The good news? The IMV 0 Toyota is coming to North America! The bad news is you won’t get to own one unless you live in Mexico. That is terrible news for US-based overland travelers as this vehicle is the perfect, affordable base for a tough-as-nails go-anywhere, global exploration vehicle (that said, we may have a way for you to have this cake and eat it, keep reading). The muscular and good-looking IMV 0 has all the practical functionality (but admittedly less charm) of a classic Defender or older 70 Series Land Cruiser, and it comes with legendary Toyota reliability and a price tag starting as low as $10,000. The reason for this low cost is relatively simple, but first, let’s have a look at the basics and the background.
The Toyota IMV 0 takes a minimalist approach to design and functionality. Built on the same platform as the globally popular Toyota Hilux pickup, the IMV 0 is built on a basic framework consisting of a two-door cab and a flatbed mounted on four wheels. Toyota’s vision is that the vehicle will function as modular units, allowing it to transform into mobile platforms. The eventual goal is to sell thousands of units worldwide, the low cost justified by the economies of scale, and that these vehicles can be adapted for personal use such as overlanders (yes, please!), as delivery vehicles, industrial vehicles, taxis, and any other use the Global South can think of (there may even be an SUV/MPV version coming in 2024). This move signals a return to fundamental automotive essentials, which is refreshing in an era typified by a race to luxury and electrification.
Developed in Thailand, where the IMV 0 is priced at approximately $10,000, it is anticipated that the IMV 0 will be marketed as the Hilux Champ in some regions, such as the Philippines, where it has already been introduced under the Tamaraw Concept name. The base model lacks even basic amenities such as LED headlights, power windows, or cruise control, but customization options will be available at a cost. The base model features rear-wheel drive and a 1TR-FE 2.0-liter gasoline engine producing 137 horsepower, paired with a 5-speed manual transmission, with a curb weight of 3,248 pounds. Four-wheel-drive and diesel variants will be available, and the vehicle’s design anticipates upgrades, with pre-drilled areas for accessories, bolt-secured front fenders, and a three-piece plastic bumper, making customization and repairs straightforward.
The IMV 0 is Toyota’s answer to Mahindra and Tata, who must be looking at this vehicle with despair; if the history of global utilitarian vehicles has proven anything, it is that cheap vehicles are invariably a false economy and every farmer and factory owner from Dehli to Cartagena knows that they would rather operate a fleet of Toyota’s than any other brand if that fleet is affordable. That fleet is now affordable.
The IMV 0 is not slated for release in the United States, primarily due to slim profit margins on the base model, import tariffs, and the need for legally required safety features. The good news for me, contrary to the title of this article, is that I live in Mexico and have already started to plan my IMV 0 overland vehicle. First, I will order the Toyota with 4WD and a diesel engine, power windows, and AC, which will likely bring the vehicle’s price tag closer to $ 15,000. I will then slap on a set of 265 75/R16s, a steel front bumper, and a small roof rack. At the rear, I think I will follow the Australian example and retain the flatbed with a drawer system, a fridge, some storage boxes, and a swag tent. Within a year, I will start building a removable camper to be mounted on the rear. I will let you sit in it when I drive up to the Overland Expo; the IMV 0 is bound to be the cheapest yet most desirable modern overland vehicle, for good reason.
We have already touched on the legendary Toyota reliability, and that is a practical consideration to be taken a step further for overland travel. When the IMV 0 is globally available, as it no doubt eventually will be, spare parts and mechanical service will likewise be globally available. But, as it is a Toyota, after all, you will probably drive from Ensenada to Timbuktu, the long way around, before you have any serious mechanical issues. And, as the vehicle is being built primarily as a commercial vehicle for the developing world, you can rest assured that the IMV 0 will be built as tough as any Toyota to come before it. As for aftermarket accessories, it seems that the IMV 0 will be released in South Africa and maybe even in Australia, and it will only be a matter of time before those good old boys down south have developed a range of bolt-on accessories.
So, is there a light at the end of this tunnel for American and Canadian overlanders? Yes, there is. If you are planning to overland internationally, I advise you to fly to South Africa (when the IMV 0 is available there), purchase the vehicle, have it kitted there, and then set off to explore the planet with it. You could leave the vehicle and fly home to harvest some cash before returning to your IMV 0 and the open road.
Have a look at the IMV 0 here, as featured by Top Gear Philippines.
The IMV 0 as the Safety Car at the 2022 Idemitsu 1500 Super Endurance event in Buriram, Thailand
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