Toyota Compact Cruiser EV
(Photo/Toyota)

Toyota Compact Cruiser EV Is the Retro FJ Replacement We Need

The Toyota Compact Cruiser EV packs original Land Cruiser styling into a cheap and cheerful EV.

The Toyota Compact Cruiser EV is winning awards before it even enters production. The rugged-looking electric vehicle takes original Land Cruiser styling and transforms it into something fully modern and incredibly cool.

The Toyota Compact Cruiser EV isn’t entirely new. The automaker dropped a few in-studio renderings and photos of it late last year. Now that it’s getting more attention, Toyota is giving us more renderings showing what it would look like sitting in the real world — even though it’s still a clay model for now.

Original Land Cruiser Style, Size

Toyota Compact Cruiser EV
(Photo/Toyota)

Like a more compact and practical update of the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the Compact Cruiser EV seems to be more in the spirit of the original Land Cruisers than Toyota’s last retro experiment.

And others are taking note. It won the 2022 Car Design Award for Concept Vehicles. The prize was first awarded in 1984, and the Italian competition aims to “celebrate cars and concepts that mark a turning point, a new departure for the future of transportation design.”

Nice Design, Designed in Nice

Toyota Compact Cruiser EV
(Photo/Toyota)

Toyota created the Compact Cruiser EV at its ED2 design center in Nice, France. If it looks familiar, that’s because the little EV was put on display as part of Toyota’s massive reveal last year. Fifteen electric concepts were on display there, including what looked like a Toyota Tacoma EV and new sports cars and personal mobility models.

“Our research into electric vehicles has been going on for more than 30 years, and we have already come a long way,” said Simon Humphries, senior GM of Toyota Design. “After an initial phase of getting to grips with electric vehicles, people will want zero-emission cars that speak to them and express their lifestyle. And the Compact Cruiser EV is a perfect example of this trend.”

This little off-roader is aimed at younger city dwellers who want to get outdoors on the weekend and on vacation. So it’s small enough to navigate city centers and find parking in urban areas.

As Toyota shows off in the photos, thanks to a ladder on the rear pillar and integrated roof racks on the top, the Compact Cruiser EV is able to handle hauling your gear. Take it to the trailhead, ski slopes, or anywhere else you’re headed to get out of the city.

Meant for Urban Dwellers With Weekend Plans

Toyota Compact Cruiser EV
(Photo/Toyota)

It looks like a high ride height by modern crossover standards. Combined with rugged flares, lower body protection, and a beefy front skidplate — yes, it’s probably plastic, but it looks tough — this little off-roader looks like the modern return of the Suzuki Samurai.

And with four doors and Toyota build quality, it could be a lot more capable than the Samurai. (Note: We know about the Jimny, but it’s definitely never going to be sold in North America, so we didn’t mention it.)

Could Toyota build it? Absolutely it could. At least once the automaker has some more experience building EVs other than the bZ4X.

Toyota Compact Cruiser EV
(Photo/Toyota)

Will Toyota build it? In addition to being one of 15 concepts that Akio Toyoda showed us while talking about the company’s electric plans, it was also part of the series of vehicles the CEO called “the diverse Toyota EVs.”

Toyoda strongly suggested all of the concepts would reach production in some form. With Toyota planning to have a total of 30 electric vehicles on the market by 2030, it’s hard not to see a place for the Compact Cruiser EV.

Our only worry is that it might end up only for Japan or Europe. If so, we’d really miss the joy of a tiny off-roader.

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Evan Williams
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Evan has been drooling over cars since the time he learned to walk. Since then he's worked on controlling the drooling and expanded his interests to include hiking, cycling, and kayaking. He went to school for engineering but transitioned into a more satisfying career and has been writing automotive and outdoors news for nearly a decade