Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled its new FT-4X Concept with an eye toward urban-dwelling, Millennial-aged professionals at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday.
The automaker sees the small four-wheel drive SUV as concept vehicle that would be attractive to young people with busy lives and a wanderlust for outdoor adventure.
The subcompact FT-4X – which stands for “Future Toyota” four-wheel drive crossover – features dramatic two-tone paint, and large 18-inch wheels that accentuate its sturdiness. Toyota says the compact style and off-road capability of the FT-4X is the ideal combination for customers who want to experience the outdoors on a whim.
“We focused on how a crossover vehicle can add fun and value to casual adventures both in and out of the city, thinking about how someone would use it, and what they would love to do with it,” said Kevin Hunter, president of Calty Design Research, Toyota’s North American design studio.
Toyota equipped the FT-4X with attention grabbing features like removable cabin lights that double as an emergency beacon and a GoPro camera built into the driver’s side rearview mirror.
The door handles not only serve as water bottles, they are large enough to be opened while wearing snowboard gloves. Interior materials are made of quick-dry hybrid mesh. An innovative rear hatch – called Multi-Hatch – can rotate horizontally or vertically to configure a two-door split hatch that opens outward or a one-piece hatch that swings upward.
This quirky styling and blatant functionality, which Toyota designers call “Rugged Charm” is not new to the brand’s lineage.
“The loss of the FJ Cruiser in 2014 left Toyota with a hole in its lineup for an iconic design and off-road focused vehicle to square off against the likes of the Jeep Wrangler and upcoming Ford Bronco,” said Patrick Min, senior analyst for price forecasting firm ALG.
Although the FT-4X is emerging into a smaller segment, it bears resemblance to the FJ Cruiser.
Toyota hopes to tap into some of the FJ’s cult-following magic with this off-road concept, said Min.
There are also practical reasons for Toyota to explore a rugged concept like the FT-4X.
The FT-4X is built on the Toyota New Global Architecture C-Platform, one of the recently launched unibody constructions the company will use to roll out new models in the near future. The C-Platform is currently in use with the Prius hybrid and the C-HR subcompact crossover, which is scheduled to go on sale this spring.
The C-HR will be Toyota’s first entry into the subcompact segment and will compete with sales leaders like the Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Trax.
But the leading seller through the first three months of 2017 is the Jeep Renegade. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has sold more than 25,000 Renegades this year, a 14.4 percent increase compared with the same period in 2016, according to Autodata Corp., an industry research firm.
The FT-4X fits a similar rugged subcompact mold. Its dimensions such as wheelbase, height and width are within inches of the Renegade, and the FT-4X boasts clear resemblance to past off-road Toyota vehicles. A picture window in the driver’s rear quarter panel pays homage to the first-generation 4Runner, while the horizontal white front grille is reminiscent of the FJ Cruiser and FJ40.
Toyota says the FT-4X is not fitted with an engine, as it is a concept, but could house a small displacement four-cylinder engine. The crossover rides on MacPherson front struts and double-wishbone rear suspension, and employs mechanical four-wheel drive and selectable low-range gears.