Toyota unveiled the Urban Utility (or U2) concept car Tuesday with this message to the world: "Maximum function and minimal footprint."
What this message means in real (well, conceptually real) terms is this: While the typical car you buy has everything pretty much welded, glued or bolted down, the U2 concept's designed to be versatile and customizable to the max.
"We designed it to be pure flexibility," said Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota's Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, California. The designers imagined what today's young, creative, urban types would need for their diverse activities, from sports like sailboarding (big things) to social activities, where you want the whole crowd in the car (more seating).
"It's mainly for people who move in and out of the city," Hunter added. "If you're a city dweller you might even not need a car this big. But this is really for people who are active, carrying stuff."
The Urban Utility concept is designed to accommodate such urbanites with features like this: A retractable roof for carrying really long or tall things. Full disclosure: I have long dreamed of this feature.
There's also a tailgate for easy loading that turns into a ramp, for even easier loading. I really could have used this when I was buying boulders for my backyard.)
If you have more stuff than people, the front passenger seat's removable, and the back seats fold down to open up the cargo space.
Hooks, racks, and overhead storage nets let you stash stuff out of the way...
... or attach useful accessories, such as a small work surface with its own light, which attaches to a bracket in the dashboard.
A lot of consumer cars have promised flexible storage, especially minivans. But no self-respecting young urbanite wants to drive one of those--let alone park it. The Urban Utility concept is supposed to be closer to the size of the Scion xB--a much more manageable profile for city streets and alleyways. Besides, the U2 does any minivan one better with its ramp and rollback roof.
Like any concept, the Urban Utility may never hit the road. But Toyota's had other successful concepts come out of Calty Design Research, such as the distinctive and popular Toyota FJ Cruiser. The U2 taps into the modern trend of customization and personalization, rather than one-car-fits-all.
Would you drive a car that raises the roof, lowers the ramp, pulls out the seats and more, to fit whatever you need for that trip? Let us know in the comments.