There's a lot to like about auto shows. Seeing new production models can be truly exciting, and chatting with industry insiders offers new perspectives on the automotive world.
But for many folks, the best part of any auto show is the abundance of concept cars. Like haute couture clothing, concept cars aren't always meant to be practical: sometimes they exist solely to make a point, to push boundaries, to rethink common assumptions about humanity and the ways in which we relate to our environment.
Concept cars are at their best when they're truly disruptive and outrageous. Those vehicles can generate huge, heated discussions between fans and detractors.
Does the Toyota i-Road electric microcar concept fit that description? After seeing it unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, we're not entirely sure.
At first glance, the i-Road doesn't seem especially unique. Yes, it's tiny, and it has just three wheels, but tiny, three-wheeled vehicles have been around for decades. (Jeremy Clarkson drove an even smaller one on Top Gear.) And yes, it's electric, but given the growing number of electric cars in showrooms around the globe, that's not exactly noteworthy on its own.
Fans could also argue that the i-Road is exciting because it's more of a motorcycle than a car, but we've seen plenty of electric motorcycles over the years. In fact, we've recently seen an enclosed one that refuses to tip over.
What separates the i-Road is likely its handling (though of course, we've not tested one ourselves, so we only have Toyota's word on that). In a new video posted to Toyota Europe's YouTube channel and embedded at the top of this page, the i-Road maneuvers like a zippy motorcycle merged with a Segway: sleek, smooth, and quiet.
The problem, of course, is that the video doesn't offer actual footage of the i-Road. It's just a b-movie animation of several i-Roads motoring around sunny European landscapes. General Motors' EN-V concept may not be as graceful as the i-Road, but at least GM has given us a look at the real vehicle in action.
That's not to diminish the i-Road's potential. It seems like a great invention -- particularly for city-dwellers -- and frankly, we'll be first in line to drive one if/when they become available. But we'd really like a glimpse of the real thing, please.