Toyota still hasn’t filled the void created when the heritage-laced FJ Cruiser retired from the North American market after the 2014 model year. The Japanese firm is allegedly on the brink of introducing the SUV’s spiritual successor, and the model will draw inspiration from a shoe box-shaped concept car that has been hiding in plain sight for nearly two years.
The TJ Cruiser (pictured) unveiled during the 2017 Tokyo Auto Show will morph into the FJ Cruiser’s replacement, according to Japanese magazine Best Car. That’s more than a little surprising; the FJ Cruiser was a body-on-frame off-roader, while the TJ arrived as a boxy, car-based van-like family car happier hopping curbs around TJ Maxx than plowing through dunes in Nevada. The publication added the TJ won’t be marketed as the FJ’s direct successor, but it will aim to satisfy younger buyers seeking a fun alternative to models like the RAV4 and the Highlander.
The modular platform found under a growing number of Toyota and Lexus models, including the Corolla and the Prius, will underpin the TJ Cruiser. Front-wheel drive will come standard, and all-wheel drive will be available at an extra cost. The model won’t be part of Toyota’s looming electric car offensive, but it will be available with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain made using parts borrowed from the aforementioned Prius. Best Car learned the RAV4’s hybrid setup, which is built around a bigger, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, could also be available in some markets.
The TJ will be shorter than the C-HR, so it will be Toyota’s smallest crossover, but its boxy dimensions will allow it to offer a surprisingly versatile interior. The seats on the passenger side will fold fully flat to accommodate longer objects, like a surf board, and tie-down hooks will be scattered across the cabin. Van-like side sliding doors will make accessing the passenger compartment a breeze. All told, it sounds like more of a follow-up to the Honda Element than to the FJ Cruiser.
Credible rumors claimed the production version of the TJ Cruiser concept would make its debut during the 2019 edition of the biennial Tokyo Auto Show, a fitting venue considering that’s where Toyota presented the design study. Insiders suggest executives delayed the launch to early 2020. We might see it at a major auto show, like the one taking place in March in Geneva, or Toyota could choose to simply unveil it online.
Either way, we’re taking the reports with a grain of salt. Toyota hasn’t announced plans to turn the concept into a production model, and it hasn’t revealed what it will introduce during the upcoming Tokyo show.