Toyota FT-4X concept

CALTY Studio Chief Designer and Project Design Manager on the Toyota FT-4X Concept

Billed an ‘adventure concept’ by CALTY studio chief designer Ian Cartabiano, the Toyota FT-4X (future Toyota four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive) is a compact vehicle designed to cater to thrill seeking Gen Y urbanites. It made its debut at the 2017 New York auto show.

“We termed the vehicle ‘rugged charm’,” says Cartabiano, “and within that there are four key elements: simplicity, capability, mechanical satisfaction and, finally, Toyota identity and heritage.”

The design pays homage to the FJ Cruiser, which was also designed at CALTY and made its debut at the 2003 New York auto show. But measuring in at 4250mm long, 1821mm wide, and 1623mm tall, the compact Toyota FT-4X isn’t intended as a direct replacement for the larger FJ model.

Instead, the FT-4X is a new entrant in a growing niche, a smaller SUV that cleverly employs Toyota heritage cues in the form of the wide horizontal band at the front — itself inspired by the original Toyota Land Cruiser — as well as the vertical rear window that echoes that of the original 4Runner and Toyota’s extended cab compact pickups.

Toyota FT-4X concept inspiration and heritage

The main theme of the exterior design is a repeating X graphic, which presents itself in the bodyside (emerging at the car’s widest point – the door handles) as well as at the front and the rear, where the designers actually began the design process.

The tailgate opens in two ways — either as a conventional liftback or in a barn door configuration — and offers cool and warm storage boxes within. The load floor slides out to double as a bench to sit on at tailgate parties, and beneath the load floor is a dedicated compartment to store a damp wetsuit or ski gear.

The cabin itself took inspiration from a toolbox, says project design manager Ben Chang, and makes good use of the car’s 2639mm wheelbase.

It is sectioned into threes: a ‘clean zone’ up front, where rugged floor mats and door sills were inspired by Japanese sunoko slatted wood flooring; a ‘wet zone’ in the second row characterized by all-weather materials on the floor and beneath the bench seat; and the rear ‘cargo zone.’

The FT-4X stood out as a fun, compact vehicle with a modern multi-functional approach to interior space complete with numerous integrated products – such as a detachable flashlight in the headliner, a cup nestled into the door furniture and a sleeping bag that doubled as a comfortable armrest pad for the center console. Even the radio has been designed to be used as a boom box to use outside of the car.

Besides the obvious product design elements and glazing solutions that could prove too costly and difficult to achieve in series production, it’s clear that the FT-4X is more than a concept. It’s been made to compete with offerings in the burgeoning B-segment SUV class, and against rivals like the Jeep Renegade and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the Kia Soul.

In that category, the FT-4X — or whatever it’s production name will eventually be — looks to be a strong contender. It’s a shame Honda didn’t see fit to continue their offering (the Element) in this segment, but perhaps it was ahead of its time.

Watch the video above to see Toyota’s CALTY studio chief designer Ian Cartabiano and project design manager Ben Chang outline the design elements of the Toyota FT-4X concept.


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