Regarded as a more stylish MPV than its stablemate, the Toyota Condor, the fully-imported Corolla-based Verso features a revolutionary new seating system called Easy Flat 7.

Regarded as a more stylish MPV than its stablemate, the Toyota Condor, the fully-imported Corolla-based Verso features a revolutionary new seating system called Easy Flat 7.

Launched in South Africa barely one month after its international release, this is the first right-hand market outside of Europe to receive the Verso. The Verso has been heralded as the logical extension of the Corolla and RunX ranges since the last wagon version of the Corolla was phased out in 1986, said vice president of marketing communications at Toyota SA, Francois Loubser.

The Verso is produced solely at the company's Turkish plant in Adapazari. Intensive market research in Europe found consumers wanted an MPV with flexible seating for up to seven occupants and a sporty road manner with a stylish appearance.

Using the Easy Flat-7 system, the seats (excluding the front two) can be folded down into the floor with a one-touch folding action using a system of links. The back of the seat is left flush with the vehicle's deck and there is no need to remove the headrests before folding the seats down. Toyota said the set-up provides up to 32 different seating configurations.

The Japanese engineers also developed an all-new longer 2 750-mm wheelbase, which is about 6 cm longer than the "standard" new Renault Scénic, to accommodate the Verso's added demands.

Initially, only a 1,8-litre petrol unit of the Verso is available in this country. For all Verso models, the maximum power is rated at 95 kW at 6 000 r/min and the maximum torque at 170 N.m at 4 200 r/min.

A diesel model can be expected when local fuel meets European sulphur-content standards. Transmissions are a five-speed manual and five-speed M-MT (multi-mode manual transmission with the choice of "auto" and sequential-shift modes). Toyota claims the manual Verso accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 10,8 seconds and the M-MT version in 12,7 seconds. The Verso should reach a maximum speed of 195 km/h.

The Verso features fresh styling, a raked roofline, a revised front end, an acoustic windscreen (the first such application in its segment), a knee airbag for the front passenger (taking the total of airbags to nine) and rebound front springs. An electronic key unit is inserted into a slot to turn on the ignition and pressing the start/stop button brings the 1,8-litre unit to life.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts in front, with a torsion beam and coils at the rear. Further standard features include disc brakes all round with ABS and EBD, power steering with rake and reach adjustment and height adjustable front sport seats. The SX model also has BAS, alloy wheels and automatic rain sensors as standard.

For the first time in a South African Corolla, the Verso 180 SX comes standard with cruise control. It also has curtain airbags above all passenger doors while the Verso 180 TX has MMT as standard.

Prices start at R209 400 for the 180 and R227 400 for the 180 SX. The MMT-equipped version of the 180 SX sells for R235 000 and the 180 TX cost R249 000.