The car magazines and the usual outlets tend to focus on sportscars and macho SUVs, all that ego-stroking machinery for the luckiest among us. Daihatsu have taken a grown-up approach with the Noriori concept.
The list of cars designed for accessibility is not a long one. Noble mention goes to Toyota’s Raum (two iterations: 1997 and 2003), the Ford Focus Mk1 (1998) and Ford Fusion (2002). Quite possibly all of the raised-ride height BMW GT cars are also accessible designs as well. The high H-point of the 3-series GT and 5-series GT is very senior-friendly. Of this list, the Mk 2 Raum is the most markedly different from the normal run of cars in terms of appearance.
As a quandam industrial designer with a bit of a background in accessibility, I am pleased to see Daihatsu (who often do really humane and warm-hearted cars) produce a new interpretation of design for accessibliity. It has been shown at the 2015 Tokyo Motor show
and is far from the most outre proposals this year. Actually, it’s not outre at all if you take as a starting point the idea that everyone is entitled to be designed for on equal terms. It’s not outre if you assume that design is about finding a rational compromise to a set of reasonably defined requirements.
The Noriori has a low floor to allow easy access for wheel-chair users. Once inside you find is a bright and cheerful interior with the feel of a lounge-stroke-sunroom. The bright green notes are welcoming. I get the feeling that if you have to be driven about as a wheelchair user, this might be a nice way to do it. Today I saw a person using an adapted van, with a door at the back and an elaborate zinc-coated lift more suited to goods than a human.
In the light of my recent reading of aesthetics, I can see that serving up lovingly-crafted design such as the Noriori acknowledges the humanity of the user. It’s no more complicated than good manners or presenting food to guests in a properly arranged way. It does not seem very likely that the Noriori is production-ready but perhaps it can serve to inspire designers -many of whom have quite pronounced wishes to do the right thing – to apply some form of this thinking to people who aren’t so lucky as to be able to hop in the car and zoom off.
An valuable question to ask of the Noriori is not whether I like it. It is to ask the intended user-group do they like it? If I have any doubts about the design as it is, it is that is demarcated too much from the mainstream. It is vastly better than a converted panel van but might, by looking different, alienate those for whom it is intended. That said, I see it as a welcome contribution to a field sadly all too limited.