Toyota is returning to the B-MPV segment in Europe with the Verso-S currently being launched.

The new model, known as the Ractis in Japan, is the first car Toyota has offered in the segment it invented over 10 years ago with the Yaris Verso which was axed in 2006.

And its timing is good. European sales in the segment have almost tripled since 2002 as people downsize from the C-segment (Ford C-Max et al) while wanting to retain the space and flexibility of the larger vehicles.

Front seat headroom and rear passenger space are almost on a par with many C-segment models.

Two engines are available; Toyota’s 1.3-litre VVT-i emitting 127g/km of CO2 with standard six speed manual gearbox and 120g/km for the continuously variable transmission option – the first of its kind to be offered on a B-segment MPV. A 1.4-litre diesel is the alternative engine.

The panoramic roof fitted as standard to the T Spirit model is the largest in its class starting from almost directly behind the windscreen and stretching back over the rear passenger seats. It can be covered with a neat, electrically operated roller blind.

Toyota Motor Europe expects to sell 25,000 models across the region this year and 30,000 in 2012, the first full year of sales. The company said it expected the diesel to account for 75%.

At just under 4m, this is the smallest and lightest model in its class with 45% of the bodyshell made from light, high-tensile steel.

Fabricating the wiring loom from aluminium has realized a 30% weight saving compared to a traditional copper harness. Weight has also been taken out of the seats while the panoramic roof featured on the higher specification versions is resin bonded to the bodyshell, again to reduce weight.

Toyota’s green route navigator