Toyota’s FT-4X concept harks back to the classic Land Cruiser

Concept could preview a new, small, Toyota crossover to take on the Nissan Juke

 

Toyota holds the classic FJ-model Land Cruiser (that’s one with the round headlights and the clamshell roof, if you’re wondering) in especially high regard, and so seems constantly bent on trying to recreate it. We’ve already had the FJ-Cruiser, a retro-styled production car sold, sadly, only in the US and now there’s this – the FT-4X concept.

It’s not immediately an FJ Land Cruiser recreation (certainly not in the pastiche style of the FJ-Cruiser) but there are reminisces of the original FJ in the shapes of the front end, and in the concepts hardy, practical nature.

It is much smaller than a Land Cruiser though – about the same height as a current RAV-4, but a good half a metre shorter than that car, much closer to a Renault Captur or Mazda CX-3 in length.

Designed by Toyota’s “Calty” design studio, based in California, the FT-4X is stuffed with potentially useful, practical features in a way that suggests Toyota wants to wrest the clever-touches crown away from the current holder, Skoda.

The tailgate is the standout feature as it can be opened in two ways. Designed to be handled by someone wearing chunky gloves, the handle can be rotated 360 degrees, and the tailgate itself has two distinct splits. There’s an “urban” mode with two vertically split doors which can be opened in tight spaces, and there’s an “outdoor” mode which opens the whole tailgate up on its roof hinges, creating a rain-shelter underneath for when you’re loading and unloading.

In the boot, there are twin cargo boxes, one heated and one cooled which can be used as food storage or for drying out clothes. There’s also a wet-gear storage area and a slide-out load floor.

Multi-purpose theme

In the cabin itself, the multi-purpose theme really takes off. The door handles double as water bottles, while there’s a North Face sleeping bag integrated into the centre console (putting Skoda door umbrellas in the shade). All the interior lights can be popped out and used as torches, while the same can be done with the stereo, which can be removed to be used as a boom-box when camping. Not sure what the people in the next tent over will make of that…

There’s also the inevitable integrated GoPro camera, allowing you to film your muddy adventures and then bore your friends rigid with the modern interpretation of holiday slides. Very retro.

The FT-4X concept doesn’t have an engine yet, but it’s not a million miles from a production reality. Underneath, its mechanical hard points come from the Toyota New Generation Architecture chassis (same as under the Prius and C-HR) and apparently any of the current family of Toyota four-cylinder engines will fit right in. Suspension is by McPherson struts up front and double wishbones at the back, while those 18-inch wheels are shod with chunky Goodyear all-season tyres. It’s also bringing back the Smart ForTwo fad for changeable body panels – a big glass panel on the left rear of the body can be changed for opaque or coloured glass as your mood takes.

Digital life

Will it make production reality? Probably, yes, not least because its designer talks about making it a tactile, rewarding car in a digital life. Calty chief designer Ian Cartabiano said the mechanical satisfaction of the concept’s tactile grips, handles and controls are in contrast with today’s digital world.

“You can tell that we had a blast designing the FT-4X because it looks fun to use and fun to drive,” Mr Cartabiano said. “We want everyone to interact with this car and feel a sense of delight and excitement.”

Toyota currently doesn’t have a small crossover to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke or Renault Captur, although the C-HR, generally a Qashqai rival, is almost compact enough to bridge both classes. Nonetheless, with Volkswagen gearing up to offer its Polo-based T-Roc, and ever-growing competition in the SUV world, don’t be surprised to see the FT-4X have a life beyond both the motor show stage and the US market.