Toyota is using the Geneva Motor Show to showcase its concept for a compact, rugged mini SUV that could bring a fresh approach to the segment. The Urban Cruiser draws heavily on Toyota's heritage in Sports Utility Vehicles through the legendary Land Cruiser range, the best-selling RAV4 and the tough Hilux. It has styling cues typical of Toyota SUVs but also adds its own dynamic flair to bring a more rugged originality to the mini SUV segment.
The Urban Cruiser is a product of ED2, Toyota's European styling studio in the south of France and is the work of chief designer Elvio d'Aprile. He worked with Porsche and Pininfarina before joining Toyota in Japan in 1 994 and then moved to ED2 when it opened in 2000. Elvio was also the chief designer of the Corolla Verso, a vehicle frequently praised by its dynamic and robust design. "Typical customers in the mini SUV segment are urban individualists", says Elvio d'Aprile. "They are seeking a rugged look within a compact body and want to stand out, and above, the crowd.
The Urban Cruiser concept is the car that will allow them to freely express their personality." "The Urban Cruiser breaks with conventionality by bringing something different to the mini SUV segment. It is more dynamic, but also rugged and brings the special Toyota SUV flair."
The Urban Cruiser is the latest Toyota to be created under the Vibrant Clarity design philosophy which now underpins all the latest Toyota creations. By working to the Vibrant Clarity discipline, Toyota aims to bring the two elements of successful design, form and function, together under one package. Therefore, Vibrant Clarity combines two elements: Vibrant form, which stands for dynamism and energy, plus Clarity of function which calls for more rational values such as simplicity and logic.
The Urban Cruiser concept clearly demonstrates design similarities with other models in the Toyota range and draws on the company's long established heritage in SUVs. It shows the quality inherent in all Toyota design while adding the fresh and robust look that this segment demands.
The Toyota SUV heritage is most evident in the extensive use of a trapezoidal design element that is now in the front bumper, the grille and lower door panels. This creates a dynamic feeling but also suggests protection. Furthermore, the trapezoidal form can also be found on the side window, evoking a Toyota design cue reminiscent of several other models, like AYGO, Corolla Hatchback, Corolla Verso, the new RAV4 and others.
The massive wheel arches are also intended to emphasise the SUV character. They converge towards the car's geometric centre in order to provide a compact and agile shape while disguising the relatively long wheelbase – itself designed to create maximum interior space. You can see all the elements of the Vibrant Clarity design philosophy in Urban Cruiser. These are defined within the four principles of P.A.S.S. (Proportion, Architecture, Surface, Special touch).
- Proportion: the long cabin – offering excellent interior space – combines with short, powerful overhangs to create an effect of perfect imbalance. This results in a massive, but dynamic body proportion.
- Architecture: when viewed from above, there is a pronounced V-shape to the front – created by the dominant front and rear wheel arches which stand out from the bodyshell.
- Surface: the extensive use of trapezoidal design is distinctive in the front bumper shape and the freeform surface of the lower door panels.
- Special touch: The crispness of the overall exterior design is completed by sharply sliced surfaces that can be found in the front and rear bumpers.
In addition to these distinguishing elements, the Urban Cruiser makes a significant break from the conventional with the use of satin finish exterior body paint rather than the common gloss.
Just as the exterior design of Urban Cruiser breaks from the conventional, the interior adopts a new approach too. Here the designer wanted to move away from the traditional car interior design and focus on examples outside the car industry, such as modern furniture.
It is the work of Yi Yeong Jae, the Korean designer who also created the Toyota Motor Triathlon Race Car, shown one year ago, at this same motor show. "I was inspired by the designs of modern, fashionable furniture," says Yi Yeong Jae. "The interior design consists of several different surfaces which are treated as different, independent layers. This is the case with the seats, the door panels and the dashboard."
There is a feeling of spaciousness inside Urban Cruiser which is in keeping with its roomy but compact concept. The seats adopt a thin, elegant design that is both space saving and comfortable.
The materials are modern with a premium quality and show some of the characteristics of nylon. Special features of the interior design include the door handles – created to facilitate use – and the navigation screen which is viewed through a transparent curved panel integrated into the centre console.