Toyota's Urban Utility concept (U Squared, for short) debuted today at a private panel discussion hosted by Make: magazine in San Francisco, Calif.
The compact concept is designed to offer big capacity for crowded city dwellers.
Developed by Toyota’s Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif., the Toyota U Squared's boxy back end is the key to its open architecture.
The rear glass retracts into the tailgate, which, in turn, swings down to reveal the large, reconfigurable storage area.
The tailgate can touch the ground to act as a ramp while the glass roof also retracts to allow unfettered access to the rear and to allow the U Squared to carry tall cargo.
The driver's seat and cockpit are the only "fixed" bits in the U Squared's cabin. The entire rest of the interior is reconfigurable.
Additional seats can be added for up to three passengers, or accessories can be added to accommodate special equipment like bikes. Or the entire cabin can be left free for bulky items.
This graphic illustrates the different "zones" that the U Squared offers.
The cockpit is where you'll find the driver's seat, steering wheel, and a rather unconventional center console/armrest.
Rather than a traditional infotainment stack, the U Squared's dashboard uses an iPad with a customized interface that monitors the vehicle's performance and various systems.
Ahead of the front passenger position is a sliding bar that allows this bit of the dashboard to be customized with accessories.
For example, this desk locks into place on the dashboard, giving the driver or passenger a temporary workspace for writing or using a laptop when the vehicle is parked.
According to Toyota, "research showed the fast-growing small SUV segment points to a desire for greater utility but a smaller footprint."
The goal of the U Squared is to provide the utility of a cargo van with a vehicle the size of a small hatchback.
As a design exercise, there was no mention of a possible powertrain or plans to move toward production with the U Squared, but it wouldn't be hard to imagine elements of the concept's utility making it into the next Scion xB.
The Urban Utility concept debuted at a roundtable event held by Make: magazine in San Francisco.
The concept's cabin is a massive storage area that runs from the rear tailgate to the windshield.
The rail them is also repeated in the door panels.
The four-piece bumper is designed to be resistant to dents and scratches, but also easily replaceable in the event of a fender bender.
There's no engine under the hood, but I'd imagine that the urban concept would be well suited for a hybrid powertrain.
The U Squared shares its dimensions with the Scion xB.
LED headlamps sit just above the modular plastic bumper.
The chunky wing mirror doesn't look very aerodynamic, but it's large and features an integrated turn signal.
The center console and armrest have been designed to resemble a bicycle.
The shifter is...well...interesting.
The speedometer rotates around within its housing like a bubble compass, revealing the current speed in the illuminated window ahead of the driver.
The dashboard is designed to be both simple and modular.
The rear lights feature integrated grab handles.
The wheel spokes feature inset rubber pucks that protect the rims from curb rash.