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Geneva show: Toyota eyes iQ, Urban Cruiser

City SUV: Toyota's Urban Cruiser is known as the Ist in Japan.

Two entry-level Geneva stars remain firmly fixed on Toyota Australia’s radar screen

7 Mar 2008

THE re-appearance of two tiny new Toyotas at this week’s Geneva motor show appears to have done nothing to diminish Toyota Australia’s enthusiasm for introducing two brand-new micro-car nameplates here.

The light-sized Yaris and compact RAV4 SUV have been the smallest models in Toyota’s local stable since the demise of its Daihatsu brand in December 2005, but that could change within a few years if the numbers stack up for the iQ micro-car and Urban Cruiser city-SUV.

Emerging at Geneva in full production trim before it enters production late this year (and the right-hand drive UK market in early 2009), the iQ first appeared in concept guise at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show and is expected to find 100,000 buyers globally in its first year on sale.

The iQ (the “i” stands for individuality, innovation and intelligence, and the “Q” for quality) rides on a two-metre wheelbase, weighs just 420kg - about one-third the weight of a Prius - and is claimed to be the world’s smallest four-seat passenger car.

8 center imageIt is about as wide (1680mm) and as high (1500mm) as a five-door Yaris, but squeezes four seats into a body that is some 770mm shorter than Toyota Australia’s smallest model, and is also believed to preview the styling direction of Toyota’s next-generation Aygo, a Europe-only model that’s twinned with Peugeot’s 1007 and the Citroen C1.

At just 2985mm long, it is 425mm shorter overall than the Aygo micro-hatch and smaller than Smart’s ForFour, yet Toyota says it is designed to meet Euro NCAP’s five-star crash test safety standard.

Designed for city streets, the iQ features four 16-inch alloy wheels at the extremity of each corner, a high belt lime, smoked headlights, indicators integrated into its wind mirrors, a floating “V” centre console, a flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel, ultra-slim one-piece seatbacks and a 50/50-split folding rear seat.

Among its new technologies are a flat under-floor fuel tank, rear-angled shock absorbers, a smaller heating/air-conditioning unit and a more compact new differential design that allows for a smaller engine bay and shorter overhangs, yielding 100mm more cabin space than Yaris.

The result is a unique three-plus-on seating arrangement that’s designed to accommodate three adults and a child or luggage behind the driver. It’s claimed to liberate front shoulder-to-shoulder space that’s comparable to a small car.

Two petrol engines and one diesel engine will be offered in Europe, which together with an aerodynamic bodyshell and low kerb weight are said to deliver “outstanding” fuel consumption and “exceptionally” low exhaust emissions.

Toyota says the iQ’s CO2 emissions will start in the order of about 100g/km, making the new model a key plank in the company’s quest to meet the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association’s (JAMA) voluntary 140g/km CO2 commitment by 2009.

The same goes for Toyota’s Urban Cruiser concept, which re-appeared at Geneva following its Tokyo debut in October.

Also expected on sale within 12 months in Europe, where Toyota hopes to increase its presence and market share, the Urban Cruiser is a sub-compact city SUV based on the xD sold by Toyota youth brand Scion in North America, and trades on the LandCruiser’s name.

While Toyota chose to test European waters with the Urban Cruiser “concept” in Geneva, the same vehicle has already hit Japan, badged as the “ist” and available in 1.5 and 1.8-litre two-wheel drive guise, as well as a 1.5 AWD.

Just as the iQ could become a belated replacement for the now-defunct Daihatsu Charade, to sit below the Yaris (from $15,190) in Toyota’s local range, the Urban Cruiser could potentially fill market niches previously occupied by both the previous-generation Daihatsu Terios and the youth-baiting Celica coupe, as a sub-RAV4 micro-SUV.

But even if Toyota succeeds in landing the iQ at the required sub-$15,000 retail price (and the Urban Cruiser at less than $30,000), don’t expect them any time before 2010.

“Urban Cruiser looks cool and in a downsizing and SUV-focussed market with environmental and fuel price issues, it makes good sense. The same argument applies to iQ,” Toyota Australia’s corporate manager product planning Peter Evans told GoAuto.

“The good news for us is that Australia is a participant on the United Nations Working Party 29 on global regulations harmonisation. Their aim is to harmonise on an agreed ECE regulation where possible. As such, uniqueness of ADRs is diminishing rapidly, allowing us the prospect of picking up right-hand drive European-spec models.

“Both models are being very worthy of interest moving forward, provided the pricing was right.

“(But) lead times are long in this industry, especially if any unique engineering adaptation is required. Hence with no current approved plan, even if we secured them tomorrow, 2010 would be a relatively early introduction,” he said.

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