By on August 8, 2011

It will come as no surprise to regular TTAC readers when I say that Scion has had some sales issues lately. But instead of euthanizing the brand as some on TTAC have suggested, Toyota has decided to take a different route. Thankfully, rather than creating more me-too models based off of US-market Toyotas, the plan includes some JDM/Euro models and the much anticipated “Toyobaru “sports car. The first object of foreign desire landing stateside to start off Scion’s resurrection is the Toyota iQ micro-car. The iQ should be in showrooms across the country soon, but does Scion have the IQ to make a smarter Smart?

The problem with the Smart ForTwo isn’t really the car itself, it’s not Penske (the former Smart distributer), and it’s not even parent company Mercedes’s on-and-off waffling relationship with microcars in America. The problem with the Smart car is that all the other cars on the market exist. I learnt this the hard way back in 2007 when I put a $99 deposit down on a Smart ForTwo Cabriolet. The months waiting for my precious pregnant roller-skate to arrive only fueled the flames of desire for the car only Europeans were allowed to buy. Unfortunately when the car arrived the novelty had worn off due to the anemic engine, steep pricing, lack of features and a dumb-witted automated manual transmission. When Toyota said they were bringing their micro car stateside I was suitably concerned yet strangely intrigued, as a result I could not resist an invite to Seattle to see the latest diminutive people-mover.

Numbers are important with small cars, so with measuring tape in hand let’s explore. The iQ is 14-inches longer and just under 5-inches wider than the US market ForTwo (10-feet long and 66-inches wide) making it not only the smallest four-seater in the US but in the world. For anyone counting, the iQ is considerably smaller than the former (or planned) Smart ForFour or even the Mini Cooper. Lilliputian-car lovers rejoice: the iQ is still small. Strangely however, the increased dimensions pay much larger dividends than you would expect due to packaging and the funky layout.

The Smart’s rear-engine layout hurts the tiny car’s space efficiency compared to the front-engine iQ. How can this be? Well, the radiator and other support systems, steering rack, etc. are all still under the miniature hood while cargo space is restricted by the ending in the rear. The iQ engineers on the other hand found ways to repackage everything to use less space. The steering rack sits nearly above the engine, the differential was relocated and compacted, pushing the front wheels in front of, rather than behind the engine and barely behind the bumper cover. Inside, the glove box was deleted and the HVAC unit went on a diet combining massively reduced pluming, a tiny air handler and miniaturized bits-and-bobs jammed entirely behind center console. This means the front passenger compartment could be shifted forward into the void where these systems would normally live. By shifting the front passenger noticeably ahead of the driver, you can actually fit a 6-foot-tall passenger in front, a 6-foot-tall passenger in the rear, a 6-foot-tall driver behind the wheel and a small child or a small amount of shopping behind the driver. That’s what Toyota means by 3+1.

While it is technically a four-seater, my experience stuffing journalists into the car and driving around Seattle can be summed up this way: it can carry two in comfort, three acceptably, four in a pinch. I was actually able to drive the iQ while a 6-foot-tall person sat behind me. It wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t want to take a road trip that way. Cabin width is not an issue as the iQ is actually wider than Yaris or Corolla and this makes the iQ far less claustrophobic than a Smart. You would think the addition of extra seats would result in lost legroom upfront vs the Smart but you would be wrong. In reality the iQ possesses 3/10ths of an inch less legroom than the ForTwo in front, while adding 28.6 inches of legroom in the rear. The math whizzes in the crowd will notice that 28.6 inches of rear legroom come with an increased overall length of only 14-inches vs the Smart how’s that for IQ?

Those 2.5 passengers will at least be happy spending time inside the iQ as the diminutive people mover possesses better quality bits than most Toyota products in recent memory. (They are certainly better than Versa, which may be a strange comparison, but I was just here in Seattle for that launch, so there you go.) Most interior surfaces that you will touch are covered in a thin soft-effect plastic that is miles ahead of more expensive Toyota products like the Prius or Sienna. The integrated front-seat headrests are functional but strike me as being a tad out of place as the rears are adjustable. The loss of a glovebox (sacrificed in the name of space efficiency) may be a problem for some, but you can opt for a flimsy tub on questionable rails under the passenger seat as a substitute.

All iQ models get a standard flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in soft leather which I have to say is the of the best steering wheels I have had my hands on lately. With every high must come a low; I found the new “joystick” controls for the audio system a pain to use. Speaking of audio systems, Scion continues to take a novel approach on this front. All Scion models are shipped to our shores radio-free and the radio or nav system of your choice can be inserted at the dock or dealer. Fail to tick an optional head unit box and you’ll get the standard Pioneer system which includes HD radio, CD player, Bluetooth (for phone and streaming audio), iPod/USB control, AUX input and four Pioneer speakers. Stepping up to the 200-watt premium audio box gets you a 5.8-inch LCD with iTunes tagging, Pandora connectivity (via a smartphone) and RCA preamp outputs. Should money be no object, you can step way-up to the $1999 Scion Navigation System 200 which is basically the Scion version of the Toyota/Lexus navigation system in everything from the Camry to the LS600. While I find the Toyota/Lexus/Scion nav system easy to use, snappy and well featured, $2000 represents a whopping 13% increase in the price of the car just by selecting this one option. Ouch. Another oddity is the total lack of cruise control, optional or otherwise. As a city car it makes sense I suppose, but it is a nicety I’d still like to have.

Under the tiny hood beats a 1.3L four-cylinder (1NR-FE) engine, brand new for the iQ and for Toyota churning out 94 HP at a lofty 6,000 RPM and 89 lb-ft of twist at 4,400 RPM. I had hoped to see perhaps a diminutive 3-cylinder turbo or perhaps a direct injection engine, but Toyota has decided to go for the tried-and true multi-point electronic injection pioneered last century. Despite high compression of 11.5:1 only regular unleaded is required. Power is put to the ground via a new CVT making the iQ the only Toyota non-hybrid CVT product on these shores. I can’t help another Smart comparison here: the ForTwo’s automated manual shifts like a drunk 12 year old driving daddy’s John Deere, the iQ’s CVT on the other hand likes to rev the nuts off the little 1.3L engine, but at least it is smooth in the process. Pitted against the 2127lb curb weight of the US spec iQ, acceleration is neither swift nor slow but in the same realm as a Prius at an observed 10.52 seconds to 60 (0-60 quoted 11.8) keen observers will note this is considerably faster than the Smart.

The EPA has crowned the iQ with the highest combined economy for any non-hybrid in the US at 36/37/37 (City/Highway/Combined EPA 2008). During my short 105-mile stint with the car on three separate driving routes around town, I averaged 32.1, 37.2 and 49.1MPG on two city routes and one 25-mile highway run.

The safety conscious in the crowd will no doubt be concerned about driving around in a car the size of a high-top trainer. To allay these fears, Toyota has jammed 11 airbags into the iQ including front airbags, knee airbags, side curtain airbags, front thorax bags, a rear window airbag to shield passengers from a tall vehicle impacting your hind end, and finally in-seat airbags to prevent the driver and front passenger “submarining” under lap belts in a rear collision. I don’t know about you, but I want to see video footage of all those bags going off simultaneously.


Starting in December on the west coast and working its way across the country, expect the iQ to slip into dealers with a base MSRP of $15,256 plus destination of $730. Included in the price is scheduled maintenance for 2 years/25,000 miles and 3 years of roadside assistance (mostly because there is no spare). Toyota expects sales to be substantially similar to the xB and xD (20,364 and 10,110 respectively in 2010). Seeing as Smart managed to con 14,595 people in 2009 and 5,927 in 2010 into buying a fairly awkward little car, Scion’s low end sales forecast seems totally achievable. When it does land in a dealer near you the usual bevy of Scion accessories will be available including lowering springs, wheels, sway bars, fog lights, etc. One of our Facebook followers asked us if installing lowering springs would result in lowering the driver’s iQ. You’ll have to check back for the full review of the production model for the answer as well as comparisons to the Mini and 500.

YouTube Preview Image

Toyota flew me up to Seattle, put me up in a swanky hotel and stuffed me full of wine and food for this review.

0-30: 3.906 Seconds

0-60: 10.52 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 18.05 Seconds @ 73.6MPH


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116 Comments on “Pre-Production Review: Scion iQ...”


  • avatar
    thirty-three

    How is the seating position? Is it stupidly high like the Yaris? This looks like a nice car, but if it’s as awful to drive as a Yaris, I don’t want it.

  • avatar
    Kosher Polack

    This looks great! I wish that the Smart hadn’t done so much damage to the perception of the microcar in America, because this looks much, much better. If it came with a proper transmission and some decent handling upgrades, I’d snatch it up immediately, strip out the back seats, and have the closest thing to a CR-X since the first-gen Insight (no, the CR-Z doesn’t count).

    Cue somebody saying: “Well what if an F-350 hits you?”

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    a microcar that costs about as much as Versa, Jetta, Civic, Accent, etc etc etc, is not better on gas, is slow, and is, a microcar. This is just stupid, why doesn’t T-TRUTH-AC just say so? The review should’ve been “hey, you have more money than sense, and it’s, like, based on an Aston Martin, so pony up your cash and they’ll let you accessorize your new whip.” This is just a sequel to your 2-wheel drive article “The Day After We Added Rear Wheels”

    • 0 avatar

      Look, Alex states that he has spent his own money on a Smart. It’s very possible that your circumstances and/or perspective are different than his, but he’s not being disingenuous about where he’s coming from. Relax and appreciate the fact that you’re getting an honest review from a connoisseur rather than a narrow-minded screed… and then share your own perspective.

      • 0 avatar
        tallnikita

        I take offense to being called narrow-minded. It’s narrow-minded to completely ignore that $16K buys you a lot of much, much better metal, than this car that in reality accomplishes only one thing – beats Smart that was designed what, 10 years ago.

        And Alex didn’t just “spend his money on Smart” – check the article, he was just one of a few thousands “conned” to buy a Smart.

      • 0 avatar
        Bob12

        @tallnikita:
        It’s entirely possible that Ed isn’t calling you narrow-minded. I suspect he’s trying to say that Alex’s review is honest rather than narrow-minded.

        Regarding the car: the $15k price tag is a bit of a hurdle IMO.

      • 0 avatar

        @tallnikita Then you understand how I feel about a TTAC review being called less than truthful. No offense intended, and you certainly raise some good points. I, for one, can see why some folks would go for this rather than, say, a Yaris… but I absolutely agree that this car faces some serious hurdles (including, I would add, the choice of brand).

        But, as Alex points out, this is just a pre-production model. Let’s wait for a final pricing announcement and a US-market-spec review before we get too heated over this.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Tallnikita,

      If you think bigger is better, yes a Versa is a better car. However, the interior bits in the iQ are actually appropriate for a car costing $18-20K meaning they are upmarket for a $15K microcar. While it may not be the ride of my dreams, it does offer a quality feeling product in a very small box, if you are into that sort of thing.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The small physical size can be a desirable feature. In many large cities, parking is restricted to on-street parking. Finding a parking space is a major challenge. A car as small as the iQ vastly increases the number of spots you can park in. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but for some it can make life in the city much easier.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      People obviously are looking beyond the one-dimensional concept of size equates to quality. If price-to-size ratio was important then it would mean that Mini would have been a complete failure. Its clearly not.

      That’s not to say that the iQ isn’t a niche vehicle, as mentioned in the article they intend on selling just 10-20k iQs, this is a fraction of what Fiat’s sales expectation of the Cinquecento, and an order of magnitude less then the likes of the Versa, Civic, or Accent.

      The fact of course is that there isn’t a one-size-fits all nature to cars. People don’t buy cars on merely practicality/size/price ratios, that would mean that there would be no enthusiast cars which are often impractical. This is a vehicle that appeals to the niches of the market, something that Toyota has lacked recently.

      This car obviously isn’t for you, nor is it a car that fits my immediate desires for that matter, however I can appreciate that there is a subset of the population that wants a car like this. Perhaps, before you attack the integrity of others that are merely reporting information to you, there should first be some introspection.

      • 0 avatar
        jplew138

        If price-to-size ratio was important then it would mean that Mini would have been a complete failure. Its clearly not.

        Price-to-size ratio has not a thing to do with the success of the Mini. The success of the Mini has to do with the fact that Mini is to cars what Apple is to computers – the hip geek choice for people who will pay a premium to be hip at all costs. And it’s also a reason why the Fiat 500 will do well here, because of the same reasoning.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        @jplew138

        Obviously. There is more to consumer purchasing decision then merely price relative to size. Be it stylish urban-centric design, trendiness, or merely because its different.

        The iQ certainly is something different, its not for me, but that’s its aim. Not everyone wants to drive a Versa, or a Civic, or even a Mini or Cinquecento. If this car was trying to outsell the Yaris I would too would be questioning Toyota’s tactics, but its not. Its not even trying to outsell Fiat for that matter.

        This Scion is trying to show that Toyota can build unique cars, something that isn’t a Yaris, Corolla, or Camry. Nothing wrong with that.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      “is not better on gas”

      Do any of those cars get better than 36mpg city? Of course some do better on the highway, but that is not as relevant for a car that will likely rarely see long road trips.

      • 0 avatar
        yunkikan

        36MPG city is very impressive for a nonhybrid. And Alex got 49MPG on highway, that is almost like a Prius!

      • 0 avatar
        jplew138

        Hmmm…I had a 1995 Geo Prizm, 1.6 liter five speed, which unfortunately died a couple of years ago, which had 198,828 miles on it when it died. That car, bless it’s heart, never got less than 34 mpg, even in the middle of Dallas rush hour traffic. And I’d take that car over a Prius or iQ any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    I was smiling and nodding along with most of the review. Looks nice. Small, but nice. The back seat doesn’t look any more uncomfortable than the one in my wife’s SC2. I could go for this. Then I got to:

    “a base MSRP of $15,256″

    Uh, as the kids these days are fond of saying, “lol no”. $15K will put your ass in a Civic. Or, more to the point, a Corolla. What, did Toyota forget to look at that or something? Did they not realize that they’re selling the Yaris for less over here already?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Yeo, $16K will put you in all manner of cars, but none of them will be as micro as the iQ. The iQ sells on tiny size, not price.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        It’s going to be a very hard sell when a Yaris or Fit are thousands of dollars cheaper. Our parking spaces aren’t that small, and like others have said if parking is really that bad you’re better off with a bike than a submicrocar.

  • avatar
    Ion

    15,000+ eh? I guess thats reasonable for a rebadged Aston Martin.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I’ll take a Yaris hatchback instead thank you

    • 0 avatar
      forraymond

      If this sounds as cheap as a Yaris (tinny sound when doors close), it will not do well. I hope it has a sturdier feel to it.

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        Yaris door sound tinny? Try the doors on the current RAV4. Not only do they sound exactly the opposite of a Mercedes bank-vault closing, but the sheet metal panels actually flutter! Talk about decontenting!

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Shouldn’t cost more than $9,000.
    Why pay for an entire car, but only get half?

  • avatar
    obruni

    $16k including destination, and the audio/navi upgrade is $2k.

    and people ripped on the Smart for being overpriced?

    I dont see a compelling reason to have one over a Fiat 500 or Mazda2, or a Yaris for that matter.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    This car is all door from the side, but I like having room for bass speakers in the rear. The price seems high but not compared to the Smart car. I guess it’s not possible to make a small car cheaply without it being a POS. Toyota put a lot of engineering into this and the price reflects it.

  • avatar
    Cjmadura

    Too much money for too little car. Pony up another $2500 and pick up a MINI Cooper.

    Microcars are a great idea, though how they will fare in the “land of behemoths” remains to be seen. The U.S. is not well suited to these cars. If they are supposed to be simple urban cars only, then the price needs to reflect that.

    If you want to charge people real money, you need to sell them a real car.

    “The problem with the Smart car is that all the other cars on the market exist”. CLASSIC!

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      You’ll need about 4 grand to get into MINI territory, but regardless, there’s a lot of competition at this price point. I can’t see why anyone would choose the IQ, and I like small cars.

      Nice review, and nice job by Toyota engineers, but they need to get the price down…or convince all their competitors to raise their prices.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        $2.5k, $4k, either way, I don’t know if I see the value proposition in going FWD BMW over a small Toyota. I’d be curious what the 3-year cost of ownership would be on one of these vs a Mini. I have a hunch that Toyota is going after Cooper’s original target market, not their current one.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      You may be surprised to learn that this country does actually have urban areas. Some of them even have well-off people in them, whose greatest daily dilemma is where to find parking.

      It’s a narrow niche, but Toyota’s sales expectations seem to acknowledge that.

      It’s also a nicer car inside than most cars in its price range. I’ve driven plenty of rental Versas and unless I weighed 300lbs I would immediately take a nicer, smaller car over that one. The Mini’s probably better in many ways, but you can’t drive one with a 6-foot passenger behind you. The Fiat 500 is likely less reliable. The Civic wouldn’t have air conditioning at that price. The Yaris has an ugly center console and that central instrument panel. The Fiesta has been unreliable. I like the Mazda2 and would buy one over the iQ, but people interested in interior materials and safety over driving dynamics would not.

      It’s at least competitive.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Like several others here have said, the car looks great and seems to work well, but the $15k+ price tag is the killer. Anyone shopping on a budget will automatically go for something like the new Versa.

  • avatar
    Alex French

    This is a much better looking car than the Smart, but, like the Smart, it’s not exactly inexpensive. I guess having a smaller body doesn’t do much. You still need an engine and drivetrain, windows, wheels, suspension, steering components, etc, just like every other car.

    Now I just want to see a GSX R1000 conversion. “iQuki.”

  • avatar
    abgwin

    I’d pay the extra $300 and give up the mpg for a Fiat 500 instead.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I like the steering wheel. Less money gets me a Fit with much more room and a manual transmission. A Fit automatic is a few hundred dollars more, but I’d take a 5 speed automatic over a CVT any day. The price is a bit high, but the market will take care of that one way or another. For me, the deal breaker is the CVT.

    I’ve seen people climbing in or out of the trunks of ‘Smart’ cars three times now. Considering how few ‘Smart’ cars there are here, that is plenty. Makes one wonder about arguments of buying no more car than you need, at least in the case of the ‘Smart.’

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Cue somebody saying: “Well what if an F-350 hits you?”

    U pray u have enuf time to say the Last rite!
    Thats the real fear deep inside me of driving a small car.
    When u tote around a 4000lbs car u pay for the gas premium and the safety, also make the f350 drivers think a bit harder than to run u off the road.

    • 0 avatar
      jerseydevil

      what if a semi with 30000 pounds of live snakes hits you? what if a meteor hits you? what if u are smeared by ectoplasm? What if the world ends by fire? Is your car protected? How about flood?

      Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I will be quiet now.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I’ve been thinking that a car like this would do well as a back and forth commuter for me, but as most others have commented here, when I got to the near $16k price tag, that thought went out the door. Not even counting the fact that there are numerous 1 and 2 year old cars for that kind of scratch, I can think of several new cars that are a better value proposition than the iQ. If Toyota is attempting to sell this on value (and mileage, etc…) then they’ve missed the boat. Sure, there will be a fair number of early adopters that will grab some of the first ones on the lot, but the luster won’t last long. Too bad…from what I see, I like it. I just don’t like it 16,000 times…

  • avatar
    dancer

    I can’t wait for this iQ to come to Fla! I’ve been watching this car for a couple of years…Toyota makes a good car-I’ve had them for lots of years…My husband has a new camry XLE & it’s a great car…..Right now I have a MINI Cooper-base with NO UPGRADES & I paid $23,000 for it…Very expensive for a 2nd car…I like the style, the safety {it got 5 stars} and the fact that it gets 37 mpg…My MINI gets 30mpg…

  • avatar

    So, it’s a marvel of engineering, the kind we thought a bloated Japanese megacorp was incapable of producing anymore. Unfortunately, I do not think buyers care about that.

  • avatar
    dancer

    Sorry- But the base price for my 2006 MINI, in Fla, was $23,000…The S started at $26,000…..My only upgrades were a silver roof & silver bonnet stripes….yes was including destination, tax & tags…..

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Then you sir, were taken advantage of. Its clearly marked on the web site… base MSRP of the Cooper hardtop is now $20,100, and I can attest to the fact that it was $19k and change last year as I shopped them. The Cooper S is $23k base. Dealers are notorious for adding to the sticker, since many people mistakenly assume the Mini is an expensive car. With no overpriced options its fairly reasonable, but still a lot more expensive than the iQ.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Yeah, the base hardtop was flirting with 20k last summer when I was shopping.

        But then you add things like armrests and other essential ‘options,’ local taxes/destination, and you end up in Dancer’s situation.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        There is nothing “essential” that isnt included in the base model Mini, its fairly well equipped. They charge extra for luxury items like Xenon headlights, Bluetooth, iPod integration, big rims, lots of custom colors and trim, etc. Nothing essential, and although a lot of people think they cannot live without Bluetooth or sat radio, they really can, Ive done it for decades.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Sorry mnm, since I like to use a car for touring, and as I piss standing up, a manual transmission is essential.

        Consequently, a center armrest is also essential. If I recall correctly, the dealer wanted $400 for the install. Little plasticky doodad of a thing.

        My state has fairly lax destination/tax fees, but not everyone is so lucky.

        Check off a handful boxes to make a Mini stripper a palatable daily driver (like armrests) and the sticker climbs to the S base sticker.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Well since you piss standing up, then you should be able to handle either shifting without being lazy with your arm, or finding an aftermarket armrest yourself instead of paying the stealership to “install” thier over-priced one. The factory option is only $250.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    The important thing to keep in mind with the iQ is that it is NOT an economy car in the same way the Versa is. The Versa is built to a price, while the iQ is built to a size. While a pregnant roller-skate may not be my cup of tea, I can understand that some people out there want a microscopic car.

  • avatar
    Marko

    For those comparing this car to the Yaris, you do realize that the Yaris is about to be redesigned?

    The iQ is a niche product at best.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Spot on. And Toyota is clear that the iQ is a niche product.

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      Yes, the iQ is a niche product, mainly for city dwellers who don’t have much need to do much highway driving. As for the Yaris, if the quality of the upcoming redesign is anything like the present model, it’s in a lot of trouble. The new Hyundai Accent looks like a Rolls in comparison to the Yaris. And do you think that could have been said ten years ago?

  • avatar

    The iQ in these photos is the best-looking I’ve seen, by quite a margin. Most will be shod with much smaller wheels and less vibrant paint that don’t disguise the odd shape nearly as well. The smart has its shortcomings, but its exterior styling is better than the iQ’s.

    Small Toyotas tend to be very reliable. If enough people buy iQs TrueDelta should have some reliability stats for it around next spring.

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    It’s absurd to argue that you could buy a bigger car for the same money. In the city, less car is more car. It means parking now instead of later, and here instead of somewhere.

    And yes, it’s pricey, but micro-engineering of this caliber isn’t cheap.

    My only issue is the lack of protection from inevitable city parking scuffs. When will a carmaker integrate something tasteful into the bumpers to soak up scrapes without scuffing a painted surface?

  • avatar
    jplew138

    Why would you buy this when there’s this car called a Fiat 500 that has arguably more room and is only priced a bit more? Beats the hell out of me.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      cause the 500 is an unreliable piece of Italian/Mexican crap, just give it a few yrs and watch it become a permanent fixture on JD Power and CR unreliability list. Mark my words.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        How do you know if the 500 is unreliable, been in one?

        Anecdotal evidence says, so far, the car sold here looks to be reasonably reliable with some early build hiccups, which most companies experience when rolling out a new model.

        And Fiats of recent years in Europe have proven to be fairly reliable overall, the Panda (which the 500 is based) has been one of their more reliable models, as is the 500.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The 500 feels cheaper and doesn’t really have much more room.

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      Well, I know that I fit in the 500 just fine, and I’m 6’3″ 1/2 tall and the rest of me ain’t small either. As far as the 500 being an unreliable piece of crap, we’ll see in a few years. Judging from the Corolla, Toyota has their own quality issues to worry about. I just wonder how big of a shoehorn it would take to get me into an iQ.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Another more likely comparison will be to the Mazda2, which is less expensive and almost as frugal, yet much more usable. Practicality appeals to most bargain shoppers. The Yaris is also more useable, although not as nice or fun as the Mazda. The Fiesta will probably end up in the mix as well.

    The most obvious competitor is going to be the Fiat 500, not the Mini. Even the base Mini costs significantly more, and the Fiat is right around the same price for more style, a more trendy brand, and a more useable car. I would buy the Fiat, but I am sure Toyota will find many people who are afraid of the potential reliability issues with the Fiat and who will choose Toyota reliability. Another possible comparison is the Honda CRZ, although it too is a bit more expensive. Maybe the Fit?

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      The zero-to-sixty compared to the CRZ, certainly makes the iQ look good.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Comparisons to the 2 and Fiesta are also a bit odd. If I was looking for a tiny runabout, I’d shop the iQ and Smart. The 2 and Fiesta are just too big. If I was looking for cheap small transport but I didn’t need a micro-sized car, I’d look at the Fiesta and 2, etc and not the iQ, so it just depends on what you are looking for.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        well Alex, I don’t think anyone is debating that the actual target market for these types of cars will look at them. I think the point many are making is that we suspect in the US that target market is going to be very very small. Sure, its easier to park it, IF you live in one of those areas where street parking is not lined out and standard sized, and assuming you’d even want to park a brand new $16k car in that environment. Where I live, all the parking is lined out, and mostly metered, so size isn’t really an issue. And although a Mazda2 is larger than an iQ, its tiny compared to a real large car. Not likely you’d be missing out on too many potential parking spots.

      • 0 avatar
        kowsnofskia

        Agreed – this strikes me as an answer to a question nobody in America is asking.

  • avatar
    jj99

    I know quite a few people in their late 20s.

    1) They don’t seem to care about cars. They care about their cell phone. When it comes to their car, they want cheap and reliable.

    2) Many in that generation have parents who are loyal to Honda, Toyota, Nissan, so they get the hand me downs. These things last so long they do not purchase a vehicle. The parents get sick of driving the same Japanese car for hundreds of thousands of miles, so they hand it over to their kid before buying a new one.

    3)Many others in this generation can not secure a high paying job.

    That is the problem with Scion. The 20s demographic don’t care or buy many new cars. Only in metro Detroit do people under 35 care about cars. This phenomena must scare the heck out of automakers trying to sell vehicles with excessive price tags to support the unions.

  • avatar
    dancer

    Well, first off, I’m not a SIR! Secondly, I think I should know what I paid for my car…DUH! Like I said, $23,000 for BASE Model with optional silver roof & Bonnet stripes….Price was including destinaion, tax & tags….The S model starts at $26,000 WITHOUT UPGRADES…..

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      And you did good to get a base Cooper for $23,000. Most of the ones I’ve seen here (Texas) run around $25-26,000. You can get a Cooper S for around $26-28,000, but you won’t have too many options on it for sure.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        then they weren’t “base”, you just didn’t see what options or dealer markups were being charged.

      • 0 avatar
        jplew138

        I wasn’t implying that they were “base” cars. I was saying that that’s the price that you pay for the average Cooper on the lot…with options and the lot.

      • 0 avatar
        jplew138

        I just looked at the prices for standard Coopers at my local dealer, and the lowest price I see is $22,600. The lowest price for a Cooper S is $25,050.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        That means nothing, all that proves is that the Mini dealers only order and stock cars that have popular (and profitable) options already on them to take advantage of ill-informed consumers who think that they cannot but a Mini for $20k!

        Not to mention, some dealers add ADM to some popular cars in some markets. Mini is notorious for this. If you are the type of guy who walks in and pays full sticker for your car based on whatever the dealers says it costs, please… feel free. I for one would rather know what I am buying and how much it costs. The price of a Mini is real easy, they don’t hale (too much anyway) and the prices are on the web site. You used to not even buy a Mini off the lot, you used to custom order them online and just pick it up when it got delivered, although I’m not sure if that’s still the case.

        All I’m saying is compare apples to apples. You can bet when the iQ is on the lots they will have a bunch of dumb option on them too, and they won’t be $16k.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Sorry, I guess I should have known with a name like dancer, you were a girl :)

      And I am not arguing how much you PAID for your car, I am telling you that you paid too much. The base price is published and common knowledge. You cant add tax and count that as part of the price, the iQ will also have tax added. In 2006 the car was around $19k MSRP, period.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @dancer, I wanted to correct my statement… I didn’t mean you “paid too much”, thats not really true. When you add in those options, plus taxes and fees, etc, depending on your state and your situation, a $20k car could end up $23k or so. What I meant is that we are not comparing the MSRP of one car with the out-the-door price of another. All cars will have taxes and fees.

  • avatar

    I loved having the video at the end of the article. Count me interested in seeing more combo article-video reviews in the future.

  • avatar
    dancer

    Hey, Alex…..Did you ever think you would receive this many posts on your review? Good job!

  • avatar
    Bryce

    This seems a much better car than the Stupid 4 2 but not better than the Mini which appears the only other choice Quite honestly neither of those compare favourably to my 5 door Citroen its bigger a full 5 seater for adults has a proper manual trans and returns 50+mpg on normal use the Mini may be marginally faster but I doubt it handles as well or is anywhere near as comfortable.

  • avatar
    dancer

    Well, that’s exactly what I did….And I happen to be a TOTALLY informed consumer…I custom ordered & built my car online….I picked the interior/exterior colors & mostly standard equipment…The MINI base car comes with a lot of standard equipment…As I said before, my only upgrades werte a silver roof {there is no charge for black or white} and silver bonnet stripes. I was able to watch my car being built in Oxford, England {very kewl}
    and then it was shipped to my dealership in Florida….I have about 15,000 miles on it, because it is my running around car….My husbands Camry XLE has all the mileage….When I sell this MINI to buy the iQ, I will only have to spend a couple of thousand….I have always had good luck with Toyota products…

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I have always wanted to do a factory delivery, maybe someday… must have been cool!

      But I have to say… I live in FL too, and we do not have parking problems, here, even in Miami or Orlando. Why would you want an iQ over a 2006 Mini with only 15k miles?? If anything, I would be trading the Mini coupe in on a Mini convertible, or maybe the new Mini Coupe.

      • 0 avatar
        dancer

        @mmm-OK first off, my LOCAL MINI dealership is 1-1/2 hours away from my house….Awful when you need servicing for a new car & have to go to the dealership…My MINI will be 6 years old in january-I can get $15,500
        {Kelley Blue Book} for it…No problem selling it privately…People already looking at it…For about $2000 I can have a brand new, cute, safe,
        well reviewed car for running around…Toyota/Scion dealership less than 1/2 hour from my house………..

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Yeah that would suck, being so far away from a dealer, although its not going to be in warranty very soon anyways, 5 yrs is the limit right?

        And hey, we all like what we like, so if you like the iQ, go for it. However, I think you really should wait until its been on the market for a bit and see what happens. When cars like this are first introduced, the “early adopters” can make the prices go crazy, and then they drop. Just dont pay over sticker!

  • avatar
    yunkikan

    Hey Alex~ Looks like the iQ can get a very good MPG on freeway huh? 49MPG that is way more than what is listed officially.
    Nice review by the way :) Can’t wait to get one.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Points for noticing that. I was actually quite impressed with the economy in the iQ, keep in mind the city loops where we were in the 30s included photo shoots with the car idling, plenty of Seattle’s notorious traffic and some mild sight seeing. The highway run was on I5, cruise set to 68, A/C on, single person (me) in the car, no cargo.

      • 0 avatar
        Kosher Polack

        Cruise set to 68? Does it or doesn’t it have cruise? I can’t believe, as stated in your article, that anyone would be leaving it out as an option these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Jill

        Like Kosher Polack, I too am confused about why the article says “lack of cruise control,” yet comment says, “cruise set to 68.” I look forward to your answer.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    It took a lot of engineering to get this iQ so space-efficient. It’s not boring at all, either. As far as price, people will pay a premium to look cool and to stand out. This iQ does that with a very small premium. Just a few grand over a comparatively vanilla economy car. People often spend 10-20k on a name brand like BMW or Mercedes without batting an eye, so I don’t see the problem here.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I agree, but I guess part of my negative opinion is that I dont think this looks “cool”, and, more to the point, I dont think many in the target demographics will feel that way either. I heard the same complaints about the Smart cars from every younger person I know.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Perhaps Seattle was the best place to try this out, it certainly garnered looks and questions from the younger granola crowd at the Pikes Place market.

  • avatar
    Garak

    For a Finnish perspective, the base version of Toyota Aygo costs 11000e, Smart costs 12500e and the smallest of the bunch, Toyota iQ 16000e.

    Aygo and Fortwo sell something like 20-30 units per month, iQ is in the single digits. Nobody wants those cars even in the land of expensive gasoline and CO2-based taxation.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I like how people are making the size vs price comparo….based on what? Have you sat in this car? Myself (I’m 6’2) and a few friends tried the IQ at the auto show and were pleasantly surprised. It’s a packaging MARVEL. The passenger space can be compared to a lot of sub-compacts and CUV’s, sans trunk/cargo area.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Yes, this is a niche product to be sure. But for those who deal with the city grind day in, day-out, this car has much appeal. My wife is a visiting nurse, so she makes house calls. She works in the city. She sees a dozen plus people a day, so that means finding parking, then squirting in/out of traffic multiple times daily. These reasons alone can become a grind and make for a long day, let alone caring for the sick. So this car has massive appeal to her. Although it cost a premium over other cars, its diminutive size and excellent MPG have put this car at the top of her list. While most people can’t appreciate it, this car will actually make her job easier and save her money in the long run. And I’m sure there are others like her who long for such a car.

    A premium price…but making her job easier and more pleasant day-to-day will make it worth it for us. For others? Maybe not so much…

  • avatar
    rp2s

    Great, fun, informative review Alex. I’ve been following this little guy for a while now. Still holding out for the new 2012 Hyundai Veloster, 3-door hatch. If that does not work out, this will be the next car I look at. Thanks again for the review, and excellent photos.

  • avatar
    plunk10

    Base price = $16,000

    That means… “well equipped” = $18K-21K

    For that price, I’m buying a Yaris, Fit, Versa, etc.

    This thing needs to be priced lower than the xD to sell. Toyota should take notes from the xA that did so well.

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    Alex, any thoughts on the strength of the a/c? Here in Austin TX, and regular sized units have trouble keeping up.

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      @lawmonkey: Good question. Here in Dallas, it’s been an average of 107 the last week and no end in sight. But Toyota A/C units are usually pretty good. Not up to the level of GM systems, but good nevertheless.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      A/C performance is good, better than the Fiat 500 for sure. I prefer my vehicle frigid and the iQ was happy to comply with my request.

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      @Alex: I agree with you on the 500. I’m 6’3 1/2″ tall, can fit in the 500 just fine, but the A/C sucks big ones. And in Texas, that’s a non-starter.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I like this litle car. I’ve always liked little cars. I do live in a city and i need a small car to park easily. I also like to drive.

    I will have to see if i like this one better than the Fiat 500. They are showing up all over the place around her, and a base cabrio can be had for 20 large. I will have to see who wins.

    I’m waiting for the aftermarket Astin Martin bolt on front end. “Wouldn’t you rather have an Astin Martin?”

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I prefer the iQ to the 500, the packaging makes carrying 3 adults better than the 500, but the 500c can go topless which is a major selling point. The iQ is likely to be more reliable in the long run.

  • avatar
    Zeitgeist

    I suggest trim levels like iQ 90 and iQ 120.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    People saying that this car won’t sell because it has a comparable MSRP to the Focus, Fit etc are probably missing the point. I doubt anyone will cross-shop this with normal compacts. Anyone looking at this car will be because they WANT a tiny car – not a big segment but a segment nonetheless, the author made the point that if Smart managed to get almost 10,000 suckers into ForTwo’s last year this car will have no trouble meeting market projections.

    Also worth mentioning how unbelievably small the turning circle is on the IQ – less than half of the Smart car.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Less than half? Are we certain we’re not commingling radius and diameter?

    • 0 avatar
      AustinBear

      Agreed.

      I’ll consider this car. We live in an urban area, are not looking for a comuter and have other cars. My wife’s daily driver is a 530Xi wagon. I work at home and don’t drive often. When we want to go to dinner 1.5 miles away and don’t want to drop $10 on a valet or parking, this would be ideal. We need something that seats 3, we have a young daughter (otherwise, we’d just use Car2Go). We also want to be able to park it in a very small space behind our house.

      We want very short car and some quality.Personality does not hurt. We’re not careles with money, but $13K or $15k? Not a deal breaker. We’re not people whose choice is a car or bus ride. I’d say many urban buyers are in the same boat (it’s expensive to live downtown, gentrification happens…).

      We’re certainly a niche buyer, but probably not much different than others that might consider something like this.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    A very interesting review of the preproduction model of this car. I read Bertal Schmidt’s review of this car in Japan a few months back and it was very good and seen video reviews of it as well. Interesting vehicle.

    But something I have noticed with the comments here, and that is the price argument. Sorry guys, I know you say $15-16K sounds like a lot for a small car, but remember, the Fit STARTS out at $15K or so now for the BASE Fit, the sport is now around $17-18K with Sat Nav, the car tops out at nearly $20K, yes it’s a bit larger than the iQ but it IS a small car and making a GOOD small car isn’t a cheap proposition as miniaturizing components costs money so that is one disadvantage to small cars in general.

    Also, most of the other cars are also averaging around $15K these days for all but the ultra base stripper Yaris.

    Here is the run down of the prices to give you all an idea of prices, all taken from their respective websites and is intended as a rough guide.

    Mazda 2, starts at $14,140, basic amenities.
    Honda Fit $15,100 base, Sport $16,860
    Ford Fiesta 13,200 for the base S sedan, 15,500 for the “base” SE hatch
    Toyota Yaris: Base 3 door liftback: $13,155, base sedan $13,715 with the base 5 door hatch $13,455 and that does not include the radio, though its wired for it in all three bodies. Radios are a package deal. With radio and such, closer to $15K.
    Nissan Versa: 1.8L S, $14,380 and includes radio/CD system and appears to only come in the 5 door hatch body.
    Fiat 500: Pop $15,500 and includes Bluetooth, AM/FM/CD with USB and Aux, 6 speakers (others tend to only offer 4) and lots of other goodies as standard.
    Scion iQ, estimated to be around $15K and it looks to be well equipped
    Smart FourTwo, Pure Coupe, $12,490 and has steel wheels, wheel covers, no radio but provisions for a head unit and 2 speakers are included, radio extra. Passion gets 15” alloys, entryline radio amongst other things @ $14,690.

    While the iQ and the Smart are NOT meant for long term highway use, the Fiat 500 is intended to also fill that role when it’s one’s only car so it’s more roadworthy for long trips, which to me, is reason enough to equip it like it is and has the arm rest as standard to make things more comfy when on the highway for hours on end. Around town, the arm rest can be flipped up for easier rowing of the manny tranny when equipped.

    So the price isn’t out of line, even if it’s ultra tiny IMO so why all the fuss over the estimated price?

    As you can see, even the Fit isn’t as cheap as some have indicated and the Yaris isn’t as cheap as it once was, nor is the Versa for that matter.

    As for me, I like small cars and yes, I DO live in the city and no, our street parking isn’t measured out, nor marked generally for parallel parking so parking spaces do vary radically depending on how considerate others are when parking and the size of their vehicle. Right now, I sometimes have difficulty finding parking for my Ranger truck because sometimes all I see are spaces much too small for it, so something like the Fiat would work MUCH better for me for that reason. I once owned an ’83 Honda Civic hatch and loved its size for this very reason and it did very well on the highway too, even for a long trip to Medford Oregon and back from my parent’s place in Tacoma back in the 90′s.

    If gas goes up like it’s been forecast, I won’t be too surprised if I see many more small cars like these on the road. BTW, the Fiat actually gets better than EPA for both city and highway without having to resort to hypermiling either and still be ultra fun to drive.

    Yes, I’ve test driven the Fiat and it’s loads of fun to drive and am trying right now to find out how to afford one soon. :-)

  • avatar
    LimpWristedLiberal

    The Smart’s unique feature was being able to park nose-to-curb in a parallel parking spot. With those extra 14 inches the iQ may not actually be a direct replacement.

    If only BMW sold the C1 here.

    • 0 avatar
      jkazzoun

      I don’t know about the rest of the US, but they don’t allow that type of parking here in Austin, like they do in much of Europe. Many Car2Go drivers (Car2Go is a Smart Car sharing service) have learned that the hard way.

  • avatar

    Why do you review turds like this ? Got a lot of gang banger readers ?

  • avatar
    Ormond

    I hope it sells well. I think that it all depends on the price of fuel.

  • avatar
    Jill

    Alex,
    Thank you so much for writing that the IQ does not come with cruise control! I think I have read every IQ review that comes up in Google News, and you’re the only one smart enough to mention no cruise control. This is a deal breaker for me in buying a car. If it wasn’t for you I would have ordered one before test driving and would have been really pissed when I found out no cruise control. You have been very helpful!
    I ordered a Fiat 500 3 weeks ago and it will be here next week. Although I love the interior of the 500 (I got the red seats) and the manual transmission, I would have bought the IQ if it had cruise because of the better IQ MPG.


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