Did Toyota just preview the Maverick rival its dealers want?


The Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo is a hallmark event for the nation’s automakers, an annual occasion to drum up excitement for future models‚ both potential and planned. Ahead of 2023’s show, which runs from Thursday, October 26 to Sunday, November 5, Toyota unveiled a slew of concepts that signal the direction in which the automotive titan hopes to march. Sure, the electric Land Cruiser might be the sexiest idea, but this small truck is what really caught our attention.

Toyota small ev trucklet concept hilltop ocean view

It’s called the EPU, and it looks like a counterpunch to Ford’s red-hot Maverick, the first truly small pickup sold to consumers in years. The EPU is just a concept right now, but that shape looks remarkably attainable from a design, manufacturing, and regulatory compliance standpoint.

According to the limited details provided by Toyota, the EPU utilizes monocoque construction—a unibody, in other words—like that of the Maverick. The EPU is also a battery-electric vehicle, a characteristic that would set it apart from the Maverick, which relies either partly or fully on an internal-combustion engine.

Toyota small ev trucklet concept high angle side

Toyota calls the EPU a midsize pickup, but a glance at the dimensions reveals a machine that’s somewhere between a compact pickup like the Maverick and a midsize pickup like the Ranger or Tacoma. Of note: The EPU’s proposed overall length is 199.6 inches, which is actually 0.1 inches smaller than the Maverick. Width-wise, the EPU is 2.6 inches broader than a Maverick. Overall height is down 1.4 inches, Ford to Toyota.

The 131.9-inch wheelbase of the EPU, however, is nearly 11 inches longer than the Maverick’s. In fact, the wheelbase of the EPU is 3.2 inches longer than that of Ford’s new Ranger, which, as of the 2024 model year, is now exclusively offered with a crew cab and the 5-foot bed. Specs aren’t available yet for the all-new fourth-generation 2024 Tacoma, but if we lay the EPU’s dimensions next to those of the outgoing, third-gen Tacoma, the concept has an additional 4.5 inches between the wheels there.

Toyota small ev trucklet concept interior

The rest of the EPU looks quite promising. Toyota says that “the rear of the cabin links boldly with the deck to accommodate diverse user preferences.” Our suggested translation: The rear wall of the cabin, the one that separates passenger occupancy space from the truck bed, will fold to swallow lengthy objects. (Sound familiar? Chevrolet’s Silverado EV promises the same party trick.)

Earlier this fall, we noted that Toyota’s North American dealers were clamoring for a small truck to compete with the Maverick (and Hyundai’s Santa Cruz, although the latter has taken a significant backseat to the Ford when it comes to sales). While those discussions orbited around a gas-burner possibly underpinned by the Corolla platform, we wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota announces that it will hold off on a gas-powered little hauler and instead prioritize a battery-powered model like the EPU.

That said, can we work on the name please, Toyota? This trucklet seems like the perfect opportunity to revive the Stout nameplate, the small truck that helped spearhead Toyota’s breakthrough into the American market.




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    The less this looks like a kitchen appliance (Santa Cruz), and more like a real pickup (Maverick), the more Toyota will sell. Of course the marketing geniuses with fancy degrees will demand full electric with soft touch surfaces, wifi integration, and an anodyne moniker. Sign me up for a Maverick anyday.

    The wheelbase is really interesting, this is a very wheels-at-the-edge design. Epu (EEE poo?) seems like a terrible name to me. Toyota trucks have T-word names. Call this little giant the TEXAS! Or anything that isn’t Epu…

    In Canada, the Santa Cruz starts way higher price than Mavericks and dealers in generally are only stocking top-spec (or close) configurations. Hyundai priced lots of people out of theirs.

    I prefer the look of the Santa Cruz, but the concept from 2015 was better in almost all design details (grill, headlights, front fender bulges, etc.).

    The Maverick is a Nissan Cube front with a shrunken F150 rear. I don’t mind it, but I will probably like it more when it gets a front end refresh.

    Being 4-door El Camino/Ranchero –for me a more car-based look works. Ute, not mini truck. I’d love to see real mini trucks return to North America.

    The real question in this segment is will it grow or will they just fight over the present numbers.

    These are selling ok but not in the numbers a CUV sells. The Maverick is the highest volume but far below similar CUV sales. The Hyundai and Honda both are far behind.

    FWD based trucks have always have had a limited following. I know the automakers would love this to take off as they can prove to be more profitable than the mid size trucks that cost as much to build as a full size.

    The key here is to have enough interior space and comfort like a CUV but yet make a bed that is still usable.

    I would love to see GM do a small truck like this and make the cab open like it does on the Avalanche or the new EV truck. This would give much more utility to a small useless bed like on the Maverick.

    GM has a Montana in South America but it more built for a 3rd world country and would not do well here with out changes.

    While some feel this is a sure thing it is not. The numbers that Ford brags on are still not a sure thing.

    Right now non of these would make me give up my Canyon. I have time behind the wheel of each and none are much of what I want in a truck yet.

    I would love to see the Blazer done in something with a bed and full time AWD.

    People need to give up on the S10 and Ranger as the small truck is gone and not coming back. These used parts shared with small RWD sedans and they are gone so these FWD based messes are all we will get.

    And where do these, specifically the Maverick, lose in capability to the Ranger or S-10 of the 80s or 90s? The only thing I see is bed size which an extended cab variant could easily correct. The Maverick is more powerful, fuel efficient, and has the same or greater payload and towing if the old compact pickups.
    In addition to the longer bed I’d want a standard transmission but I’m alone in that.

    I hope Toyota makes this available as a hybrid as it gets cold in the Great White North. Having to tether an EV all winter just to keep the battery warm makes no sense. Hybrid FWD with an electric motor in the rear works for me.

    My wife’s hybrid Maverick should be here in a week or so. This car is going to replace our 2016 Ecoboost Fiesta that two despondent deer took out. The Maverick has a bed which we have to both work around and embrace. We are keeping our old Silverado with its 8ft bed for real hauling and towing, but bringing home a fridge, towing dirt bikes, or moving mowers between properties is just up the Maverick’s street. Plus I really miss the Fiestas 45 MPG which I’m hoping the Mav will come close to. What the little truck can’t touch is the Fiestas manual transmission. An automatic is a massive down grade.

    Your article states “Toyota says that the rear of the cabin links boldly with the deck to accommodate diverse user preferences.” Gosh thats a new idea! Just like the Bollinger pickup. For too long manufacturers have increased the size of their vehicles until they have become ridiculous. Not everyone wants, needs or can afford an outsized gas-guzzling 4X4 pickup. Or, for that matter, an extended cab, power windows, power seats, power mirrors, sun roof, and an automatic trans. There are some who would like a compact, economical pickup.

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