Don’t let the name fool you: Unlike the retro-themed body-on-frame FJ Cruiser SUV that just recently left production in Japan (it was discontinued for America in 2014), the TJ Cruiser concept is a car-based box debuting at this month’s Tokyo auto show that emphasizes utility over off-road capability.
More reminiscent of the late Honda Element, the TJ Cruiser previews a forthcoming production model and boasts a flexible interior that can seat four and carry items nearly 10 feet long thanks to flat-folding seats—including the front passenger’s—and a 108.3-inch wheelbase. Tie-down points on the backs of the seats ensure that any transported items are securely held in place, while a pair of minivan-like sliding rear doors provide additional versatility for loading people or cargo into the TJ.
The TJ Cruiser’s SUV-ish cues include short front and rear overhangs, a set of knobby tires, and a specially coated hood, roof, and fenders that are made of scratch- and dirt-resistant materials. Toyota says the TJ will sit on the unibody Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that currently underpins the Camry, C-HR, and Prius, noting that, unlike those models, the TJ Cruiser will offer both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Additionally, Toyota says the TJ will feature a hybrid powertrain that combines a 2.0-liter engine with at least one electric motor. Given the availability of all-wheel drive, it’s possible for that variant Toyota will follow its own example with the AWD Highlander and Lexus RX hybrids and use an additional electric motor to power the rear axle.
Toyota says that TJ stands for “toolbox” and “joy.” We have no doubt that the TJ Cruiser fulfills its mission as a miniature toolbox, but we’d want to slide behind the wheel before rendering any judgment on how much joy it offers. Japanese consumers will find out once the TJ hits the streets, but there’s no word as of yet on U.S. availability. We wouldn’t count on it.