LOS ANGELES -- Toyota is testing the baby crossover waters again with another concept -- this time the FT-AC, for "future Toyota adventure concept" -- aimed squarely at the outdoorsy lifestyle of sunny California.
The subcompact concept with all-wheel drive features styling elements that hark back to the off-road heritage of Toyota's retro FJ Cruiser from earlier this decade as well as the brand's rugged Land Cruisers from decades past.
The subcompact crossover segment is booming, with U.S. sales up 17 percent this year, though it is blurring, with some vehicles styled more like SUVs and some that more resemble sporty hatchbacks or tall wagons. The vehicles that have come to dominate the segment, the Jeep Renegade, Subaru Crosstrek and Honda HR-V, are styled more like traditional SUVs.
"It's no coincidence then that FT-AC makes its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, in a city where much of the population escapes to the hills, deserts, or beaches for their much-needed weekend recharges," Toyota said Thursday.
Off-road elements of the FT-AC, Toyota said, include vehicle-recovery hooks, skid plates to protect against rocks and ruts and fog lights that can be detached from the vehicle and used as portable lamps.
The chunky crossover comes with big tires, wide fender flares and ample ground clearance. It also is equipped with a safari roof rack and elevated LED lamps that can light up the area around the vehicle.
On the tech side, the concept has embedded infrared cameras on the side mirrors, a Wi-Fi hot spot and rear-facing lights that can be controlled via a mobile application, Toyota said.
While still just a concept, the FT-AC is imagined by Toyota as a gasoline-powered vehicle that also could be fitted with a hybrid powertrain.
Toyota has been rolling out small crossover concepts this year to gauge public opinion following the U.S. launch of its first production subcompact crossover, the C-HR, this year.
In April, Toyota unwrapped the Toyota FT-4X concept, based on the C-HR, at the New York auto show. The FT-4X is aimed more at a male, outdoorsy demographic group without being a hardcore off-road vehicle.
At the Tokyo show in October, the wraps came off the TJ Cruiser, a vanlike take on the crossover segment, with sliding rear doors geared more to a surf-and-sun lifestyle than woodsy adventures.
The concept vehicles are designed around the Toyota New Global Architecture, a flexible platform that underpins the C-HR and the latest generations of the Prius and the Camry and is coming soon to the RAV4.
In Europe, the C-HR is offered with all-wheel drive and as a hybrid, options that should show up in coming years in North America.