Toyota's compact and mini-MPV Versos are moving closer to the core: growth in this sector has reached record levels and dealers will be expected to double sales in 2004. Last year, Toyota sold 3,000 Corolla Versos and with the introduction of an all-new, sharp-looking model in May, the Japanese manufac-turer is looking to sell 6,000.
Most of this increase will come from natural market growth. Last year, sales of mini-MPVs reached 200,000 and within two years analysts say this segment will account for 230,000 units. While the Citroen Picasso, Renault Scenic and Vauxhall Zafira will make up about 60% of the segment, Toyota is going for a modest 4% market share.
But by 2006, Toyota expects Corolla Verso sales (all models have seven seats) to hit 10,000, capitalising on the shift to seven-seaters that could see newcomers like the Ford Focus C-max left out in the cold.
So isn't Toyota being a little conservative? “We anticipate demand to run ahead of available supply,” says Mark Hall, Toyota GB general manager for vehicle marketing. “Unlike a lot of major players in this market, we will not be relying on high discounts to drive sales.” It will not be offering bonus related incentives either.
Best seller is likely to be the manual 1.8-litre petrol in T3 spec which, as well as CD player and ABS, includes 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, front and rear electric windows, auto air con and cruise control for £16,995. Petrol will be closely followed by demand for diesel.
All Toyota retailers will be asked to take top-of-the-range Tspirit models (with headrest mounted DVD player) as demonstrators. Among the options are DVD-based satellite navigation and cornering assist monitor packages – the latter involving small video cameras at the front and rear transmit-ting images to a dash-mounted TV screen.
Built on an all-new platform, body stiffness is up 10%, which helps reduce corner roll. Suspension improvements mean a high level of ride quality and better road holding thanks to a wider track.
Strengths: Lexus-style build quality, excellent ride and handling
Weaknesses: Third row of seats practical only for small children
Opportunities: Gives dealers the chance to capitalise on a growing market Threats: ...but is it too late for Toyota to make an impression?
USP: Sharp looks, sharp handling, and it can double as a van
Prices: £14,495 to £19,795 Engines: Petrol 1.6, 1.8; diesel 2.0 Trims: T3, Tspirit
Transmission: 5sp manual, 5sp MMT
Performance: 0-62mph 10.8-12.7sec; top speeds 109-121mph
Efficiency: 165-179g/km CO2; 36.7-45.6mpg comb
CAP RV (3yr/30k): 41-42% (est)
Rivals: Vauxhall Zafira; Renault Grand Scenic; Citroen Picasso, VW Touran