mould with its new Verso-S - because this time it stands for small, spacious and smart.

The Verso-S is its new mini MPV, which prides itself on being small on the outside but big on the inside.

The Tardis-like Verso-S is one of the smallest vehicles in the mini MPV segment, but it's a full five-seater with a spacious double-decker luggage area.

And to launch it the Japanese car maker is offering special prices for customers who buy within the first six months of it going on sale on March 1. The range starts with the six-speed manual TR version, priced normally at pounds 14,645 but for six months offered at the special price of pounds 13,995.

Step up to the T Spirit version - which means you also get 16-inch alloy wheels, a full length panoramic glass roof, rear privacy glass and electric windows all round - and it will cost you pounds 14,995 now, but pounds 15,745 when the full price is introduced.

Both models are available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic gearbox, which costs an additional pounds 1,000.

Measuring less than four metres long the Verso-S has a cute, bug-like appearance from the front, with its slightly raised headlamps looking like eyes.

The wheels are tucked right into the corners for excellent road-holding and there is very little bodywork extending beyond them, making it an ideal city car. Narrow pillars and large windows mean good all-round visibility.

All models have a 1.3-litre petrol engine which boasts diesel-like economy, with manual versions averaging 51.4mpg and CVT versions 54.3mpg. Diesel versions will not be available in the UK. Inside there is a surprising amount of both head and leg room thanks to clever interior design work. The front seats, for example, are of a new slim style which allows plenty of knee room in the back.

The rear seat backs can be lowered to form a completely flat, van-like cargo area by simply pulling easy-to-reach levers in the boot area. Loading is simple as the tailgate is sensibly cut into the bumper so you have no awkward lip.

And what you can't get into the luggage area can probably be accommodated in one of the 19 storage compartments within the car.

I liked the uncluttered dashboard with its large, easy to read speedometer and rev counter. And in the centre console there is a six inch full colour touch screen multimedia system.

You can use the touch screen to operate the radio, CD. MP3 player and Bluetooth mobile phones, and from May owners can upgrade it to incorporate a new navigation pack option.

All Verso-S models have a rear view camera to help with reversing. The image of what's behind the car appears on this same screen when reverse is engaged.

The electric power steering is light and there is a small turning circle, so itmakes easy work of parking anywhere.

The Verso-S is no hot hatch but nor does it pretend to be with a 0-62mph acceleration time of 13.3 seconds for the manual and 13.7 seconds for the CVT.

On the other hand its mid-range performance is very respectable and there is no problem in cruising at the motorway maximum - and above to a top speed over 100mph where legal.

The CVT version is perhaps a little noisier as it builds to its cruising speed, but once there that noise drops. Driving it is certainly relaxing as the system finds the perfect gearing for every occasion.

On the road this little car is agile, manoeuvrable and ideally suited to life in the town or city.

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SPACIOUS: The new Toyota Verso-S
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Feb 25, 2011
Words:641
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