Minivans are quite possibly the least interesting segment in the car world, despite being the most practical. Perhaps you can't have family-friendliness, easy access, and good looks at the same time (the Chrysler Pacifica comes kinda close). Well, if Toyota does what's rumored, all that could change. According to some rumors out of Japan, the very cool Toyota TJ Concept might actually get built. Though it's not a fantasy of ours, the TJ Concept does thumb its nose at conventional minivans by providing square-good looks and added utility. C'mon, just take a look at this thing.
Word out of the Far East is that Toyota may actually have a production version ready for the Tokyo Auto Show in October, with pre-orders starting in December. The caveat is that those orders will be for Japan only. No word on whether or not it will come here (this would be a perfect replacement for the aging Sienna, but that's if we had our druthers).
Just like the Sienna, the TJ will get all-wheel-drive but in hybrid form only. There will be a gas version offered, of course. The new van will sit on the TNGA architecture which is the basis for most of the Toyota model line. No word on whether or not the new van will get the more radical aspects of the show vehicle, made for five or seven, versus the somewhat limiting four-seater setup in the concept. It will likely be smaller than the Sienna.
The notion of the TJ is to inherit some of the ruggedness and youthful ethos of the original FJ Cruiser that's now a legend in the 4x4 world. The production TJ Cruiser might actually get the cool foldable seating and sliding doors of the concept and hopefully the fold-flat seating that allows for huge item storage, up to three meters in length. Though the TJ is on the small side, it fits the bill for those who want rugged capability and great gear storage, versus a lot of passenger room.
We read a lot about vehicles that never make it here, and our guess is that the TJ Cruiser would probably not sell in the states. First of all, it's probably too small to be a hot seller here if it's marketed as a minivan (and minivans just don't fly off showroom floors). Second, it seems like more of a niche vehicle than anything else. The only hopes we have are the fact that it uses the global TNGA platform and appeals to active people who want gear capacity and a youthful look. It would brilliantly create a new segment that just might be the next big thing if it's marketed and equipped the right way. Let's hope.