Just a month to go before Winter ends and we pay a visit to Toyota Europe Design Development, sunk in the spectacular backdrop of the hills of Sophia Antipolis, near Nice. It is no surprise that Japan’s biggest carmaker opened its European design centre here in 2000: a large, bright, purpose-built construction where concept and production models fundamental to the Toyota and Lexus brands have been created over the two decades of its existence.
Creativity doesn’t go into lockdown
Like most events scheduled for 2020, the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of ED2 – the acronym by which the design centre is known – have inevitably had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Creativity never went into lockdown, however. “Fortunately, our talented team found ways to keep ED2’s creative spirit alive and thriving, and our output actually grew during this time”, says Ian Cartabiano, President of ED2.
Compact and eye-catching crossover concept
And so it was that the Aygo X Prologue took shape in the space of just a few months, an eye-catching crossover concept destined to act as ambassador – for the moment only in terms of exterior styling – for a future super-compact production car in a segment that has currently been abandoned by most manufacturers. “A-segment cars are normally cute and playful, but we went for a cheekier, more startling look for an agile car where volumes are raised and pushed forward, while the centre of gravity is kept low”, explains ED2 Design Director Lance Scott, pointing to an overview chart of the exterior theme with “Spiced up Fun X” as the key concept.
In a word, crossover typology, symbolised by the X, has been made spicier and more dynamic. The X symbol also marks continuity with the current Aygo, where the sign is a stand-out feature of the front. On the new concept, however, crossing lines become interlocked elements, particularly in the handling of the front and rear light clusters, which merge into a single luminous strip running around the volumes of the bonnet and tailgate.
Following our DNA
“The aim is to bring an injection of style, energy and emotion to the A-segment, avoiding any cheapness in appearance. I believe that everyone is entitled to a ‘cool’ car, regardless of income, and in this we are following our DNA”, confirms Cartabiano. The athlete-on-the-starting-blocks set up and the good balance between volumes, despite the unusual proportions, are made possible by the Toyota GA-B platform’s versatility. Much appreciated by the designers, this architecture also forms the basis of the latest Yaris, a model that accentuates the wings.
The influence into the future
This, then, is just one example of the many themes explored at Sophia Antipolis that will have an effect on Toyota group models, and not just in Europe. “The last few years have seen a growth in design outputs, supported by Simon Humphries, head of Global Design, at our headquarters in Japan”, notes Cartabiano, who calls his international team “small, but highly impactful”. The goal for the coming decades goes beyond just the product range: “ED2‘s designers are more than stylists, they are futurists. We continue to design the beautiful cars of our company’s next chapter, but we focus more and more on mobility, creating visions of society, its needs, infrastructure and business plan concepts that will help define the mobility needs of tomorrow”.
Silvia Baruffaldi, Edoardo Nastri
(Full article in A&D no. 247)