The Toyota TJ Cruiser concept is a fun-filled toolbox on wheels

SUVs are on the rise as a category, in many regions but particularly in the U.S., and Toyota’s new TJ Cruiser concept aims to address that growing demand in a way that other vehicles in its lineup doesn’t.

Toyota’s TJ Cruiser project lead Mai Takeiuchi explained that Toyota believes that in terms of SUV buyers, there are urbanites who value style, and on-the-go consumers who want long-lasting products with convenience. The on-the-go consumers love outdoors and want to get out to nature, according to Takeiuchi.

Enter the TJ Cruiser, which has the luggage capacity of a van and the design of an SUV. Even the car’s name reflects its mission: T is for “toolbox,” while J stands for “joy,” which, although an odd combo in English, does convey the durability of the car with its many tool-finish surfaces.

You can see that the hood and other exterior and interior panels have a durable, finely pebbled coating that provides a drippy, durable surface for resting equipment and tools. It’s designed as a workhorse, in the tradition of vehicles like the Honda Element and the Toyota FJ Cruiser, but in a compact package that’s probably more practical for urban drivers.

There’s ample cabin space, which Toyota says can be used like a “convenient tool.” It’s interior volume is made up of large modular cargo space, with easy access via a sliding rear door. The idea is to maximize use of space, per Takeiuchi, “as we do in Japanese homes.”

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There are fold-flat seats inside, with the ability to pack in items of up to 3 meters in length using the folding passenger seat. There are also tie-downs across the vehicle, built into the back of the seats so that they’re available to secure cargo when you fold them flat.

The square body likely isn’t great for aerodynamics, but it is effective in terms of making the most out of cubic volume. The TJ also boasts a tough undercarriage and large diameter tires, along with short front and rear overhangs. Plus the he engine hood roof and fender, and all in-cabin materials are resilient to dirt and damage

Its design is meant to appeal to customers in Japan,  and in markets beyond, including North America, Europe and China. It’s not yet on the track for production or commercialization, but Toyota is hoping to gauge customer response from the Tokyo Motor Show where it’s debuted to figure out next steps.

As an avowed fan of both the Honda Element and the FJ Cruiser, I have to say this looks like an amazing car and a perfect combo for city dwellers who like to get out and get wild once in a while – here’s hoping it gets made.

Disclaimer: Toyota provided accommodations and travel for this trip to the Tokyo Motor Show.