Concept cars are being unveiled in all sorts of places these days. Take the case of Toyota for example. The Japanese automaker recently attended a private-panel discussion hosted by Make: magazine in San Francisco to unveil the Urban Utility Concept, or U2 in short. Toyota’s purpose of attending the event was to showcase the innovative concept that aims to attract young, entrepreneurial urban drivers. The U2 Concept was developed by the company’s Calty Design Research based in Newport Beach, California.

After its appearance at the private panel discussion, the Toyota Urban Utility Concept is scheduled to make its first public appearance at the World Maker Faire in New York City on Sept. 20 and 21, 2014.

It’s an appropriate venue to make its public debut, especially with Maker Faire events being geared towards modern inventions and growing entrepreneurship possibilities.

The Toyota U2 Concept fits in that kind of environment.

Click past the jump to read more about the Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle.

  • 2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle
  • Year:
    2014
  • Make:
  • Engine:
    inline-4(Est.)
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    160 (Est.)
  • Torque @ RPM:
    130 (Est.)
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L (Est.)
  • 0-60 time:
    9 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    120 mph (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • car fuel:
  • body style:

Exterior

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle High Resolution Exterior
- image 568007
I can actually see Toyota production models looking like this in the future, particularly the four vertical LED headlights that actually look pretty sexy.

The design of the Toyota U2 Concept adheres to its concept status without going overboard. I can actually see Toyota production models looking like this in the future, particularly the four vertical LED headlights that actually look pretty sexy. They could be a little bigger to make them sexier, but I’m not complaining about their look. Extra points too for the checker-board and bicycle side panels.

The box-like design and the protruding dimensions create a quirky look, but there’s actually a lot of functionality hidden in there too. For one, the roof can be rolled back, while the entire rear section can be folded down and double as a ramp for easier loading and unloading.

As much as the front section looks cool, its counterpart on the back looks rather clunky. Granted, the aforementioned functions make up for the lack in design, and Toyota even points that out in its design sketches of the concept. The taillights are ridiculously small, though.

Interior

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle Interior
- image 568010
The steering wheel is bigger than I expected and quite frankly, it looks better than most steering wheels found in production Toyotas these days.

A concept as quirky as this needs an interior that looks the same way. Toyota accomplished that by designing a pretty clean cockpit with some adventurous parts included with it, like the oval speedometer that protrudes like a three-dimensional instrument cluster. The steering wheel is bigger than I expected and quite frankly, it looks better than most steering wheels found in production Toyotas these days. There’s also an iPad that likely acts as the tech hub of the vehicle. Additionally, there’s a weird tray on the passenger side that appears to be detachable, and a circular shifter design that carries multiple functions, including intuitive switch for parking, drive and reverse mode

Space shouldn’t be an issue with the U-squared Urban Utility Concept. All of the seats can be folded down to create enough space to carry a two month’s supply of groceries.

The cabin also has a utility rail system that can be reconfigured to carry items ranging from baskets to bike stands.

Drivetrain

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle High Resolution Exterior
- image 568008

Toyota didn’t detail any engine specs for the U-squared Urban Utility Concept and to be honest, I don’t expect it to. But I’m willing to play the what-if game and say that a 2.0-liter, inline-four engine with somewhere around 160 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque wouldn’t be so bad. It’s not going to wreak havoc on a quarter-mile, but it would likely sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a decent-for-its-purpose nine seconds and top out at around 120 mph.

Prices

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle Interior
- image 568012

Concepts don’t come with price tags, but I already started this fake game in my head so I’m going to throw in an imaginary price tag, too. How does $30,000 sound? Too much?

Competition

Kia Naimo Concept

2011 Kia Naimo Concept Exterior
- image 397620

I had to dig long and hard to find a suitable pseudo competitor to the U-squared Urban Utility Concept. My search eventually led me to this equally wonky concept Kia introduced back in 2011. It’s called the Naimo Concept and if I didn’t know any better, it looks just as weird, maybe even more, than the U2 Concept.

Kia went with an unorthodox design for the Naimo and that’s evident in the number of features found in the concept, including the quirky, see-through roof, the lack of a distinguishable front bumper, the square-shaped LED headlamps, and the high-rising rear profile of the concept. Likewise, the interior is similar to the U2 Concept, although the Naimo will probably boast that it has a "holographic instrument cluster".

The Kia Naimo came with a Permanent Magnet Synchornous Motor, an electric motor that produces 109 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. These figures translate to a top speed of 93 mph and lithium-ion battery pack range of 124 miles on one charge.

Conclusion

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle High Resolution Exterior
- image 568009

For it’s purpose, Toyota did well for itself with the U-squared Urban Utility Concept. It fits the all the elements of a concept that reflects the lifestyle and needs of any young urban driver.

It would’ve been nice if Toyota actually has bigger plans for the concept than just being a showpiece prototype. Hopefully, that day will come sooner than later.

  • Leave it
    • * Rear section looks like a box
    • * No engine specs
    • * Don’t waste your time; it’s a concept

Press Release

The do-it-yourself movement is transforming cities with invention-focused Maker Faire events, growing entrepreneurship, and a new Toyota concept to fit these trends. Inspired by a growing innovative spirit in urban areas, Toyota revealed today the Urban Utility concept vehicle – or U2 – at a private panel discussion hosted by Make: magazine in San Francisco. Vehicle elements reflect the lifestyle and needs of an entrepreneurial, urban driver discovered through interviews with Maker Faire participants and internal Toyota market research.

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle High Resolution Exterior
- image 568007

Developed by Toyota’s Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, California, the Toyota U2 concept features a new open architecture and purposeful materials that redefine urban utility. Designers included the ability to roll back the roof, fold down the tailgate into a ramp and customize the interior on a versatile rail system. The concept car will make its first public appearance at World Maker Faire in New York City on Sept. 20 and 21.

“Toyota saw an opportunity for a new approach to an urban vehicle based on increasing re-urbanization of our cities and urban drivers’ desire for flexibility, fun and maneuverability,” said Kevin Hunter president of Calty, Toyota’s North American design studio. “Calty keeps a number of projects concealed while exploring ideas and products. Revealing a project like the U2 gives people a window into the constant innovation that happens inside Toyota and our Calty studios and one possible future for urban mobility.”

Bringing the concept to a Maker community event allowed Toyota to gain feedback from a key audience.

“As more products are developed expressly to appeal to Makers and their deep appreciation of design esthetic combined with open architecture and practical utility, we expect to see more trusted brands like Toyota take an unconventional approach to not only product development but their marketing and launch strategies,” said Sherry Huss, VP and co-founder of Maker Faire. “Leveraging the growing Maker movement and Makers’ broad sphere of influence can impact the success of consumer brands and future products.”

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle High Resolution Exterior
- image 568008

Customizable Interior

Among the U.S. trends that influenced the Calty design team were a growth in entrepreneurship and Americans’ love of adventure, especially outdoor activities involving gear and equipment. Drawing on these insights, the Toyota U2 concept is a flexible, functional gadget that owners can customize according to individual, on-the-go needs. The retractable utility bar can serve unique uses, such as holding a desk or grocery bag hooks. Side windows flip up for easy access from roadside.

Other key interior highlights include:

Versatile utility rail system configurable to hold everything from baskets to bike stands
Ability to fold and remove the front passenger seat
Fold-up rear seating
Unique shifter design with intuitive switch for parking, drive and reverse mode
Choice among a selection of colors and materials to fit needs

Toyota research showed the fast-growing small SUV segment points to a desire for greater utility but a smaller vehicle footprint. The Toyota U2 concept is the size of a compact car with the functionality of a compact truck and the spaciousness of a cargo van. It satisfies other key urban driver priorities including good fuel economy, maneuverability in city environments and easy loading and unloading.

An Exterior for the City

City streets call for a vehicle that can handle bumper-to-bumper traffic, potholes and tight corners. The Toyota U2 concept has an extremely durable underbody and tool-like exterior with a customizable side panel. The iconic, modern design remains playful, with details such as circular door handles and a slightly chunky proportion. The box-like design at the rear emphasizes the storage capabilities.

Highlights of the exterior include:

2014 Toyota U-squared Urban Utility Concept Vehicle High Resolution Exterior
- image 568009

Roof panels that retract open
Rear glass that can slide into the tailgate
Tailgate that folds down into a ramp
Protective, replaceable ridges on tailgate

After its public reveal in New York, the Toyota U2 concept will return to the Calty studio in California. For more information about Toyota innovation, visit http://www.toyota.com/usa/operations/design-research-development.

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