BBC Autos

Most fascinating city car of 2013: Toyota i-ROAD

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.



Toyota’s i-ROAD is hardly the first attempt at a leaning three-wheel runabout.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled its functionally similar F300 Life-Jet in 1997, and General Motors displayed the very clever Lean Machine way back in 1982. But the i-ROAD city car – Toyota calls it a personal mobility vehicle – is different in a very noteworthy way: It’s headed for production.

The fully enclosed tandem two-seater, unveiled as a concept car at the Geneva motor show in March, measures just 33.5in wide, about half the width of a conventional automobile. Power comes from a pair of 2.7-horsepower electric motors, one in each of the front wheel hubs. Those wheels are articulated to allow the entire vehicle to lean into corners, motorcycle-style, for maximum stability. Toyota claims the 662lb i-ROAD can cover 30 miles on a full charge, and because a smaller electric car means a smaller battery, its lithium-ion array will recharge in just three hours, plugged into a conventional household outlet. In October, Toyota announced that it would build a production version of the i-ROAD. Yes, quantities will be modest and availability will be limited to Japan, but the move has global significance. In urban environments where, increasingly, every inch matters, Toyota’s commitment to small and smart city transportation is a very big deal indeed.

Second Opinion

Renault Sport Twizy F1 Concept

Renault Sport Twizy F1 Concept. (Renault)

A 100hp electric golf cart equipped with the kinetic energy-recovery capabilities of a Formula 1 car. No, the one-off Renault Twizy F1 will not be scorching the world’s urban cores any time soon, but if only it could. – Jonathan Schultz