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Toyota C-Plus Pod is a cutesy new EV with a big mission

This teensy-weensy electric runabout is super small and starts at about $16,000.

2021 Toyota C Plus Pod - electric
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2021 Toyota C Plus Pod - electric

This is Toyota's newest EV, the itty-bitty C-Plus Pod.

Toyota

Last week, Toyota introduced the C-Plus Pod, a new electric minicar designed to improve per-person energy efficiency. This golf cart-like machine seats just two people and is super small. But despite its diminutive dimensions, it has a big mission: It's designed to help broaden the appeal of battery-operated vehicles, at least in Japan.

Looking vaguely like a Smart Fortwo, this ultra-compact car is intended for short-distance, daily use, not long-distance cruising. The C-Plus Pod is about 98 inches long, 51 inches wide and 61 inches tall. Yeah, I told you it was small. And with a turning radius of less than 13 feet, it should be more maneuverable than a shopping cart. As for weight, it clocks in at about 1,500 pounds.

The C-Plus Pod's styling is definitely more functional than flowery with utilitarian and simple lines. Reducing weight and likely making it easier and cheaper to manufacture, this vehicle's body panels are made of plastic. For some visual flair, Toyota offers five different two-tone color schemes. Lighting the way are LED headlights and taillights.

Inside this cutesy EV are just two seats, and they don't look particularly comfortable or accommodating. The cabin is also suitably utilitarian -- a frill-free zone, if you will. For easy access, the switches and controls are located on the dashboard's cleanly designed center stack.

2021 Toyota C Plus Pod - Japan
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2021 Toyota C Plus Pod - Japan

This car's interior is simple and honest.

Toyota

Providing the go-power is a single, rear-mounted permanent-magnet electric motor that's juiced by an under-floor-mounted 9.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This drivetrain layout provides a low, flat floor. The C-Plus Pod's top speed is just 60 kph, or 37 mph, so a freeway cruiser it is certainly not. Slowing things down are front disc brakes and drums at the rear.

With a low top speed and modestly sized battery pack, this Toyota offers an estimated cruising range of up to 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) on the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle test cycle, so it'd probably go a little less further if the EPA got its hands on the car. With an appropriate membership, it can be recharged at Toyota dealers that have G-Station chargers, though you can also juice it at other charging locations across Japan. A handy feature, the C-Plus Pod can also serve as a portable generator for use during power outages or natural disasters, delivering up to 1,500 Watts of power. It can supply electricity for up to 10 hours, which is super convenient.

Even though it doesn't look very robust, the Toyota C-Plus Pod meets safety standard for minivehicles. It's also equipped with a standard pre-collision system that can detect other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The automaker even fits the car with ever-useful parking sensors, too.

Toyota will build the little machine at the automaker's Motomachi Plant in Japan. Initially, it will be offered to select customers including corporations, local governments and other organizations. Broader availability to individual customers should start by 2022. You'd expect such a tiny car to carry an inexpensive price tag, but that's not necessarily the case. It starts at roughly $16,000 USD at current exchange rates.

Toyota's C+ Pod electric car is small and simple

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Watch this: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: Not yet a good Mustang, but a very good EV
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Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

Updated Dec. 29, 2020 7:41 a.m. PT

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Written by  Craig Cole
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
craig-cole-hs
Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
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