Toyota Proace

Toyota Proace lr
The versatile and family friendly Toyota Proace

By Tim Saunders

How to transport eight people in luxury?

A conundrum for a large family or indeed business people. The answer: The Toyota Proace Verso Family Medium.

Toyota’s been making vehicles like this for quite some time. When I was at school a friend of mine came from a large family, who proudly owned a Spacecruiser, the equivalent of the Renault Espace at the time. The Proace is larger, more spacious and there’s greater luxury with its all round black leather seats, electric windows, air conditioning, rear privacy glass and even a cooled glovebox. But it doesn’t stop there because the front seats massage the driver and passenger and are also heated as is the rear bench seat. My wife Caroline has also discovered that the sliding doors can be opened from inside simply by kicking them in the nicest possible way.

To look at it’s basically a van with a sliding rear door on each side for easy access in tight spaces. But on further inspection it is a very cool van, reminiscent of the one used by the A-Team in that hit 1980s TV series. The middle row of three seats easily folds down and pushes forward allowing access to the rear three seats. This row of passengers also benefit from folding tables fitted to the back of the front seats. These tables are fitted with helpful straps that prevent water bottles from falling to the floor when tackling roundabouts.

When sitting inside the first thing you notice is that it is very high off the road. It is so high that it even dwarfs Range Rovers, VW Caravelles and an old Renault Espace we drive past. The black leather seats are comfortable and supportive and it’s quick to get the desired driving position thanks to the driver’s seat being electrically adjustable. It is necessary to reverse it off our driveway and I am used to many cars these days having a camera view to ease this manoeuvre. I am surprised that the Proace does not have one and makes do with beeps to alert the driver to any obstacles. I would feel more comfortable with a camera view due to the rear headrests obscuring the view out of the back window.

We take it for a spin down to Abbotsbury in Dorset expecting the 75 mile journey to take the usual hour and a quarter but the sheer volume of traffic more than doubles the journey time. Shocking. It is literally nose to tail all the way. But when you have no appointments to keep and there are good tunes on the radio, plenty of food on board, life is less stressful. As we watch motorists undercutting and trying to barge their way in front of others, we calmly move forward slower than a snail. The children are busy looking out for breakdowns, emergency vehicles with their flashing lights and keeping an eye out for naughty motorists who are glued to their phones when they should be focussing on the road.

The eight speed automatic gearbox makes light work of the continual stop start. There’s also an automatic cut off which is useful. The M27 is one of the most polluted roads in the UK and it really must be terrible during our journey. The air conditioning is working overtime as temperatures soar to 33 degrees Celsius outside.

Prior to driving this I was in an eighth generation VW Golf and surprised to find that it did not have a sat nav. The Proace does and it’s a user-friendly, efficient system.

It holds its own on the motorway and the cruise control is pretty reliable keeping up with the speed of the traffic, slowing down as required. There are occasions when the system just cancels out though with a warning sign flashing on the dashboard.

Often the speedometer is on the right and the revs are on the left. Not so in the Proace, which takes a little getting used to. There are plenty of cubby holes for storage in the front. Reading the user manual I discover that it is also possible to open the sliding doors with a kicking action of the foot underneath the rear bumper. Try as I might I can’t get this to work and leave the neighbours thinking I am just a little bit mad.

It’s an excellent vehicle for transporting families and extended families and if eight seats is too much, some of them can be removed and stored in the garage, making it an extremely versatile van. You can see how it could also be good for business travel. Its 69-litre fuel tank will allow it to travel around 500 miles.

Facts at a glance:

Toyota Proace Verso Family Medium
Price: £41,195
Engine: 2-litre diesel
Top speed: 114mph
0-60mph: 8.8secs
Power: 174bhp
Economy: 35 to 40mpg
CO2 emissions: 159/193g/km


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