New Toyota Small Urban SUV concept previews future Volvo EX30 rival

Toyota’s new Small Urban SUV concept is likely to morph into the bZ2X, with Lexus and Suzuki versions to follow

Toyota will launch the second of its bZ-branded all-electric models next year – a new small SUV that’s set to rival the Volvo EX30 – and this show car gives us a solid preview of how it will look.

The Toyota Small Urban SUV concept was revealed at the brand’s annual Kenshiki Forum held in Brussels, and next year’s production model is expected to stay true to the concept’s design.

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Although the Small Urban SUV measures around 4,900mm in length, the actual car is expected to be closer to the Yaris Cross and Volvo EX30 in size, at around 4,200mm long. “The proportions of the concept are correct, but the dimensions are not,” Toyota’s Andrea Carlucci, vice president of product strategy and marketing, told us.

The chunky-looking concept features slim LED daytime-running lights that stretch across the front of the car, just beneath the bonnet line, with slim LED headlights sitting at each side underneath.

There’s no grille, just a deep bumper, while a dark lower valance – dissected by a gap in the middle – extends over pronounced, squared-off wheelarches and into a deeper dark panel, along the bottom of the flanks, that is aimed at disguising the car’s height.

At the rear, the darker section kicks up to just below the tailgate opening, while the lower bumper is also dissected to mirror that at the front. There’s another slim LED light bar across the tailgate, too.

We’ve no clue yet what the interior will hold, although we’d expect it to follow the bZ4X’s theme, with a large central touchscreen, a relatively small steering wheel and high-set digital instrument panel.

Toyota is staying tight-lipped on technical details until wraps come off the production car some time in the first half of 2024, but it has revealed that it will be offered with a choice of two battery sizes and either two or four-wheel drive.

We’d expect the batteries on offer to be in the region of 50kWh and 70kWh – similar to the capacities of those used by the EX30 – giving ranges of around 230 and 300 miles. Similarly, the new baby Volvo could show Toyota the way on pricing, meaning a starting figure in the region of £32,000 to £33,000.

There’s also no word on the new model’s name, although following the convention of Toyota’s RAV4-sized bZ4X (the bZ stands for zero-emissions or beyond zero, the four refers to the size and the X the crossover bodystyle), a bZ2X badge appears possible.

Toyota also remains tight-lipped about a potential partner for the development of the new model, but it’s widely rumoured to be Suzuki. Toyota has been working with its fellow Japanese company since 2017, with the two firms taking financial stakes in each other in 2019. Suzuki sells the Across and Swace in the UK, which are rebadged versions of the RAV4 PHEV and Corolla Touring Sports estate.

Collaborations are part of Toyota’s past and its future, Carlucci told us. “It’s part of our global strategy,” he said. “We lead the pack on battery technology, but there has to be cooperation and partnerships. We only work with valuable partners where there can be some sort of exchange.”

There’s also the possibility that a bZ2X could spawn a Lexus version, in the same way that the hybrid Yaris Cross is about to arrive in Lexus showrooms, after a thorough makeover, as the new LBX.

Lexus Europe boss Pascal Ruch refused to rule out the idea, but told us that first Toyota would be gauging the success and acceptance of the LBX.

“The first reaction is extremely positive;  we already have more than 4,000 contracts. But we feel there is a place for customers looking without any compromise on the quality, features and technologies you’ll find in higher categories. We don’t want a compact car with low specs. Now it needs to be a Lexus 100 per cent, in a smaller size. So if this concept works as a hybrid today, then we have room to think about the future,” Ruch added.

Q&A with Matt Harrison

Chief Operating Officer, Toyota Europe

British exec Harrison has worked for Toyota for 20 years, including a stint as UK boss. We quizzed him about the significance of the new baby SUV.

Q: How close will the production car be to this concept?

A: “When you put the wheels back to a sort of normal proportion, and proper door mirrors on it and things like this, you’re going to see that, in terms of design cues, the [production] vehicle’s very, very, very similar. ”

Q: How important is a small electric SUV to Toyota?

A: “I think it’s critical. About half of our business in Europe today is on the ‘AB’ platform, so Yaris and Yaris Cross. Although electrification is slower in the small-car segments, in the second half of the decade, as the electrification speed ramps up, that’s where we feel we are going to have a harder time defending our territory. So I think the car’s got a very important role to play, certainly in that period from 2025.”

Q: Volvo has put a marker in the sand with EX30 from around £32,000 – how close to that price will you be?

A: “Size-wise it’s not so far away from that car. I don’t think I can give you a final price on our car yet, but I need to be in that area – of course we need to be competitive. I think what we’re seeing more and more is people not so much focused on the list price; it’s much more about a monthly payment, and increasingly that’s not just a finance payment, PCP or whatever, but actually a lease payment.”

Q: You’re going down a bZ naming route currently. What happens to names like Yaris, Corolla and RAV4?

A: “We have huge name equity, whether it’s Aygo, Yaris, C-HR, Corolla. We’d be foolish if we were not going to use that, leverage it and evolve it, sustain it for the future. I don’t personally believe people can build affinity and emotional attachment with a number, a letter and a numeric. So the sooner we get back to that centre of gravity the better.”

Click here for our list of the best electric SUVs on sale right now…

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