Room to manoeuvre

2011-03-11 13:16

Cramped. Hot. Uncomfortable. These words describe the long road trips I have been on time and time again – ever since I could walk.

Cramped in a car packed with too much “stuff” and with too little space to put it all.

There should be a law that states: when travelling more than 400km to a holiday destination, in a sedan or hatchback, there can be no more than two or three occupants in that vehicle.

The act of carrying more than that in a three- or five-door vehicle classified as a sedan or hatchback should get one arrested.

There are many reasons for this, but only one is really important: space.

There is simply not enough space for more than two occupants over a long distance, with their luggage, pillows, packets and padkos.

This is where the Toyota Verso 1.8 SX CVT comes in. There is ample room for five occupants to travel comfortably, with their luggage safely stored in the back, over long distances.

It can also double as a useful seven-seater when ­visiting family or taking the gang out for the day.

And because of all that space, the essential padkos will not be competing with heads and legs and bags for breathing room.

But be warned: the third row should only be reserved for kids.

This is a car for long journeys. Leg room is ample for both front and rear passengers, and as a tall person I can testify to the satisfying head room.

There are storage compartments aplenty and cup?holders everywhere, so no more accidental spills while trying to sip your ­Fanta Grape from a styrofoam cup.

The ride is comfortable too, and this car is fuel-efficient for its size.

Indeed, the long road is an all-the-more comfortable place if it is ­negotiated from within the comfort of a quiet, spacious, air-conditioned vehicle like the Verso.

The one thing I disliked was the continuously variable transmission (CVT) gearbox.

True, it’s a new ­innovation in the range and can give this mummy car some kick.

But the ­reality is it is complex.

This is the second face-lifted model, after all, that’s in the market to replace the one from two years ago.

This model is 70mm longer and introduces Toyota’s easy flat-7 system, which offers as many as 32 different configurations for the three rows of seats.

In essence this system allows for a completely flat load bed when the second and third rows of seats are folded down, which is great on long road trips for two.

This is, essentially, a family car which will be driven by mummies to and from school, ballet and the mall.

I questioned the necessity of the paddles behind the steering wheel which allow drivers to shift gears manually.

I rarely used the paddles, and I’m sure most people would not even notice them.

Shifting paddles are most often associated with sports cars and fast saloons, which the Verso cetainly is not.

That being said, however, there is enough oomph when needed, as was evident on the bumpy, twisty and just plain dusty gravel roads the car was tested on in and around Knysna and George.

Ultimately the question is: should you buy one?

For many reasons, yes you should. It is comfortable, spacious and makes perfect sense – except for the CVT gearbox.

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