Yeah, so the Toyota ME.WE concept does look a bit like the crosspollination of a Smart ForTwo and a baked potato, but if you look past its unusual exterior panels – and that homely face – you may find some rather intriguing design features.
The ME.WE. was built by Toyota’s European Design Development studio in France, but its design was largely the responsibility of famed architect Jean-Marie Massaud.
“With the Toyota team, we focused on the idea of how, using the technologies currently within our grasp, we can innovate in a non-technological way,” Massaud said in a launch presentation. “I tried to create a vehicle that combats crisis. We need more adaptability, intelligence, as well as something light. I took this opportunity to create an everyday car that was always ready.”
At 69.3 inches wide, 136.6 inches long, and 63 inches tall, the ME.WE.’s footprint is close to that of a Scion iQ, but its length places it between the iQ and a Toyota Yaris. The ME.WE. is an electric vehicle, but in order to make the most of its svelte dimensions, lithium-ion batteries are sandwiched beneath the floorboards, while propulsion is provided by motors mounted within the wheels themselves. No range or performance estimates are given, but Toyota says the car can be operated in two- or four-wheel-drive modes.
The ME.WE. has sharp, metallic roof line that appears to float above the body – which, as you can see, stands in stark contrast to the roof’s design. It’s rounded, it’s bloated, and quite plastic. The body panels are made from polypropylene, weigh but 30 lbs, and can be interchanged should you not like the indented black panels shown here. Beneath the surface, the ME.WE uses a tubular aluminum structure; paired with the plastic body panels, Toyota says the car comes in 400 lbs lighter than a typical B-segment vehicle.
Like both the upper portion of the hood and roof, the ME.WE’s floor is trimmed with bamboo decking that runs the entire length of the cabin. Instrumentation on the bamboo-trimmed dash is also minimal, and consists of a small LCD readout and – assuming you’ve installed the app – a docked iPhone. Hammock-like seats are used front and rear, and are cantilevered from the flooring surface.
Look closer, and you’ll notice a number of interesting touches. For instance, the windshield can roll down along with the side windows, making the ME.WE something of a roadster. The rear bumper trim panel pulls out to extend the rear load floor if the hatch panel is removed; long items can then be secured with straps that attach to anchor points on the D-pillars and along the roof overhang. An elastic fabric cover can be zipped into the recessed portion of the roof frame, allowing it to secure and protect luggage placed on the roof. The rear seat allegedly folds and stores beneath the front seats if needed, or – in a very Citroen 2CV-like twist – can be removed for use as a picnic bench.
It’s highly unlikely the ME.WE will go into production as-is, but we hope some of Massaud’s ideas – or, if nothing else, his line of thought – permeates Toyota’s design teams when designing small cars. Although it won’t premiere at an auto show, the ME.WE will make its public debut at Toyota’s flagship showroom on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on April 26.