Small CUV with built-in camping gear targets Gen Y buyers
Millennials continue to befuddle automakers, but Toyota thinks it has them figured out with its new rugged-looking small crossover concept that will make its debut at the New York auto show. Called the FT-4X, which stands for Future Toyota-Four-Wheel-Drive Crossover, this Land Cruiser–inspired cute ute is designed to attract millennial urbanites who enjoy the occasional outdoor trip. Toyota believes it has designed a vehicle that will attract members of Generation Y who prefer what Toyota calls Casualcore outings: brief, unplanned, casual outdoor adventures that originate in the city as opposed to multiday, extreme, high-effort excursions. Visiting a favorite trailhead for a long hike or settling next to a campfire for a short overnight camping trip are the types of outdoor activities that Toyota claims the FT-4X is built for.
The concept was conceived at Toyota’s Calty Design Research center in California, where designers conducted months of research into what Gen Y buyers want from a vehicle. The designers say most millennials’ short outdoor experiences revolve around the hatch or tailgate of a vehicle, which is why they chose to design the FT-4X beginning with the rear. The crossover’s Multi-Hatch rear opening is an impressive design that allows the hatch to open in two ways. Urban mode splits the hatch in half for easier curbside loading when clearance is limited, and Outdoor mode opens as a one-piece hatch upward to create an improvised shelter from the elements. A rotatable handle selects the Multi-Hatch’s opening method and is set deep in the liftgate so it can be gripped while wearing thick winter gloves. Twin reflective red tow hooks are located at the bottom of the rear bumper for vehicle recovery. The reinforced flat roof with tie-down hoops on all four corners allows for the hauling of extra cargo, and the power supply outlets set at the base of the tie-down hoops can power campsite electronics or roof rack accessories.
Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) C-Platform, the FT-4X used an X theme that can be seen throughout the crossover’s design, incorporated into its front, sides, and rear. Paying homage to Toyota’s iconic Pickup Xtracab truck and first-generation 4Runner SUV, the FT-4X features a driver-side vertical picture window. The glass is removable and interchangeable with multiple opaque colors or tinted glass, allowing for a personalized touch. The horizontal orientation of the large Toyota X grille, along with the shape of the LED headlights and front bumper, is also a nod to classic Toyota Land Cruiser models. Large black over-fenders lend the crossover a rugged look and tower over the 18-inch alloy wheels shod in 225/55R Goodyear All-Season tires.
The FT-4X features a multitool cabin, thanks to the many removable interior pieces and myriad closed (colored in blue) and open (colored in orange) storage compartments. Need some extra light? The interior light in the headliner is removable and doubles as a flashlight, as is the removable dome light, which can used as a locating beacon. Forgot water bottles? Remove the blue door handles and fill them up. Didn’t pack enough sleeping bags? A North Face sleeping bag, strapped on top of the center console, serves as an armrest. Your iPhone speakers not loud enough? Use the removable multimedia audio system that’s part in-dash stereo and part boom box and comes with a large handle grip.
Because Toyota believes that millennials mostly use their smartphones for GPS, the FT-4X does not come with a traditional navigation or infotainment display screen. Instead, designers included a phone mount directly above the driver’s digitized cylindrical instrument cluster. However, the GoPro Hero5 Session camera built into the driver-side rearview mirror is quite nifty.
Twin storage boxes—one warm, the other cold—are located in the Multi-Hatch. They’re designed for temporary stowage of food or for the warming and cooling of gear such as ice packs or blankets. The center console can fold upward to stow medium-sized gear and is made of breathable, high-grip, hybrid-mesh surface for wet items to dry quickly with the help of the slim air vents capable of rotating downward. The front armrests and the floating blue chest set in the dashboard are additional closed storage compartments.
Toyota separates the cabin into three zones: a clean zone where the front passengers sit, a wet zone that consists of the second-row bench and footwells for stowing away wet or dirty clothing, and a rear cargo zone. The rear cargo zone’s floor is completely flat and features topside tracks and red tie-down hooks for securing cargo. A deep storage compartment resides underneath the Rear Cargo Zone and can be accessed by sliding the floor outward, transforming the floor into a tray.
Although the FT-4X is still a concept, Toyota says we can assume a production version would sport a four-cylinder engine with all-wheel drive and a selectable low range for extra capability. Toyota also has taken the bold step of saying a production version would have actual four-wheel drive, rather than the all-wheel drive setup carried by nearly all of these cute-utes. Also expect to see MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone rear suspension. The FT-4X’s dimensions are a bit larger than the subcompact C-HR, which is also TNGA-based. Given its off-road capabilities (which add cost), you could assume FT-4X would be positioned at about the same place as RAV4 price-wise – the $25,000-$35,000 range depending on equipment levels. Interior volume, which has yet to be revealed, and the more outdoor-focused persona could set the two similarly sized vehicles apart. Toyota is gauging reaction from its dealers and the public before giving the FT-4X the green light, at which point it would be 24 to 36 months for this design to reach the showroom floor.