The average price paid for a new truck in the US by the end of last year was $59,000. That's an enormous amount of money, especially considering a base, $35,000 Ford F-150 XL is damn near as capable as an $85,000 Limited.
Even the most affordable truck on the US market, the Ford Maverick, starts at about $25,000. And that's why the Toyota IMV 0 immediately captivated my attention. Here's a new, not-quite-full-size truck available for a starting price of just $10,000. Yes, a practical machine that can tow and haul and even turn heads, all for less than half the price of that Maverick.
There's only one problem: We'll never get it in the US.
|Quick Stats||2024 Toyota IMV 0|
|Output||137 Horsepower / 135 Pound-Feet|
|On Sale||2049 (US)|
Japan is a land of many small, cheap trucks. These little kei machines are incredibly trendy across the US, although they’re increasingly illegal in many parts of it, even those that meet our pesky 25-year import regulations.
This, though, was no kei truck. On the small size, sure, but it's almost a foot longer than the Maverick. It's based on the Hilux platform, the international equivalent of our Tacoma. I wasn't able to get the IMV 0's full spate of dimensions, but part of the point is that the compact truck is able to be built to whatever specifications you want. The silver-painted pre-production model I drove had a bed big enough for a sheet of drywall, while its cab sat a couple of grown adults without them having to get too uncomfortably close.
That said, they won't be particularly comfortable otherwise.
You sit bolt upright in the IMV 0, your chair fixed directly to the back of the cab. That's right, there is no commodious crew cab arrangement here, just a compartment big enough to fit two humans, an abbreviated dashboard, and the bare minimum of inputs required to pilot the thing.
If you're the sort who loathes touchscreen controls, you'll love the IMV 0. It doesn't have a touchscreen at all, nor much in the way of other controls. No automatic climate system here because the base IMV 0 doesn't even have heat. It's designed primarily for Thailand and other developing markets where ambient temperatures aren't expected to be lacking.
Air conditioning, however, comes standard. Just roll down either of the two windows. Yes, with a hand crank.
Climb up into the driver's seat – no power running boards here to help – and you're presented with the bare essentials in the gauge cluster. You won't find any information about active safety systems. The IMV 0 doesn't have any, nor ABS, nor airbags. There's no fancy trip computer here, no trailer monitoring system. You just have a few warning lights and a speedometer, and that's it. Thankfully, there's not much in the way of sound-deadening material between you and the 137-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four under the hood, so you won't miss the tachometer.
Plastics are hard and shiny everywhere you look, and the lack of a radio was a very conscious decision. According to one of the development engineers, aftermarket audio is so common in Thailand that anything Toyota installed would have just been yanked out anyway. The result is the absolute minimum for a modern car, a space that actually deserves the "spartan" cliche we automotive journalists summon so often.
I first saw the IMV 0 sitting in the sun in the infield of Toyota's sprawling Shimoyama test complex. I twisted the ignition and heard that four-banger drone into life without much fanfare. I reached for the knob on the end of the floor-mounted shifter and moved it through its extent. It offered the kind of imprecision you'd expect given its length, each of its five forward gears providing only a vague resistance.
The IMV 0 had been parked immediately behind Toyota's EV with a fake manual transmission, a one-of-one prototype that I didn't want to hit, so I selected reverse to make a little room before moving forward. I needn't say that there's no rear-view camera to help, but with A and B pillars offering twig-like girth, plus the IMV 0's manageable dimensions, moving the truck through the pit area full of priceless prototypes was a breeze.
It was a refreshing change from the Silverado 2500HD I recently tested, a cumbersome rig I had the misfortune of driving into and out of a narrow parking garage, 360 camera enabled and proximity sensors screaming, each of its 20-inch chromed wheels just millimeters away from disaster. By contrast, the sidewalls on the IMV 0 are so generous that you can aim for the curbs.
I eased the pre-production truck onto the wide, smooth test track and realized that I was driving this basic rig far too gingerly. I put my foot flat to the floor and was greeted with a bit more noise but no more acceleration. I swung from one gear to the next, working my way up to fifth with the kind of slow, relaxed action necessitated by that long shifter.
I swerved from lane to lane, laughing all the while. The truck didn't feel unsteady, never threatening to tip over or lose control. I was driving this thing flat out at a reasonable speed, and it didn't feel the least flustered.
The IMV 0 is as simple as a set of Dickie's coveralls, but like the workwear, how could you not love it? Despite limited features and a performance envelope that's barely more generous, its sheer appeal shines through. I even like the styling, raw and purposeful to the extreme. It's so much better looking than the heavy-duty trucks that stalk the roads near me, resplendent in their chrome, hoods and grilles unnecessarily tall and punctuated by scoops and vents that lead to nowhere.
Toyota's IMV 0 is a delightful little reminder of what a basic truck can and should be. For that reason alone, I'm sad that it's something we'll never see here on American streets. At least, not for another 25 years. A truck this simple is incompatible not only with US regulations but also the American consumer market.
However, I hope the continued success of the Maverick is a sign to other manufacturers that there is room for smaller, cheaper trucks. Maybe even for something approaching this. The Maverick, great as it is, isn't exactly what you'd call a rugged machine. It lacks the kind of raw purpose the IMV 0 exudes from every angle. I'd love to see Toyota bring a smaller, more focused truck like this to the American market, a sub-Tacoma with some IMV 0 purpose. After reading this far, I'm guessing you might feel the same way.
|Output||137 Horsepower / 135 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type||Rear-Wheel Drive|
|Towing||3,000 Pounds (est.)|
|Payload||2,000 Pounds (est.)|