Toyota is showing off its vision for a next-generation utility vehicle aimed at the young, hip urban entrepreneur. The Urban Utility, or U-squared, is just a concept car right now, but if it makes it to production it would challenge Ford’s Transit Connect and Nissan’s NV200 vans with a flexible interior layout, a touch screen interface, a small workdesk—just about what you would expect from a car designed at the company’s Calty Design Research studio in California that’s tinkering with the look of future Toyotas.
The car will make its public debut at the World Maker Faire in New York City on Sept. 20 and 21, Toyota said in a statement lauding the U-squared as a “new approach to an urban vehicle based on increasing re-urbanization of our cities.”
That kind of city-car talk suggests the van would feature emissions-mitigating plug-in hybrid electric or all-electric power options, but Toyota didn’t mention what would underpin the vehicle. Toyota seems more focused on displaying the aesthetics and open architecture, including removable seats and an interior rail system that could be adapted to specific boutique business needs, including interior bike stands or baskets for holding farmers market goodies.
U.S. consumers have been piling into small crossover utility vehicles in recent years, including Toyota’s boring but popular and dependable RAV4. And while the U-squared is targeting commercial use, it’s reminiscent of the late (2003-2011) Honda Element crossover’s “activity oriented” layout, which has side doors for wider side loadability, a privacy curtain, a dog ramp and a rugged rear interior space that can be hosed out.
Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7203) has said it wants to take a more unconventional approach to product development, and this is certainly an example of that. Whether the world’s largest automaker is willing to take the leap and actually produce the U-squared as it’s seen here: not likely. Concept cars are just that. Toyota will see how the public reacts to specific design and architecture principles and incorporate them in future vehicles, including, as the U-squared suggests, a forthcoming Toyota utility van.