Toyota entered a new segment of the Japanese market by launching an electric two-seater named C+pod that makes kei cars look bloated. It developed the tiny hatchback exclusively for crowded urban centers.
Announced only for Japan, the C+pod stretches 98 inches long, 50 inches wide, and 61 inches tall. Put another way, it nearly fits in the eight-foot box that Ford makes available on the F-150. It's 8 inches shorter and 15 inches lower than a Smart ForTwo, and it's about the same size as the Citroën Ami unveiled earlier in 2020.
Visually, it lives up to its name with a pod-like design previewed by the Ultra Compact BEV concept unveiled at the 2019 Tokyo auto show. Its body panels are made with plastic to keep costs and complexity in check. Inside, it offers users two individual seats, a digital instrument cluster mounted in the middle of the dashboard, and an uncluttered center console that houses a handful of buttons. Users can put a pair of grocery bags in the trunk.
Power for the C+pod comes from a rear-mounted electric motor whose maximum output checks in at 12.3 horsepower and 41 pound-feet of torque. It zaps the rear wheels into motion, and it draws electricity from a nine-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Toyota quotes 93 miles of range, a 37-mph top speed, and a charging time that varies between five and 16 hours depending on the type of outlet the minuscule hatch is plugged into. Alternatively, it can supply power for up to 10 hours via an outlet in the passenger-side footwell.
Toyota didn't skimp on safety. Although the C+pod is almost comically small, and letting it loose on Japanese roads requires putting a sticker on the hatch to warn other motorists that it's unusually slow, it comes standard with a pre-collision safety system that detects and brakes for other cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
Pricing for the entry-level X model starts at 1,650,000 Japanese yen, or about $16,000. Buyers who step up to the G trim will need to pay 1,716,000 yen, or $16,600. These figures are relatively steep, especially considering the aforementioned Ami starts at €6,000 (about $7,400), but Toyota isn't targeting private motorists — at least not yet. At launch, the C+pod will be put in the hands of corporate users, local governments and other similar organizations. Private sales aren't scheduled to start until 2022 at the earliest.
Toyota's move into this niche comes shortly after company boss Akio Toyoda voiced his frustration with the blinkered focus that governments worldwide are putting on electric cars. He warned Japan would run out of electricity if every car on its roads ran on batteries, and he urged lawmakers not to ban gasoline-powered engines.