By on September 10, 2014

Toyota_Calty_U2_Concept_001

Toyota quietly announced a new concept that would conceivably compete with the latest crop of small vans like the Nissan NV200 and Ford Transit Connect. Dubbed the Urban Utility concept vehicle or U², the concept was designed at Toyota’s California design studio.

Although it’s the size of a compact car, the intention is for a vehicle that maintains the functionality of a truck or van. A folding front passenger seat and a tailgate that also functions as a ramp, along with a rail system for accessories (like bike racks) are just some of the features employed.

The styling of the Urban Utility might be a bit outlandish, but such a concept would likely be able to find a market, given the growth in small, car-based utility vans. Or, if Toyota was really feeling adventurous, it might find a home at Scion.

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61 Comments on “Toyota’s Utility Van Concept...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    When I read the name, all I have to say is:

    YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAHHHHH!

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Looks great. I really, really like the integrated tablet. Replacing expensive and troublesome gadgets in the car with cheap and upgradeable electronics seems a no brainer win-win-win.

    The ramp would seem to have niche buyers as well. This thing is practically ready for a wheelchair conversion out of the box. And, all those companies that send out people with heavy stuff have got to be interested in them not having to lift it in and out all day.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      When I was day dreaming about being a boutique car manufacturer with a Ultima GTR clone powered by a Hartley Bolt V8 it occurred to me that you could save a bundle on the gauge panel and controls by employing a tablet or two and some custom apps.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know if you can trust a tablet to run something as time-sensitive as a gauge cluster. While that’s a dedicated (and very important) function on a car, it’d just be an app on the tablet. And the tablet may decide that it has other priorities. At least with things as they currently are, even if the car’s interface is based on an open-source or non-proprietary operating system, you’d want significantly more control over it than an iPad allows. Honestly, you’d be looking more at something like the Linux-based setup on the Tesla Model S. But for infotainment? A 3G/4G-enabled tablet is *definitely* the way to go.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Definitely don’t replace the gauges, just the entertainment, NAV, and ancillary stuff. Also, you can duplicate stuff like door locks in both a button and the pad.

          Ultimately, I could get in the car and get all the basics without a device while getting much more through an app.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          Airplanes have gone to completely digital displays and pilots arguably need more accurate and reliable real time information than motorists. If it is good enough for Boeing is should be good enough for Toyota.

          • 0 avatar

            I agree. In fact, Toyota *had* to put an LCD cluster on the LFA because an analog setup would have been unable to keep up with the vehicle’s acceleration and rev-happiness. My point is simply that if you’re going to make an LCD cluster, you want it to be fed by a dedicated machine, or one that you have complete scope of control over. You don’t want to entrust such an important function to an iPad or a Surface.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Dear me, that thing is ugly in 4 dimensions. And it’s not TALL!

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    “it might find a home at Scion”

    Ooohhh… unaccustomed snark from Mr. K. He ain’t no kid no more.

    Looks like Toyota bought the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen after Zappa passed on. Nice re-purposing.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    like the tundra, i do not believe this will be taken seriously by americans.

  • avatar

    Two notes:

    Custom Fixies? I just threw up in my mouth – a LOT

    The whole appeal to the mini-mini cargo van/utility is side access, whether it be the suicide doors on an Element, the sedans doors on an HHR Panel, or the sliding door on the transit. As-is, this thing is useless.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    What’s with all the waste? Alloy wheels? Plastic bumpers?

    Utility vans make no sense like this.
    Cheap and simple sell.

    Which is why the express van is seeing the majority of the E-series sales being transferred to it.
    Ford really screwed that pooch.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Agreed that this is overkill for the intended market.

      But I see probably 50 Transit Connects for every late model Chevy or GMC van that I see.

      Hell, I see far more Sprinters than Chevy or GMC vans, and I’ve seen more of the new Ram/Fiat vans than Chevy or GMC vans.

      GM is desperately trying to get into the market with a rebadged Nissan.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        The Transit Connect is completely different from the Transit. The Connect serves an underfilled need for small vans.

        The Econoline was bigger. Those customers will either go to GM, Nisssan NV3500, or switch to a ProMaster/Transit route. They won’t likely downsize.

        I bet a lot of fleet managers will take the traditional Express van.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Actually, the high-top Transit Connect is physically larger inside the shell than any American full-size van of the same length plus giving the average-sized person the ability to stand up while working within. Personal experience as I have driven or worked within examples of both vehicle types. Honestly, the low load floor of the transit connect makes it much easier to work in for loading/unloading than any full sized model especially with large, clumsy loads like appliances.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        YTD, GM has moved over 79,000 Savana and Express vans, while Ford has delivered just under 28,000 Transit Connects.

        Compared to YTD deliveries last year, the Ford is up 2% (below the market average) while the GM van twins are up about 22% (well above average.)

        This is the problem with relying on gut feeling and visual impressions instead of on the data. The Transit Connect looks really unusual on American roads, while the plain Jane vans that sell in greater numbers blend into the background. There are a lot more of the GM vans, you just don’t notice them.

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          Astonishing case of figures over feelings, and this is something I’ve paid attention to.

          Part of the problem with visual impressions here is that, as you said, traditional vans are not only camouflaged by ubiquity but also by difficulty in recognizing their age.

          Is this particular graphic-wrapped Savanna next to me a fairly new purchase for a company that needs its size or a hanger-on from a pre-Transit purchasing decision? And I see many companies like major plumbing and HVAC firms running both classes of vehicles.

          But I’m genuinely surprised by those figures because TCs are so noticeable.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          The national figures are interesting:

          http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2014/09/usa-commercial-van-sales-figures-august-2014-ytd.html

          I am going to attribute it to regional differences and conversion vans.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            That’s what I was looking at when I posted the above.

            Ford literally gave away an entire segment, no different I suppose than the fullsize segment, with the panther.

            Ford was printing money, but quit, all to conform to some rediculous idea.

            I’m sure GM will enjoy Fords plan, which is quickly doubling GMs production.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            No, it really isn’t worth it for Ford to spend the nine figures that it would take to build a van that will only sell in North America, and at low prices.

            This is similar to the small truck market, in that the combination of low demand and low prices makes it fairly unappealing to spend the money that it takes to create a new model.

            The situation might be different if these vans commanded high prices, but they don’t. They can’t charge enough for them to make it worthwhile. They may sell fewer Transit Connects, but they don’t have to pay another several hundred million dollars to get it into the US market.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Ford had a good thing going for them. I read somewhere that about 75% of all small box trucks were Fords.

            Build something that’s cheap and reliable, and businesses will buy. I want a Chevrolet or GMC for my next van, but I would take a Ford again.

            The Ford brand means a lot to many people. Now, businesses have to decide whether they should change for a “radical” new vehicle, or just evolve into an Express or Savana that seems more natural to them.

            It’s no surprise to me that GM vans are up 22% in sales.

            ————————

            The Transit Connect is a different beast. It may be roomy, but the payload capacity is only 1700 pounds. The E350 can haul up to 4000 pounds if configured the right way.

            They’re two different beasts, for two different tasks. Both do their jobs well.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Great link, racer-esq.

            That got me interested in the Dodge Promaster City… holy smoke…they’re putting the 9-speed tranny in those.

            Why? I thought the idea was simplicity and reliability here. Some goofy “bi-link” rear suspension. Again, why?

            That thing won’t be cheap.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Ladies, gentleman… The Mars Rover has landed.

    Hear, hear!

    The design of this thing just screams “hard work”.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    This thing offers a strong resemblance to vehicles once known as “panel wagons”. But more, it reminds me of the old “Good Humor” ice cream trucks.

  • avatar

    I like, quite adventurous for Toyota. I think there are many nice ideas throughout, though those ideas should be better integrated. It seems may of the different parts are flying off in the their own little direction. The headlights need to lose the cyborg look, though I like the suggestion of a smile in the lower front bumper.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    It looks Italian as in “Fraaaa-Jeeee-Leeee”.

  • avatar
    Johannes Dutch

    Toyota already has a modern small city-van, the ProAce. Well, actually it’s a clone. Of a Fiat-Peugeot-Citroën triplet.

    http://www.toyota-europe.com/new-cars/proace/index.json

  • avatar

    I think it’s pretty cool-looking, though not at all practical in the way that a small utility van would need to be.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      A flower shop, cake shop or other similar delivery service could make good use of these. They’re small enough to go just about anywhere and park in spots too tight for even an average full-size delivery van. I do agree with some that the relatively long nose and cab waste usable revenue space.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So a Chevy HHR panel “van” and a Nissan Rogue went on a drunken bender one night, the condom broke, and this is what we got…

    Wait, wait, I just looked at the pics. It appears a sliding roof Envoy SUV got involved in a nasty little three way.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    An xB with a gutted rear and blanked out windows B-pillar back would be better for the market than this thing.

    No rear access doors?

    Tapered roof?

    Truncated rear end?

    Not so great, maybe Nissan will let Toyota rebadge the NV200 like GM.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    More like a Murano cousin than a Toyota. Not bad, but that shifter isn’t very ergonomically friendly to snatch second easily.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    According to Bike Snob fixies were over in 2009 at the latest so this is yet another example of clueless youth marketing.
    This also begs the question of why do they need to build the bastard offspring of a Scion Xb and an FJ Cruiser? The only really clever idea is the ramp gate that looks tailor made for light van like the current version of the Toyota LiteAce or something like a Transit Connect.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I would add an OBDII diagnostic reader app to the iPad and hope for some cool associated graphics.

  • avatar
    geee

    I think this would have been more aptly named the Toyota “Centaur”

  • avatar

    The cab and engine area take up much more space then you get for utility. It looks better than it’s competition, but if it functions less I don’t see it being a hit.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      “The cab and engine area take up much more space then you get for utility.”

      Precisely. It is an utter fail as a monospace box for hauling. But the body does have an impressively seamless blow-molded look like a milk chug bottle.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I have a soft spot for this. A much better Xb or Xd with a bit of Toyota Chinook and Studebaker Wagonaire. The market for this is not just contractors but weekend bikers or surfers who want something cooler than a Kia Soul and more functional than a Juke.

  • avatar
    rockets

    It screams “21st century ice cream truck” to me.

  • avatar
    its me Dave

    That ramp would never make it to production – it makes sense for a single use case and precludes almost all others.

    Hard to tell how wide that rear opening is, but if I can slip a 4×8 sheet in there above the wheelwells, I may have found my reg-cab S10 replacement.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The front end is different and actually isn’t offensive. It seems to have a Japanese Generic look. A cross between a Mazda (fenders or mudguards), Mitusbishi/Nissan grille, and a typical Japanese over shape.

    I don’t know how they will not make the vehicle light considering the rear ramp. It must be strong enough to work. Also the roof will need additional structural consideration.

    It only a concept, if built wouldn’t be cheap, due to the construction required.

  • avatar
    matador

    Nice concept!

    If made, I hope the production version gets styled more condervatively.

    The front black section looks like the suitcase weights for a White Field Boss tractor. The body screans “too much Unicell styling”

    It’s a commercial vehicle. We don’t care about styling. We want it to be simple and durable. Looks are not really a concern. Ask any Econoline or Express owner.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Yaris or Corolla based? (Not that I am excited about either option.)

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    You know, with right-hand-drive that could be a pretty good mail truck. No worse than anything else they’re using and better than some.

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