The “Maker” trend emphasizes individual ingenuity over mass production, but that didn’t stop one of the world’s largest car companies from making something of its own for World Maker Faire in New York City.
The Toyota Urban Utility concept, or U2, is a small van designed maximum flexibility and, yes, utility.
Style doesn’t seem to have been much of a priority. The U2 looks fairly generic, like a full-size version of an unlicensed Matchbox car. Its compact proportions should at least make parallel parking easy.
However, all is not as it seems. The concept features a nifty retractable roof panel, and rear glass that retracts into the tailgate. This allows the U2 to morph into a pickup truck of sorts for larger loads. The tailgate also folds down to form a ramp.
The interior is much less staid. Ahead of the single-spoke steering wheel is an ovoid digital gauge cluster, while a dashboard-mounted tablet and a circular pod control secondary functions.
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The U2 also features a “utility bar” that can support everything from grocery-bag hooks to a desk, and the reconfigurability of a minivan. The rear seats fold up, the front passenger seat can be removed entirely, and the side windows (covered in checkerboard graphics here) flip out.
Toyota has no firm plans to produce the U2; it wouldn’t even disclose specifics on the concept’s powertrain. Rather it, seems to be the carmaker’s way of showing solidarity with Makers, who it views as important potential customers.
However, with Ford, Nissan, and Ram offering small vans of their own, it would make sense for Toyota to try to field a competitor.
The superior fuel economy of downsized commercial vehicles help owners by saving them money, and helps carmakers by increasing their Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) ratings, so don’t be surprised to see more of these mini vans (no pun intended) on the road soon.
A vehicle with the tech and functionality of the U2 could be appealing, as long as Toyota gives it a restyle.
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