Ridicule is Nothing to be Scared Of

From time to time, I receive the occasional photo from the wild of some interesting automotive oddity from friends and family. Today’s subject however, I’m forced to admit, had me stumped.

“We’re not in Toyota City any more, WiLL.” A UFO in Cork. Image: PoD (Thanks bruv!)

Now, I consider myself to be reasonably authoritative on matters automotive, at least when it comes to the European industry anyway. Admittedly any putative knowledge tends to evaporate once we metaphorically cross the Atlantic but I have rarely if ever failed to correctly identify anything flung my way – until now. Even I had to admit defeat on this one.

What we are looking at is better known as a WiLL Cypha. I expect that unlike me, you (our informed and highly knowledgeable DTW readers) know your Japanese oddities and are incredulously shaking your heads at my ignorance, but for those who do not, WiLL existed as a domestic Toyota sub-brand (of sorts), akin to the now similarly defunct Scion nameplate in the US. Just as Scion was an attempt at shifting the ownership dial towards a younger demographic, WiLL was aimed at the youth market in Japan, and in particular, towards women under 23.

Waku, and furthermore, Doki. Cypha IP. Image chw.net

The WiLL brand encompassed an array of products and services, with brands like Asahi and Panasonic joining forces to tap the youth Yen. To some extent then, it was the Toyota equivalent to Nissan’s Pike Factory cars – or indeed the Cube. Based on humble Yaris underpinnings, the Cypha, a shortened version of ‘Cyber Phaeton’ (so now you know), was an exercise in styling over functionality. Dimensionally (and if you squinted really hard, stylistically) similar to the US market Scion xD, the Cypha was introduced in 2002, replacing the even more cartoonesque and shortlived Vi model.

2001 WiLL Vi. Image: revscene

In several respects, Toyota was ahead of the wider industry here, the WiLL-badged cars being offered to customers as a lease rather than an outright purchase. Subscribers paid a monthly fee based upon mileage elapsed, this being transmitted electronically from the car’s built-in media centre to the dealer. This device also housed a sat-nav, could display emails as well as images from the user’s camera phone, while a range of games and navigation maps could also be downloaded from WiLL outlets.

But what perhaps dates the cars’ design and concept more than any other factor is the combination of style and market positioning. Unaggressive if wilfully odd in appearance, the Cypha’s unusual down-the-road-graphics are not of the ‘snarling six year old’ variety that is so favoured now. Similarly, the cars were set up for comfort rather than Nordschleife-busting, which as concepts go, seems almost laughably quaint in 2017.

2002 WiLL Cypha. Image PoD

The WiLL experiment came to an abrupt end in 2004, while Scion limped on until 2016. Now that Waku-Doki appears to be the new black, the remaining WiLL models are rebranded Toyota. So how you might ask did this cosmic voyager from Toyota City beam down in suburban Cork? Well, where there’s a WiLL there’s usually a way.

Did I say black? In this case I actually mean grey – as in import. For such a conservative country, (especially when it comes to matters automotive) cars such as this enjoy a surprising second life, but as has been stated in the past, the land of my fathers is often a place of extremes.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

6 thoughts on “Ridicule is Nothing to be Scared Of”

  1. If one of these ever came my way I’d seriously consider it, although Yaris is a bit slow.

    There was a Vi in London NW3 for a decade (maybe still is), owned by a well-known designery architect. There was a craze for those little Figaro things then too. Again, fun but gutless.

  2. Why does this car have two steering wheels, the orange one is placed very inconveniently in the centre of the dashboard?

  3. A marvellous find – thank you. I wasn’t aware of this model and having done a small amount of research, it looks as though it was available either with a 1.3 litre engine (2-wheel drive) or a 1.5 litre (all-wheel drive). AWD seems an odd option to offer, although not as odd as the car’s characterisation as a 4-legged, fluorescent yellow bug, as seen in a promotional video.

    Despite being offered in some bright paint colours, it looks as though the interior only came in black, which is a shame. Interesting car, though.

    1. From my experience AWD is a relatively common option for Japanese market cars, all the way down to Kei-class motors. I imagine it’s popular for getting around in snowy winter weather. How they fit all the necessary drivelive components in and keep a semblance of interior space, it beats me!

  4. My only close and personal encounter with WiLL was in Southampton on a Sunday morning in 2011. Totally flummoxed me, to the point that I chased after it and took two poor photos of it to send to a person more au fait with such matters to identify it for me:

    My flawed recollection had me thinking it was a WiLL VS, which would have been an even better spot. The VS is a Corolla-sized hatchback from 2001-04 which looks ten years ahead of its time. The 2001 Corolla, meantime, looked like something from the early ’90s.

    Only 4000 examples of the VS were made; the low number was intentional and not down to lack of demand. Does this tell us that Toyota had some clever systems for small-run products, or possibly were so rich at the time that they could afford loss-making vanity products?

  5. We see a fair few of these in New Zealand, thanks to our used car market being flooded with JDM imports since the late 1980s.

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