Suzuki Air Traiser
Minivans are not often thought of as being particularly cool. The result has been a decline in sales as the many image-conscious parents out there flock to crossovers instead. As a result, minivan concept vehicles are often completely bonkers, as carmakers clearly hope that going so far in the other direction will inspire buyers to reconsider the segment. It never really seems to work but it’s hugely entertaining to watch, and the new Air Triser concept from Suzuki exemplifies everything that makes wacky minivan concepts so great.
The concept is being unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, as a part of the “Suzuki Next 100” theme for the carmaker’s booth. Since Suzuki’s 100th anniversary is coming up in 2020, it is using this opportunity to show off a bit of what is said to make up the lineup for the outset of the next 100 years. The concepts are therefore wild and futuristic, although they are simultaneously retro in their design. This is seen especially in the front fascia of the Air Triser. But unlike the Mighty Deck concept, which is clearly just an updated version of the Mighty Boy kei car, the Air Triser isn’t made to look like anything specific from Suzuki’s past.
Continue reading to learn more about the Suzuki Air Traiser.
Though Suzuki describes the Air Triser as a minivan, the term "mircovan" might be more appropriate. With a length of 4,200mm (13 feet) and a width of 1,956mm (6.4 feet), the concept is slightly shorter and only slightly wider than a Ford Focus. Of course, the layout makes for much better use of interior space, but this is still a much smaller vehicle than it appears to be.
The driver’s side has a single door and the passenger side has dual sliding doors that open up to make a giant B-pillar-less opening. The front end and back end are very nearly symmetrical, and in this sense it does borrow a bit from the fourth-generation (L40) Suzuki Carry van, but none of the Carry’s design is otherwise evident in the Air Triser.
As with other minivan concepts, it is the interior of the Air Triser that is really the wild concept part of the design. Central to this is wood, lots and lots of wood. There is wood all around the steering wheel, the pedals are wood and, of course, the entire floor is wood. It’s a pretty extreme styling choice, but it really does look good. The seats can be reconfigured in a number of different ways, including facing one other or in a big U shape. The steering wheel also folds up to accommodate the configurable seating arrangements.
There is a screen mounted in between the windows that can display media content from a smartphone
Almost the only surface without wood on it is the top of the dash, which is covered in the cloth as the seats and seemingly padded. It’s probably not going to catch on with a whole lot of other cars, but it does make for an interesting alternative to the expensive leather or ugly plastic on pretty much every other dash in existence. There is a screen mounted in between the windows on the driver’s side that Suzuki says can display media content from a smartphone, although it doesn’t elaborate on this idea (probably some sort of Chromecast-type thing).
There is even a fairly sizable screen in the middle of the steering wheel, which would be impossible on a production car, but is fantastic on a never-going-to-be-built concept. All said, it’s among the finest cloth interiors ever made.
Power comes from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing an undisclosed quantity of horsepower. This is also connected to some sort of hybrid system and power is sent to all four wheels. Suzuki hasn’t provided a lot of details about this, but it’s not as though the Air Triser is heading off to dealerships anytime soon. Still the drivetrain is an interesting part of the story of the concept.
The microvans that clearly provided inspiration for the design of the concept were kei cars, tiny little cars built to make the absolute most of Japan’s tax and insurance regulations. The engine displacement for this concept is well outside of what is allowable for such cars, and the hybrid system and all-wheel-drive would no doubt make it too heavy as well.
The Air Triser is a very Japanese sort of vehicle. Retro styling is still pretty popular in the Japanese domestic market, and this is especially true of kei cars. Last year’s Alto Turbo RS concept, also from Suzuki, is a good example of this, as is the Mighty Deck concept that will debut alongside the Air Triser. But what makes this concept different is that it isn’t actually a kei car. It’s a somewhat bigger car styled to look like an older kei car, and that is a very rare thing indeed. It has all of the craziness that you want in a concept like this, although just once, it would really be great if a few of these actually ever made it to production.