Review: Scion iQ

This fall, Toyota’s Scion division will be rolling out its latest ride, the iQ, into dealer showrooms on the West coast.

With the small, extremely fuel efficient and feature-laden iQ, Scion is aiming for the same sweet spot as other undersized city cars — the Smart ForTwo, Mini Cooper and Fiat 500 — but it’s doing so with a much more affordable, and, it hopes, hipper package.

With a starting list price at a little under $16,000, the iQ continues Scion’s reputation for making inexpensive, funky-looking cars for young urbanites.

This blunt little box seems like a knock off of the two-seater Smart ForTwo, but it’s actually a four-seater. Cleverly dubbing the car a “3+1 seater,” Scion has massaged the overall design so the front passenger seat can be slid very far forward, allowing an adult to occupy the back seat immediately behind it without sacrificing leg room for either passenger (though the seat behind the driver is still a very tight squeeze). Scion bought the extra room by relocating things that normally occupy the area in and around the front seat passenger to other parts of the car. The glove box has been moved under the seat, and the heater/air conditioner unit has been miniaturized and moved to the center console. The airbag and dash remain the same.

And speaking of airbags, the iQ features eleven of them — a record for any car, and a feat made all the more impressive considering the iQ’s minuscule size. There are separate airbags for the head and knees of both the driver and the front passenger, side-curtain airbags, seat-cushion airbags, and even an airbag for rear window, which is a first.

Just how small is the Scion iQ? A tenth of an inch over ten feet long. That’s a little more than a foot longer than a ForTwo, and a full 20 inches shorter than a Fiat 500. It definitely makes the Mini look anything but. The iQ also tips the scales at a flyweight 2,127 pounds, or about as much as a first-gen Miata.

Speaking of Miatas, although the upcoming iQ is not sports car, nor does it possess handling that would make Colin Chapman smile, it does have an amazingly small turning radius. The front wheels can be spun to nearly 45 degrees, giving the iQ a turning radius of an astonishingly low 13 feet, or about the length of a Miata. Ergo, maneuvering this little guy through inner-city traffic and hanging a quick U-turn to snag that last parking spot is a snap.

The iQ is motivated by a 1.3 liter inline four. Nothing fancy, no turbos or superchargers. And no, there won’t be a hybrid version — lord knows where they’d put the batteries and other hybrid gear. To keep the length down, Toyota did some rather ingenious things like push the wheels and suspension bits way, way out to the corners of the car, much like Mini and Fiat have done. The 8.5 gallon gas tank has also been relocated so it resides under the drivers seat. Yes, that gave me a rather disconcerting feeling when I was tooling around Seattle in the iQ, but I eventually got past it.

With that little size and weight, and that small of an engine, the mileage numbers are very, very impressive for a non-hybrid car. Scion’s iQ returns 36 MPG city, 37 MPG highway and a combined figure of 37 MPG. These numbers make the little iQ the current record-holder when it comes to combined figures for internal combustion engine cars. Toyota is holding off on trumpeting that last fact until the EPA confirms it, though.

The iQ’s four-cylinder engine produces 94 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque. No, you won’t be walking away with any drag trophies from the local strip with this thing, but that’s more than enough juice to get you out of your own way when driving around town. Also making city driving easier is the iQ’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), and the iQ is rated an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV-II), which is nice.

The tech and gadgetry extends to the interior appointments, where the top of the center console houses the Scion Drive Monitor. It’s a small screen that displays information like outside temperature, average MPG, and an ECO-drive indicator that helps the driver maximize the iQ’s fuel efficiency.

Hipsters need music, so the iQ comes standard with a 160-watt, four-speaker Pioneer audio system with an AM/FM radio, CD player, a USB port, HD radio and a built-in hands-free phone connection with streaming audio capability. The audio system also features an organic electroluminescent (OEL) screen, and an RCA output for hooking up an aftermarket subwoofer.

There’s an optional “premium” audio system that has the same features as the standard unit, but ups the output to 200 watts and includes extras like a 5.8-inch LCD touch-screen display that allows iTunes tagging, Pandora radio (connected through your iPhone), and six RCA outputs to add external amplifiers. Plunk down even more cash and upgrade to the top-tier Scion Navigation package. You get all the goodies in the 200-watt audio system, plus a navigation system and DVD player — all accessible through a seven-inch touch-screen LCD display.

All in all, it’s a great city car, and it should hit a bulls-eye on price, performance and interior features with a certain demographic.

Photos courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

See Also:

  • Scion FR-S Concept Is So Hot, We Can Taste It
  • Toyota iQ Gets a Scion Badge And Aston Martin Grille
  • Fiat Has Big Hopes for its Tiny Car
  • Tiny Smart Car Is Safe as a Puppy, and About as Fast
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