Yamaha's Cross Hub is a mighty little Tokyo Motor Show surprise
Pint-sized pickup features a megacity-friendly footprint with seating for four and a bed for the company's trademark motorcycles.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Over the years, we've heard countless friends and car shoppers ask, "Why doesn't anyone offer a small pickup anymore?" America's midsize pickup market has rebounded substantially thanks to new entrants, but models like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado are still huge compared to the light-duty small pickups of the 70s and 80s. Most of those vehicles came from Japanese manufacturers, so it's appropriate that here at the Tokyo Motor Show, an unexpected source is providing a novel take on the compact pickup: Yamaha.
This is the Cross Hub Concept, and it not only offers something new in terms of its size and funky form factor, it has a novel diamond-shaped seating layout, too. The unusual configuration, with the driver seated ahead of two passengers, allows for an unconventionally shaped cargo bed that can accommodate two motorcycles (admittedly one is quite small) inside of a tidy footprint. At under 178 inches, this trucklet is actually shorter than a Honda Civic hatchback.
Yamaha is a brand more closely aligned with motorcycles than it is with four-wheeled vehicles, but it has a long history of developing everything from tiny city concepts to exotic mid-engined supercars. In fact, it's been working with legendary designer Gordon Murray -- he of McLaren F1 fame -- for some time. However, the Cross Hub concept is the first new four-wheeled Yamaha shown in years that has no clear connection to Murray. That's a bit ironic considering the McLaren F1 featured a similar central driving position, with passenger seats flanking behind the pilot off to the left and right side.
Yamaha says the Cross Hub Connect is designed to "connect active and urban lifestyles," which essentially means it has a city-friendly footprint, yet it can still be loaded up with powersports gear. It even features wood paneling inspired by boat decking, a time-honored theme in the auto industry that extends all the way up to today's Rolls-Royce Dawn.
Unfortunately, Yamaha has yet to disclose what -- if anything -- powers the Cross Hub Concept, and while we'd like to imagine it's one of the bikemaker's larger, higher-revving motorcycle engines, we suspect those big off-road tires will need something with more torque.
There's no word yet on whether Yamaha will ever make the leap into series auto production, but it's still said to be pondering building its last two concept cars, the Sports Ride from 2015 and the Motiv microcar from 2013. Neat as those two vehicles were, we suspect they'd find a bigger buying audience building something like this Sports Cross Concept.
Yamaha builds a pickup trucklet carrying case for its motorcycles