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.
Toyota confirmed a rumor we first caught wind of earlier in 2020 by announcing that the current-generation Land Cruiser will retire after the 2021 model year. The next-generation model will be introduced in the coming months, but we're receiving mixed signals about whether the nameplate will return to the United States.
Launched in 2007 as a 2008 model, and updated twice since, the J200-generation Land Cruiser (pictured) is about to enter its 14th year on the market. It's a senior citizen by industry standards, so its demise isn't surprising, 2 million units that year.
Like the canyons and mountains through which it traverses, the Toyota 4Runner is timeless. Mechanically, this latest 2021 edition is pretty much the same truck that debuted 12 years ago – an eternity in car terms. On the one hand, that's great: it has the same rugged truck-based chassis, capable suspension, ample clearances and bulletproof reliability that makes it a darling among off-roaders everywhere (and keeps its residual values sky-high). Its abundant interior space has also allowed it to be a realistic alternative to more family-friendly crossovers.
On the other hand, the 2021 Toyota 4Runner cannot escape the ravages of time. The carry-over engine produces less horsepower than a V6 Camry, the transmission has five (!) fewer gears than a Ford Explorer or Chevy Tahoe's, the fuel economy is a truly dismal 17 mpg combined, and calling the handling "imprecise" would be an understatement. The interior is also closer to the antique end of scale, though substantial tech updates last year at least ushered it into this century.
These are like mini buses that can fetch as many as 20 passengers at a time. They are transparent and relatively empty on the inside, although seats can be folded up to make more space, or folded down when necessary. According to Toyota, one of the goals was to create just-in-time mobility services where the shuttles can be quickly deployed whenever they are needed.
According to Keiji Yamamoto, President of Toyota’s Connected Company, “As per the Toyota Philosophy that President Akio Toyoda introduced at our recent financial results announcement, we see our vision as “Creating Mobility for All” and believe that every person working at Toyota should take action that delivers happiness to mankind in line with our mission of Producing Happiness for All. One of the platforms for executing these actions is the e-Palette. With the addition of an operations management system, the evolved e-Palette will be refined and will grow with the never-finished, ever-growing Woven City.”
The new and redesigned 2021 Toyota Sienna takes big strides forward when it comes to crash safety, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It earns the highest possible Top Safety Pick+ award for 2021, whereas the previous Sienna received no accolades.
Most tests saw the 2020 Sienna earn applaudable scores, but it didn't do so well with both small overlap front crash tests. Toyota appears to have addressed the previous model's shortcomings, as it scored a "Good" rating in both overlap tests this year. The IIHS says the outgoing Sienna fell short because "the occupant's survival space was not maintained well" in either small overlap front crash test. Those structural issues didn't present themselves in the 2021 Sienna, and IIHS testing found no evidence of a heightened risk of injury to the driver or passenger.
Earlier in 2020, Toyota tantalized us with images and videos of a Supra equipped with a removable roof panel. It finally unveiled the model, which it originally planned to introduce at SEMA 2020. For enthusiasts who would rather go off the pavement, it also revealed an overlanding trailer that started life as a Tacoma cargo box.
Toyota explained building the Supra Sport Top was more challenging than simply chopping off the roof. After removing the sheetmetal, its engineers reinforced large sections of the car's structure to preserve its rigidity. They filled the gap above the front passengers with a pair of composite panels that can be stored in the trunk when the sun is out. Don't call it a T-top, though; there's no T-shaped bar running down the middle of the roof.
Toyota Mobility announced a prize money winner in its international mobility competition that challenged people around the world to come up with solutions to improve the lives of folks with lower limb paralysis. Finalists from Japan, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. were considered, but Phoenix Instinct from the U.K. ended up walking away with the $1 million prize money.
The winning product? An ultra-light carbon fiber wheelchair with some innovative features. It's called the Phoenix Instinct, and it aims to advance the generally stagnant wheelchair technology industry to make it easier and safer to use. The wheelchair uses a leveling system to automatically adjust its center of gravity and make it more stable/easier to maneuver. A power assist feature is implemented on the front wheels in an effort to reduce vibrations through the body. Finally, it uses an intelligent power braking system that can automatically detect when you're going downhill, then adjust the wheelchair's speed and manage its descent.
In the race to produce the first electric car with a solid-state battery, Toyota is in the lead. The Japanese giant plans to debut its first working prototype in 2021, with a production car going on sale sometime in the early 2020s according to a new report in the Nikkei.
The technology would usher in a new era of EVs, as solid-state batteries are more compact, charge faster, safer and possess more energy density than the traditional lithium-ion batteries that are in current widespread use. They use a solid electrolyte rather than a liquid or gel polymer electrolytes found in in Li-ion units. That means they require less physical space to produce the same amount of energy, and are less prone to fire when damaged.
Toyota is on track to introduce an electric prototype powered by state-of-the-art battery technology in 2021, but its chief executive warned that banning the internal combustion engine too quickly is a short-sighted decision. He explained that blanket bans could trigger job losses and electricity shortages while making cars more expensive.
"When politicians are out there saying, 'let's get rid of all cars using gasoline,' do they understand this?," said Toyota president Akio Toyoda during a Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association news conference. He's the organization's chairman, and his comments were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The totally new 2021 Toyota Mirai fuel-cell vehicle is over $9,000 cheaper than the old Mirai.
The Mirai XLE (base model) will start at $50,455, including the $955 destination charge. If you want the Limited with every option in the book, that'll cost $66,955. One of the premium paint options will add another $425 to either trim. Optional chrome 20-inch wheels are available on the Platinum for an additional $1,120. And the XLE has a Technology Package that adds a 360-degree bird's eye camera, front and rear parking assist w/automated braking and footwell illumination for $1,410.
Thanks to a certain unwelcome virus, the Toyota Corona's image has taken a bit of a beating over the past year or so. My very first car was a 1969 Corona sedan that cost 50 bucks, and I now own a chopped, customized 1969 Corona coupe that Boyd Coddington proclaimed as the "Coolest Car in L.A." a quarter-century back. For these reasons, I document every single Corona I find in car graveyards, and here's the latest: a well-worn 1979 Corona station wagon in a Denver-area yard.
To close out an insane year, Toyota U.K. has pulled the wraps off a GR Yaris that pays tribute to essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Revealed at the WRC season closer in Monza, Italy, the car is decorated with a mural designed by a 16-year-old high school student as part of a "Design a Rally Car Livery" art contest sponsored by Toyota and Wales Rally Great Britain.
The car, you may notice, is wearing the unofficial symbol of 2020 — a face mask with elastic straps wrapped around the side mirrors. Along its sides are profiles of a nurse, teacher, construction worker, shopkeeper and a police officer, representing professions that have kept the world turning during the health crisis.