The Scion iQ ($15,265 base price) is more of a direct competitor to the Smart car than it is a challenger to the Mini or the Fiat. It’s a true micro-city car (just a fraction over 10 feet) with the ability to turn any small gap into a parking spot. It lacks any of the performance of the two larger cars in our round-up, and the only time you’re likely to break out into a smile while driving it is when you squeeze it into a parking space usually left to motorcycles.
Driving the iQ takes a bit of getting used to — not because it’s tricky, but because it’s noticeably bland. Step on the gas pedal and there’s an odd feeling as the engine revs up to around 4,500 rpm and then just sort of stays there. The constant-velocity transmission allows you to drive around town without feeling gear changes. It’s not silky smooth, or quick, just different. Driving the iQ is uninspiring, and for a car so small, it manages only 37 miles per gallon on the freeway. The only upside to the efficiency is that it drops to only 36 in the city. Still, there are mid-size American cars that average close to the same (even better on the freeway).
Despite it’s micro-sized exterior, the iQ is reasonably roomy inside. At least it’s nice and spacious around the front seats. A rear window airbag does imply Scion intended passengers to ride in the back seat(s), and maybe a gold-medal-winning gymnast would be OK. But no normal-sized person is going to volunteer to sit back there, especially if they have to shoehorn in with another human.
The interior features a fair amount of plastic and lacks the style of both the Mini and the Fiat, though the controls are laid out in a straight-forward, utilitarian manner that keeps things simple. Scion does provide a few options for customizing the stereo, and it offers a few highlight colors to appeal to a younger generation that wants to put their own touches on their car. But nobody is likely to buy this car to make a statement — other than they drive a very small car.
get-gadget Feels like a normal car from the driver’s seat. Parks in half the space. City and highway mileage numbers are basically the same.
TIRED With only 94 hp hooked up to that constant-velocity transmission, you won’t be passing anybody. Ever.