Teasing entry into the rapidly growing small utility van segment, Toyota is showing off the U2 for the first time publicly at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto this week.
Pronounced U-squared, the name has nothing to do with Bono's popular band, rather referring to Urban Utility.
Toyota's California-based design team set out to create a vehicle to make deliveries on narrow city streets. Aimed at "makers", the van has been shown privately to business groups in San Francisco, New York and Toronto, as Toyota culls feedback prior to potentially producing the van.
At a small media gathering Wednesday in Toronto, designer Jim Kim explained that Toyota's focus is "utility and functionality." The idea is to provide maximum storage within dimensions so small, the front seat must fold down to accommodate a bicycle front-to-back.
The roof panels retract and side windows pop out in order to create pick-up truck utility, and the rail system in the cargo area is configurable in various ways. Even the roof lamp is portable.
In front, the right portion of the dashboard collapses and the middle console is eliminated, allowing a 4x8 sheet of plywood to fit. In lieu of a built-in infotainment system, a tablet is docked on a skinny platform to the right of the driver.
In back, the opening is significantly taller than a typical SUV's, and a ramp folds to the ground. The floor and walls are constructed with sturdy plastic.
The small commercial van segment is dominated by Ford with the Transit and Transit Connect. Those two vehicles combined accounted for almost half of the total sales in 2015 in the United States. In Canada, Ford sold almost as many Transit Connects as Ram and Nissan's ProMaster Cities and NV200s.
The CIAS takes place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Feb. 12-21.
The U2 will be displayed alongside the 2016 Prius, the 2016 Toyota Tundra and a "totally tricked out Scion iM," despite Toyota announcing Wednesday it is killing off the Scion brand. The iM, a version of the discontinued Toyota Matrix, will likely be continued under the Toyota name.
-- With a file from Tom Maloney
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