Toyota will introduce a new, supermini-sized hatchback-cum-4x4 next year in an attempt to dive into one of the fastest growing new car market niches in Europe – that of the small crossover 4x4. Our spies have taken the pictures to prove it, and you can see them in our gallery. Taken in Austria only last week, they show a small, left-hand drive, jacked-up five-door hatchback with covers over the front and rear ends.
Like a Yaris with wellies on
This car will become Toyota’s smallest 4x4 model. According to Toyota sources, it’ll be built in the firm’s Takaoka factory in Japan, and based extensively on the Japanese-market Toyota Ist, which itself shares a platform with the Yaris supermini. Toyota also makes a version of the car for its growing American youth brand Scion, called the XD.At just under 4.0-metres long and 1.7-metres wide, the Ist is slightly larger than a Yaris, but still supermini-sized. It’s available with a choice of two powertrains; a 109bhp 1.5-litre four-pot petrol engine mated to a continuously variable transmission with a choice of front- or four-wheel drive, or a front-wheel-drive-only 132bhp 1.8-litre alternative teamed with a four-speed automatic gearbox. It remains to be seen which of these models Toyota will offer to us Europeans, and whether it will add a manual gearbox into the mix.One thing that is for sure is that it’ll make a few changes to the car’s sheet metal work and styling before showing it to the world at the 2008 Geneva motor show. The car in our pictures probably runs a few of these tweaks, which explains the covers; expect the finished thing to retain a strong resemblance to the Ist, however.
The fastest growing segment of the lot
The market for small 4x4s has been part-fed in recent years by pseudo soft-roaders such as the VW Polo Dune, Citroen C3 XTR, even the shortlived Rover Streetwise, which offer 4x4 looks without the four-wheel drive.Cars like the Suzuki SX4, Fiat Panda 4x4 and Daihatsu Terios go one better by adding proper all-wheel drive, but they’ll be getting some serious company over the next 18 months from the Skoda Yeti, Mini 4x4, Subaru Justy, Audi A1 quattro – even Mitsubishi road-going version of the Concept cX.You can now add the Toyota Ist to that increasingly long list of supermini-sized 4x4s to expect in a showroom near you soon, although the model's name will probably change.