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New York show: Toyota’s tough little crossover

Mixing it up: Toyota’s US designers have tried to make the FT-4X appealing to city-bound tech-focused millennials by emphasising its mechanical, utilitarian nature.

Toyota unveils FT-4X SUV based on C-HR with a harder edge pitched at US market

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Toyota logo13 Apr 2017

By TERRY MARTIN

TOYOTA has signalled its intention to broaden its small crossover wagon range with the unveiling of the more rugged, boxier, US-designed FT-4X concept at the New York auto show overnight.

Although not yet confirmed for production, the FT-4X – a name that represents ‘Future Toyota’ four-wheel-drive crossover – has emerged with a useful level of detail in terms of its architecture and running gear, at a time when the Japanese auto giant is ratcheting up its marketing efforts to millennials in North America after pensioning off its Scion brand early last year.

Based on the same new global platform as the all-new C-HR crossover, the FT-4X has turned up in the Big Apple just five months after Toyota launched the C-HR at the Los Angeles show last November, highlighting president Akio Toyoda’s call to make “ever-better products that are tech-filled, safe and fun to drive” and which “will better align us with the greater market in 2017 that is quickly shifting toward smaller crossovers”.

The FT has shades of FJ Cruiser and Scion xB (aka Toyota Rukus) – both of which sold in small numbers in Australia but were discontinued, reflecting the broader international trend – with utilitarian aesthetics exemplified by the words ‘TOYOTA’ emblazoned across the front end rather than the usual brand logo.

The work of Toyota’s Calty design centre in California, the concept is described by the company as “a modern 4x4 toolbox for the most intrepid urbanite” – but does not pretend to be a rival for the bona fide hardcore Jeep Wrangler off-roader, preferring to instead target “Gen-Y city-dwellers” who typically make unplanned getaways “of the casual, less extreme kind – no time for summiting a mountain, a drive to the scenic point will do.”

As well as confirming the use of its Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) C-platform, Toyota has detailed the FT-4X’s MacPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone configuration at the rear – the same set-up as the C-HR – and other technical aspects such as a mechanical four-wheel-drive system with selectable low-range gearing.

It is fitted with 18-inch wheels with custom 225/55-section Goodyear All-Season tyres, and although Toyota insists this is not a hardcore vehicle – dubbing the FT-4X “casual-core” to emphasise the point – it cannot help but highlight aspects such as its generous approach and departure angles, removable window glass and extensive underbody protection.

The cabin also has a dedicated “wet zone” and novel features such as a removable ceiling-mounted torch, removable multimedia system, a sleeping bag that functions as a centre armrest and water bottles built into the passenger door trim.

While the powertrain is not specified, the company said the vehicle “could potentially employ a small-displacement four-cylinder engine” – such as the C-HR’s 85kW/185Nm 1.2-litre VVT-iW turbo.

The FT-4X rests on the same 2640mm wheelbase as the C-HR and measures 4250mm long, 1820mm wide and 1623mm high, translating to a form that is slightly taller but roughly similar to C-HR but emanates “simple sturdiness front to back, top to bottom”.

The designers have dubbed the overall styling as “rugged charm” that places value on “simplicity, capability, durability and Toyota lineage” and takes into account “compact, sturdy dimensions and a charming ubiquitous tactility of grips, handles and controls”.

Perhaps its most unique feature is the rear “multi-hatch” that opens both horizontally – splitting in half and making for easier loading from the kerbside when clearance in limited – and vertically, in conventional hatch style, doubling as a shelter from the elements as required.

The user simply rotates a handle on the door to select the desired opening mode.

“As designers, we’re investing deep thought into the emotional connection with our cars,” Calty president Kevin Hunter said.

“FT-4X is not simply a concept where style meets function it is a thoughtful, charming and engaging experience that adds real pleasure and convenience to the journey.

“We focused on how a crossover vehicle can add fun and value to casual adventures both in and out of the city, thinking about how someone would use it, and what they would love to do with it.”

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