The Scion (nee Toyota) IQ may be a very small car, but we’ve treated it like big news here. Alex Dykes took an an early look a few months ago. Michael Karesh turned his lens on the IQ in a Take Two. So far, we’ve been cautiously optimistic.
Why review it again? Simple. The IQ is arguably the proper spiritual successor to the original Mini: a packaging miracle which could define the way a large segment of humanity drives in the future. In a market chock-full of retro pastiche and style-over-substance, the IQ is that rarest of things: a truly new automobile, packed throughout its ten-foot length with original thinking.
In this test, we’ll swerve around a bit, race an old woman in a Bentley Turbo, consider who the buyers for this product will actually be, and introduce the IQ to the car which could wind up being its Nemesis. Snuggle up to the asymmetric dashboard and let’s go.
The Scion FR-S, also known as “Toyota 86 whatever”, may be the car which is currently firing the imaginations of Japanese-car enthusiasts everywhere, but it’s the IQ which is actually the most exciting vehicle to come out of the island nation in… well, forever. Certainly it’s the most original and important vehicle we’ve seen since the original Accord. Everyone wants to compare the car to the Smart (and surely “IQ” was a direct nomenclautral riposte to the Daimler mobile phonebooth) but unless you really need to park sideways on the street, there isn’t much of a comparison to be made. The IQ whips it six ways to Sunday.
Let’s talk capability. It’s what sells the SUV, right? Make that perceived capability. Most Grand Cherokees will never leave the pavement, but their perceived capability to do so is reassuring. Well, here’s the two-seat compact car for the perceived-capability set. It’s a perfectly comfortable, normal way for a pair of adults to travel, but in a pinch you can get two more people in there.
Who will those extra two people be? Toyota would have you believe that they will be the skinny-jeans-wearing trendsetter party friends of the skinny-jeans-wearing trendsetter buyers, but let’s be honest: those two extra people will be grandchildren. Never has a car been so ideally suited for the gated communities of the South. Compared to the NEVs and golf carts which wander aimlessly from nineteenth hole to captive grocery store and restaurant, the IQ is thoroughly superior, because it offers full weatherproofing, actual resale value, long life, and the ability to change one’s mind and drive off Hilton Head Island all the way to Savannah should it prove necessary.
Grandmom and Granddad will appreciate the Scion’s low price, big friendly interior buttons, relative lack of confusing features, and 37mpg city rating. (The IQ is estimated to hit 38/37, by the way: its aerodynamic profile is likely to cripple its highway mileage.) If they do get on the open road, they will be surprised at how well the Scion handles the task. Although it is a tiny bit sensitive to crosswinds and pavement waves, never before in history has a ten-foot-long vehicle been this stable at speed. Your humble author ran the IQ up to about eighty-five miles per hour and did a few lane changes without incident. It’s not a Caterham Seven, but it’s no worse to drive than a Corolla.
What the old folks won’t appreciate: the rather dopey CVT. Expect to see the occasional IQ lightly jammed into the bumper of the car ahead of it in traffic, because the CVT’s absolutely unpredictable behavior while slowing down means there’s a different amount of brake pressure required every time. My co-driver nearly bopped a Jetta ahead of us while coming off the freeway, and I found myself regularly missing my planned stopping points by a foot or more. It isn’t the brakes. It’s the transmission.
The normal payoff for a CVT is efficient operation and power transfer, but this ninety-four horsepower, 2150-pound vehicle doesn’t accelerate with much vigor. As we cruised around Palm Beach, I saw a handsome older woman in a twenty-year-old Bentley Turbo R and decided to go have a closer look. Unfortunately, the IQ couldn’t catch her while driving up the drawbridge separating Palm Beach from West Palm Beach — and she didn’t even know we were behind her. We just weren’t making any forward progress. This can be a thrashy, unpleasant powertrain at times.
It was while wandering through the side streets of West Palm Beach that we came across the IQ’s biggest problem in the North American market. Observe these pictures:
That old Yaris is maybe worth six or seven grand, and it offers nearly everything the IQ does except that last twenty inches of packaging efficiency. The young people whom Scion is ostensibly targeting are unlikely to see why they should pay more just to park in a shorter space. One exception: San Francisico apparently has a bunch of 122-inch “parking spaces” on the main streets which are currently the exclusive province of motorcyclists, and those will be IQ-compatible. Another exception: many homes have golf-cart garages which can take an IQ. Oops, we’re talking about old people again.
Other notes: The air conditioning does not impress, not even in weather that was relatively mild by Floridian standards. The intelligent packaging is likely to translate to mildly challenging servicing: the hood/bonnet is more of a mail slot than a functional opening. While it is possible to put two full-sized adults on the passenger side of the IQ, there is a bit of psychological discomfort involved for the fellow in front due to windshield proximity.
The Scion IQ will be sold in a single specification, at a single price: $15,995. All options will be added by your repugnant local Toyota dealer or, in certain regions, by the distributor. As your consumer advocate, I feel compelled to remind you that there is no law on state or national books which prevents your Scion dealer from negotiating on price. Quite the opposite, in fact. The “Pure Price” philosophy is simple gingerbread. Not that there will be a lot of margin in the IQ for the dealer. The money will be in the available wheels, stereo options, lowering springs (insert “lower your IQ” joke here) and interior LED lighting add-ins.
Most small-Toyota intenders will skip the IQ and go directly to the XD, or, failing that, the Yaris. If they do so, they are missing a glimpse into the future. The packaging innovations found in the IQ may not seem terribly important today, but fast-foward to the post-Peak-Oil, 600cc turbodiesel future, and they will be absolutely critical. This will be the only kind of four-seater many people will be able to afford in the future. So if you want a look at the proverbial “tomorrow, today,” it will be as close as your IQ dealer — or as far away as Grandma’s house.