Toyota Scion iQ is a smart alternative

2012 Scion iQ in Palm Beach

Palm Springs, Fla. – There are so many reasons why Toyota’s Scion division needs the new iQ. The biggest reason is it’s a smart decision.

Yes, friends, all puns intended. The Scion iQ is an alternative to the interesting and tiny Smart car. It’s about the same size and has the same purpose — shuttering owners about the urban sprawl in the smallest footprint possible in a vehicle that’s still a real car and not a golf cart.

This car is more of the former and less the latter. The iQ (intelligent quality) is certainly no golf cart. It’s not even an EV or a hybrid. It’s a well built, teeny weeny car that’s relatively fun to drive and surprisingly roomy.

At 120.1 inches long, this really is a tiny car. You can get two of them in a parking space bumper to bumper. The car is 66.1 inches wide (not including the mirrors). That makes for a surprisingly roomy interior. Two adult males can fit comfortably. The highlight of my time spent with the iQ was seeing six-foot, nine-inch auto journalist Brian Armstead get in and out of the iQ. Yes, he fit – barely, and was even able to drive the thing. Certainly, a Kodak moment.

Interior is simple, modern

Scion has done some innovative packaging to make the iQ comfortable. The dash and seating are staggered. Front passenger seat is moved forward to give the rear passenger more room. The seat back is thinner and a more compact air and heating unit was developed and is housed behind the center stack. The glovebox is a tray under the passenger seat. This takes full advantage of the limited 78-inch wheelbase.

If you have rear passengers you have zero space for luggage. Fold the rear seats down and you can get a couple bags in, so long as they are of the smallish size.

The interior is really well done. The materials look and feel upscale and the simple, clean overall design is wonderful.

The exterior? Well, umm, yeah. I don’t dislike it but there is only so much you can do to something this small. I think it fits the genre and Scion’s quirkiness.

Sooo, something this small, with so little power is going to be sluggish with a choppy ride, right? Nope. I found the 1.3-liter four cylinder engine to feel more peppy than its 94 horses should. There is much engine noise when you push this thing to go up a hill or pass a car, but otherwise there’s not a lot to complain about. Wind noise is nearly absent and the ride was somewhat smooth. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) worked well and was unobtrusive. There is no manual available nor is there cruise control. Toyota thinks this is going to be used primarily for in-town commuting. I think once Scion customer start screaming, a cruise control unit will be offered later.

I must say on smooth pavement this car handles well. There’s a sporty feel to the steering and you can turn the thing on a dime. I do think the brakes could be reworked with discs in the rear, which may improve what felt like long stopping distances.

Would I use this as an everyday car? I think so. We did a mix of freeway and city driving and I never felt fearful. How safe is it? There are 11 airbags, stability and traction control along with anti lock brakes. I don’t want to speculate on the crash worthiness. Toyota says internal tests exceed its expectations. The government will have the final say. I say avoid being hit and don’t hit anyone else.

Auto journalist Brian Armstead

The only conservative move Scion made was in the funky little car’s color pallet. Silver, grey and black are, well, silver, grey and black no matter what name you give them. For the more bold and daring I’d say go for the blizzard pearl (metallic white), hot lava (orange bronze) or the black currant (purple or eggplant). Please leave the Pacific blue (ice blue by any other name) at the factory.

The iQ is on sale in California as I write and has been so for three years in Europe as a Toyota. The Midwest and south get it next and by spring, the whole country will have the chance to buy one. At $15,995, (includes destination) you get a fairly well stocked vehicle. Upgraded stereos, wheels and a navigation system are a few of the 25 options available. Check every box and you could hit $25,000. Opt for the navigation (which includes the top dog Pioneer audio system) and wheels and I’d suspect you’d be around $18,500.

Some balked at the car’s overall gas rating of 37 mpg. That’s OK because all cars touting 40 mpg are not equal. You can only go 314 miles between fill ups, however. The plastic gas tank only holds 8.5 gallons.

Yes, I think I could live with this. As the ad campaign will soon tout, this is just the right amount of car I need.


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