THAT Cheryl Cole popped up on my Facebook the other day.
It would seem the awful contest that thrusts people into the spotlight who shouldn't be there – The X Factor – is returning to our screens imminently. Not my screen – I can't stand that rubbish after watching it in its early years.
Year after year, average singers with tearful stories, or good singers with less personality than Jon Bon Jovi's small toe, grace a stage and somehow convince foolish people with too much money to vote for them – usually by doing pseudo-sign language for "call me" with an imaginary telephone. The winners aren't the best singer or performer and certainly not the person who can write a good song.
No, it's usually someone who has a smidgen of talent in all areas but stands out for being a bit loveable, for establishing a connection to the audience and for having that hateful "X-factor".
So the new Toyota Verso – with its seven seats but not-very-big body, 62mpg, 12.7 second nought to 60 time, bland name and associated "Verso-tility" marketing puns – shouldn't be much to shout out. But I blimmin' loved it.
The off-centre, slanted main dials take a moment to get used to, but help create space in front of the driver that makes the Verso feel more airy.
Steering wheel controls are uncluttered and sensible, giving you all you need to operate the stereo and phone functions and it's hard to find fault with the interior at all. It's all well laid out, easy on the eye and most importantly, works smoothly without wondering how on earth you warm your feet or change the radio station.
After having a bit of a grumble with a recent test drive car, it's a small but brilliant pleasure to realise you can have your hand on the gear stick, in any gear, and have the heating controls within a finger's reach. Most importantly, in our recent spate of hot weather, the AC button was the closest. The seats are also some of the most comfortable I've sat in. But these features are barely scratching the surface of my Verso joy.
It's one of the smoothest rides I've been in to date. This is due to the combination of suspension evening out the road surface, the seats keeping you snug and 124 gentle horses pulling inside the refined engine. But that's not meant to say it's slow – while its performance is never going to be described as "sporty" – remember it's a seven-seater MPV – I can't say pace was ever a problem. Once you're up to motorway speeds, there's easily enough extra power on tap to get yourself some penalty points or a even a driving ban.
The reason for this?
Well, it's due in no small part to the 1.6-litre BMW engine that's found its way into the Toyota.
The diesel is quiet, efficient and is capable of good fuel economy.
Hitting 62mpg in the real world might not be too realistic, but even with a heavy right foot over Cornish hills and traffic, we easily averaged into the 40s.
There's clever design for the seven seats, which pop-up in the boot space when you need them, and there's an underfloor area to stash the boot cover, rather than have to take it out and leave it in the kitchen.
Driving new cars each week as a job, and having tested almost 30 brand new cars this year already, it takes a lot for something to stand out.
But the Verso did, and I'd put it at the top of the list which ticks all the boxes for my personal needs, if I had a spare £22,000.
It's far greater to drive and live with than it is on paper – it has that mysterious X Factor.
The Verso range starts at £17,700 on the road.
And for that money, it's far better value per pound than buying anything that's sprung out of that awful TV show.