By on October 27, 2011

Scion is quite sure of one thing: the new iQ is a much better car than the smart fortwo. What they’re much less sure of: how many of the targeted fine young North American urbanites will buy one rather than periodically use Zipcar. I’m neither young nor urban, but I’m going to do my best to pretend. Why might I buy this car—or not?

Exterior styling – not

Toyota fits the iQ with 16-inch wheels that can be upgraded to multi-spoke alloys in a bid for the intended buyer. But the exterior isn’t nearly as stylish as the smart’s, with a frumpy nose, awkward B-pillar, and a single, square-cut door filling nearly the entire space between the wheel openings. Add the relatively large wheels, and the whole looks like a Photoshop chop—except it’s real, with a 79-inch wheelbase (vs. 74 for the smart) and 120-inch overall length (vs. 106). Scion has been struggling to get its mojo back ever since launching the bloated second-gen xB. With the iQ the struggle continues.

Interior styling – maybe

The interior is more successfully stylish than the exterior, but still has none of the whimsical character you’ll find inside a 500 or a MINI. All of the surfaces are—surprise—hard plastic but they generally look and feel solid. The red-stitched leather-wrapped steering wheel and the glossy black trim on the doors and center stack are high points. The controls are simple and easy to use, with three large vertically-aligned knobs for the climate controls. Less functional: the driving position is well aft of the windshield, so traffic lights aren’t visible if you stop at the white line. The button to temporarily deactivate the traction control (but not the stability control) is mounted low on the far side of the shifter. A power lock button sits next to it, but there’s another more conveniently located on the driver’s door. My suspicion: the design initially included only the button on the console, in line with European practice, but the Scion marketing folks insisted on having buttons on the doors, where Americans expect them. They got half of their request.

Interior packaging – where the car earns its nameplate

I’m a space efficiency geek. The intelligent packaging and seating of the Ford Freestyle and Taurus X is perhaps the main reason (beyond the need for seven seats) that I bought one of the latter.

Toyota is most proud of its packaging innovations for the iQ, and this part of their pitch for the car is not hype. Though only a foot longer than a smart, the iQ has a rear seat that can fit one adult without resorting to cruel and unusual punishment, and two with it. They were able to pull this off by:

  1. Placing the engine in the nose of the car (it’s in back with the smart) and locating the differential ahead of the transmission, which sits next to the engine. This enables an unusually short front overhang, and would improve the appearance of even large front-wheel-drive cars. (Back in the 1990s, GM’s designers wanted to flip transverse powertrains around for this very reason, but the engineers refused to enable any such silliness.) A special high-mounted steering rack also plays a role.
  2. Compacting the A/C componentry and locating the evaporator behind the center stack rather than ahead of the front passenger, enabling the right front seat to be shifted forward a few inches. Which is why the right rear passenger enjoys more legroom than the left rear passenger. Space is provided between the front seats for the left rear passenger’s legs, as the driver’s seat can slide all the way to the rear seat cushion. This space exists because, with a width of 66 inches, the iQ is over a half-foot beamier than the smart. A by-product: those in the front seat sit about as far apart as they would in a C-segment car like the Corolla, not shoulder-to-shoulder like they do in the smart.
  3. Developing ultra-thin seatbacks. They don’t feel substantial, but aren’t uncomfortable.
  4. Developing an ultra-thin fuel tank—it’s only 4.5 inches tall—and locating it beneath the driver’s seat.
  5. Adding an eleventh airbag that deploys over the rear window, essentially a rear curtain airbag. There are only a couple of inches between the rear seatbacks and the liftgate, so otherwise the rear seat would be dreadfully unsafe instead of…

Of course, Toyota’s engineers can’t do magic. So without folding at least half of the rear seat there is absolutely no cargo room.

Electronics – good, but better gadgetry on the way

Bluetooth (hands-free phone and audio streaming), USB, and HD radio are all standard, while nav is available as a dealer-installed accessory. But something like Toyota’s new Entune system, with Internet-based apps, is a year or two away.

Performance – quicker than a smart!

The iQ weighs only 2,127 pounds, but this is still a bit much for the 94-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder hitched to a mandatory CVT. (The smart weighs 300 pounds less, but has only 70 horsepower.) In normal mode the CVT produces the rubber-banding effect typical of CVTs paired with small engines. Shifting into S largely eliminates this while also kicking the revs up a grand or two (so it’s not a full-time solution for anyone interested in fuel economy). And if you want to keep the small four at high boil there’s B (intended for engine braking on downhill grades) that further bumps the engine speed. Not the ideal transmission, especially not for driving enthusiasts, but far better than the clunky automated single-clutch manual in the smart. The engine sounds better than that in the Nissan Versa, which similarly employs a CVT, but remains well short of spine-tingling. There’s no joy in winding this one out. Sixty arrives in an acceptable ten to eleven seconds, but acceleration trails off considerably past that mark.

Fuel economy – very good in the city, meh on the highway

Scion touts the iQ’s fuel economy as the best of any non-hybrid. But the EPA rating of 36 city is much more impressive than the 37 highway. Then again, the iQ is marketed as a “city car,” not a “highway car.”

Handling – not remotely a new CRX

The best that can be said of the iQ’s handling is that its ultra-tight 12-foot turning radius, roughly two-thirds that of the average car, is truly a joy to experience. The second best: unlike the smart, the tiny Scion drives much like a regular car. Perhaps too much like a regular car, if by “regular car” we mean a Camry. Aided by the car’s unusually high width-to-wheelbase ratio, roll and understeer in hard turns are both moderate. But the steering is neither quick nor communicative, handling isn’t particularly agile, and the non-defeatable stability control cuts in well short of the car’s limits. The legendary Honda CRX was a thrill to drive sideways. That won’t be happening here. The iQ drives like an appliance.

Ride – survivable

Given the iQ’s ultra-short wheelbase, a choppy ride is a given. Drive over 60 down a concrete freeway (again, not the car’s primary mission), and expansion joints induce a rhythmic bouncing. But otherwise ride quality isn’t bad, and doesn’t feel like that of a very small, very light car. Though larger and heavier, a FIAT 500 rides worse.

Pricing – bespoke bits aren’t cheap

The iQ lists for $15,995. Scion continues to practice “Pure Pricing.” This doesn’t mean that dealers cannot discount, only that they must offer the same price to everyone. A similarly-equipped smart fortwo lists for $16,850. Adjust for the iQ’s additional features using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and its advantage widens to a considerable $2,300.

But Scion rightly isn’t taking the smart seriously as a competitor, at least not in North America. Here stiffer competition will come from the Fiat 500 and B-segment cars. The much more entertaining Mazda2 costs a grand less, though a $1,600 feature adjustment gives the iQ a $600 advantage. Compared to a FIAT 500 Pop, the iQ is $1,000 less before the feature adjustment, $400 less afterwards. So the prices for these three are quite close before discounts and incentives—which will tend to favor the Mazda and (as the cars pile up on dealer lots) the FIAT.

Bottom line: The iQ costs about as much as B-segment cars despite being much smaller and less fun to drive.

Sales forecast – not promising

So, the Scion iQ isn’t going to sell based on its price or driving excitement. Its packaging innovations are impressive, but you don’t have to own the car to admire them. Though the iQ is a much better car than the smart fortwo, the latest B-segment cars are better still in nearly every way. In terms of fuel economy, the iQ does very well in city driving, but the larger cars do better at higher speeds (where the Scion is out of its element). In the end, the iQ’s key strengths are its short length and ultra-tight turning radius, both of which make it easy to park in the city. But how many people have ease of urban parking as their top priority AND will be buying a car rather than occasionally renting one?

Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, and fuel for this review at a media event.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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125 Comments on “Review: 2012 Scion iQ Take Two...”

  • avatar

    As you mentioned, it’s for a very limited niche. Fleets (i.e. Zipcar) will probably be the main buyers.

    Scion’s main products (xB and xD) need an update. The xB needs a more modern automatic transmission, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason to buy an xD over its competition, except for reliability. xD sales died down very quickly after its launch.

    • 0 avatar

      The xB also needs a towing capacity. I like them, and I’m looking for a vehicle that’s about the size of the xB with a wagon-y shape. But, alas, my lifestyle requires the ability to tow a small utility trailer to the hardware store and back. If the xB could do this (without voiding the warranty, going against the advice of the manufacturer, etc), I’d be all over it.

  • avatar

    Question- wouldn’t a 16K Accent or 17K Elantra make more sense than this thing, especially considering they get better highway mileage, seat 4-5 people with luggage space leftover, aren’t underpowered and ride/handle more substantially? Marketing a comical looking toy to city driving demographic doesn’t equal much sales success.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. The iQ is meant for a barely existent demographic.

    • 0 avatar

      The question is: does Toyota make money on this? Because there are equally small demographics for, eg, Porsches, top-drim HD pickups and suchlike.

      Toyota does make the Corolla and Matrix for people who buy cars like the way they buy breakfast cereal. Since the iQ doesn’t hurt their brand any, as long as it makes Toyota money it doesn’t really matter.

      For me, this car works very well. Yes, I could get an Elantra, but then I’d be towing around a thousand pounds I never use and have to deal with the visibility, ingress/egress and, frankly, mundanity of the car itself.

      And hey, at least the faddishness of cars like iQ is very different, and a lot less annoying, than that of a Hummer H2.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Each passing day, I’m more determined to hang on to my 98 Corolla rather than buy into any of these newfangled toys.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m with you and VanillaDude. Our basic paid-for and totally unexciting 2001 cavalier hits my daily work commute at just a hair over 30 mpg.
        ah but what do I know, I also own 2 panthers.

    • 0 avatar

      Or even better – pick up a Rio, Accent, Fiesta, Mazda 2, etc for about the same price. Get a little bit less city fuel economy versus this thing, the same or better highway, and a lot more room/comfort.

      Until cars like this or the Smart get 40-45 MPG city, 55-60 MPG highway I don’t see a point to their existance. The space/appearance trade-off is just too high IMO.

  • avatar

    I want this car. Remarkably, I fit better in it than—wait for it!—a Lincoln Town Car. In the front.

    And hey, two rear seats for the times I have to take one or two kids.

    Sure, the appeal is limited, and yes, it doesn’t have a Mini’s flair or driving ability. It also doesn’t have a Mini’s ergonomic trainwreck of a dash, nor the BMW Ultimate Dealership Experience. It’s nice enough, quick enough, economical enough and (likely) reliable enough.

    For me and how I use a car, this thing is dead-spot-on-perfect.

  • avatar

    It may not have as much funky panache as the SMART, but it’s already a better car in that it doesn’t run on premium, require Mercedes service, or have that godawful, whiplash-inducing autobox.

    The “Why a microcar?” question remains. Why not use zipcar or just buy a used Yaris?

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      I was looking for a good way to explain how bad that tranny is to others. Thank you Mr Dot

      …..”have that godawful, whiplash-inducing autobox” (Single Clutch)

  • avatar

    I don’t understand the pricing. At 16-17k, there are a lot of better choices. Hell, this time of year you can get left over 2011’s for cheap. A base Sonata,Malibu,Altima, etc…can be had for around that price right now.

    And taking pics in front of the Detroit Science Center jinxes it even more. I think this car(at least in this country)has the same future as that place.

    • 0 avatar

      It is priced that way because it is VERY expensive to make. Why does small=cheap? Any idiot can produce a big heavy car, it takes real engineering talent and money to make one this small and still usable. Just think how much all those bespoke bits cost to make on a small scale.

      They will sell a few thousand a year, and probably turn a profit on every one of them. If I lived in a big city I would certainly consider one. Just for the ease of parking the thing. A car 1/2 as long may well mean MORE than 2X as many available parking spaces in a place like Boston. You could get TWO of these in a typical space.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex Mackinnon

        It’s still heavier than my 92′ GTi, even though it’s about 4′ shorter in length, has a smaller engine.

        Small should equal cheaper when done right, and in this case it’s a small heavy car. Car2Go has been doing great with the SmartFor2 up here in Vancouver recently. The damn things are all over the place, and get plenty of usage. This is what this car will likely have to compete with. Cost of ownership vs. a shared car like Car2Go, or the lowest budget of the lowest budget cars. Even with the parking in my area being incredibly sparse at times I would not swap a Versa out for this car at an even price, let alone an extra $5000 CAD.

  • avatar

    I don’t get it. The Fiat 500, I get. Don’t think I would buy one, maybe in Abarth version, but I’ve sat in one, it’s not really that bad.

    But why do you have to small car for the city? I’ve been to and know older European cities can have some pretty cramped road ways, but here in America? I live a few counties over from the capital, but when I head into the city I usually take my 1978 Malibu. Pushing over 17ft long, turning radius is good enough. Don’t have to worry about idiots smashing it up trying to parallel park, or bums running up to me and asking for a handout.

    That, to me, is the perfect city car. Why you would pay so much so subject yourself to so little is beyond me.

  • avatar

    I’ve liked this car since it came about. I sat in one displayed at Megaweb in Tokyo, and it wasn’t as claustrophobic as I feared. In white, comparisons to kitchen appliances are certain. It looks WAY better – or at least less conspicuous – in darker colors.

    Up in NW Philly, parking on my street is surprisingly tight; and when school is in session, and the school parking lot is a tow-away zone except on weekends and in the summertime.

    Add to that the fact people insist on parking half a car length away from the car in front of and behind them, and the iQ’s appeal is clear for me. There are similar not-quite-large-enough spaces dotting the old narrow streets all over Center City.

    It could fit in twice the number of not-quite spaces my Civic can’t quite manage. And no wonder, the iQ is 40 inches shorter than the Honda!

    I’ve been told by friends that they wouldn’t be seen dead in this “clown car,” but 36 city mpg and no more footprint than I need (I rarely carry cargo or more than one passenger), I could do worse than choosing the iQ.

    • 0 avatar

      If you live in the city AND need a car multiple times a week I can see the appeal. Any spots where you’d be allowed to park nose in, like smarts can in Europe? The extra foot of length might kill this possibility.

      • 0 avatar

        Micheal, it’s not just the cities. There are numerous suburbs around Boston that have tight parking. Places like Somerville, Cambridge, Revere, Everett, Brookline MA – and several others. Zipcar is pretty scarce in some of those towns, so that’s not always an option.

        I also know people in further outlying suburbs that have to park in East Boston and Dorchester for work – they’d like something like this as well.

      • 0 avatar

        I doubt I’d be able to park it head-in here. The handful of local Smarts don’t try either, and if they did, the PPA would probably ticket them!

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why these microcars can’t be getting better fuel economy. My 1997 Civic sedan can easily get low-to-mid 30s in town and upper 30s on the highway. And that car has an actual usable trunk and you can fit two kid seats in the back!

    Will the “real-world” fuel economy numbers for this car actually be in the 40s?

    Unless you live somewhere where you absolutely need to park in tiny spaces, I just don’t see the need or appeal for this (type of) car. A used Prius would seem to be a much better choice.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t understand why these microcars can’t be getting better fuel economy.

      There are a few reasons, actually. One of them is emissions: you sacrifice some MPG for PPM. Then there’s crash safety (this car, as small as it is, is probably safer than your Civic)

      The big one is aerodynamics. The city-car “shape” has a lot of frontal area, and it’s a shape that necessary to improve packaging and get weight down. While not mutually exclusive, city-car design is not conducive to high highway miles.

      The flipside of this is, eg, the Chevy Impala, which is abysmal in the city. The last one I had was reporting regular figures of 11-15mpg, and would drop into single-digits without much prompting. That long, slippery shape did nothing but add pounds, and the lockup-crazy, reach for the sky transmission and big, lazy engine didn’t help.

      My 1997 Civic sedan can easily get low-to-mid 30s in town and upper 30s on the highway.

      Will the “real-world” fuel economy numbers for this car actually be in the 40s?

      That might be the case. We can’t directly compare what you get with what the EPA can do from different time periods that had to meet very different safety standards.

      Suffice to say, though, that 36 EPA city is pretty good for a non-hybrid car with two (sorta) rows of seats.

      • 0 avatar

        The flipside of this is, eg, the Chevy Impala, which is abysmal in the city. The last one I had was reporting regular figures of 11-15mpg, and would drop into single-digits without much prompting.

        Were you driving a ’72 with a 400TJ?

        Even my Diplomat takes at least some effort to drop into the single digits.

      • 0 avatar

        Were you driving a ’72 with a 400TJ?

        One, we’re talking imperial gallons. Two, we’re talking full urban gridlock.

    • 0 avatar

      I like smallish cars, but I’m unwilling to trade seating space for a few extra mpg.

      Going from my xB1 to this iQ would seem like a step backward to me.

  • avatar

    Even over here in Europe, where we have a history with small cars, it is regarded as a total flop. Sales have been abysmal so far.

    The car is way to expensive. It is more expensive than a smart, but also more expensive than a VW Up!, Ford Ka, Fiat 500 for example which look more like a “normal” car after all, have a more competent handling and do not look like the roller-skate of an elephant. I think pricewise even a car like the Fiesta, Corsa or Polo is not very far away.

  • avatar

    that engine bay looks TERRIBLE for a mechanic.

  • avatar

    Wow, $16580 for that? That is Corolla Territory, just $1000 more nets you a Corolla LE.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to say something similar. This is yet another time when volume of fuel/distance traveled is necessary for a decent comparison of fuel economy.

      iQ City 2.77 gal/100 miles Hwy 2.70 gal/100 miles

      Corolla (base – 5sp manual) city 3.57 gal/100 miles Hwy 2.85 gal/100 miles

      The price difference (base to base – according to is a whopping $665. All in all, no thanks.

      The difference between the two, at 3.329 (my local price), is $2.66 in the city and $0.50 highway. This is not a big enough difference for me (at current prices – of course the math will change when prices increase) to make the jump, but I don’t live in a city so parking really isn’t an issue for me, with large parking lots at the shops. YMMV

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      That’s what happens when a dollar only fetches 70-some yen.

      Also, not everyone gets a hardon when receiving a floaty barge appliance for their 17k.

  • avatar

    The iQ’s current price point gets you bigger cars for the same or less money, nevermind how some of these cars are used. People in the U.S. will go for a larger used car than buy a new microcar they’d see as largely impractical.

    The only way they’d even look twice at an iQ is if it was priced south of $8k, new. That’s impossible unless you want a Yugo redux — you get what you pay for.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      “The only way they’d even look twice at an iQ is if it was priced south of $8k, new.”

      Exactly! The utility of this type of speciality car is too low to justify it’s price. The packaging efficiency is cool, but I’d rather have a real car, a well proportioned 3 box sedan with separate trunk to hide stuff, but with iQ innovations applied to reduced FWD overhang and provide more passenger legroom. For example, combine the premium RWD short overhang proportions of a BMW 3 sedan with the build cost and packaging efficiency of a FWD Corolla and you have a small car sales hit.

  • avatar

    16″ wheels? Why? That is mind boggling. It isn’t sporty so they must be purely for looks. Some nice 13″ or 14″ wheels with high profile tires would likely take care of a lot of harsh ride issues.

  • avatar

    This is the perfect car for a world of global alarmists, “smaller is better” living, a booming economy and an urban environment. Sorry, don’t see any of that happening over the next few years when Scion needs to pay the bills. The Smart arrived at the wrong time, and it looks like this one did too. The iQ needs something to offset an initial perception that this car is not a good value. What I have been reading so far is how other, more substantial appearing competitors seem a better value. The iQ needs something to offset this drawback.

    Why do we even have these cars showing up in America? Is there some group of designers making salary designing minicars for a market that has never wanted a minicar? Is this the vehicular version of a fiber cereal – a car you are supposed to drive – because you are supposed to drive one? How much do you have to feel guilty about driving before you force yourself to spend this amount of money?

    Hey, a 1959 Cadillac was designed by stylists who envisioned a future brighter than today. There is nothing about this car that says that tomorrow looks bright. If Colonial Massachusetts Pilgrims could be teleported, (in a 1959 Cadillac, btw), into the future, this is the kind of vehicle I imagined they would drive.

    A 500 looks like girly fun and something you sleep with in bed next to the Hello Kitty doll. A Ka, a Mazda2, and an old CRX look like fun toys. If you are going to go small, go cute. The iQ looks like the automotive equivalent of an unlubed colonoscopy probe.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      “unlubed colonoscopy probe”!!!

      That’s a keeper!

      • 0 avatar

        “unlubed colonoscopy probe”

        Ewww…I don’t even want to think about that. Nightmare probability 99%.

        As far as the car in question is concerned, if that was my only option, I’d do my best to survive and thrive without a car at all. Might as well buy an old Chevy step-van, that way you can drive standing up and still have lots of room for junk!

    • 0 avatar

      > Is there some group of designers making salary designing minicars for a
      > market that has never wanted a minicar?

      No, there’s a group of designers making minicars for Japanese people in dense high population centers like Tokyo where both the people and the parking spaces both tend to be smaller than in the US. This car makes infinitely more sense in Japan. High gas prices and a renewed interest in fuel economy is what’s landing them on our shores.

      • 0 avatar

        Why do we even have these cars showing up in America? Is there some group of designers making salary designing minicars for a market that has never wanted a minicar?

        Your answer after extracting the obvious – “High gas prices and a renewed interest in fuel economy is what’s landing them on our shores.”

        All my life we have had a gas crisis every decade or so. To believe we would be driving minicars due to the latest price increases wouldn’t be fitting the pattern of how we have handled all the previous gas crises.

        Wait a couple of years and the prices will return to a more affordable level.

    • 0 avatar

      What about this car warrants a reference to “Global Alarmists?” It’s a SMALL CAR. Nothing more. The car is not a political statement.

      And, even if it is, what’s the actual virtue of hauling oneself and one’s bag lunch to work in an F-150 “Cubicle Edition” or Chevy Suburban “Soccer Momster?” Is there some line in the Beatitudes that I missed? “Blessed are those who guzzle gas because they can justify invading other countries to ensure a secure strategic supply?”

      For those of us with imaginations and a little common sense, “Brighter future than today,” doesn’t necessarily mean, “waste resources faster than today.”

      This car is great. On a typical day, no one of our 3 cars shared among 3 drivers will have more than two people in it and 3 out of the typically 5 round-trips will generally involve one person. A car like this is all that’s needed for 90% of our trips.

      Different vehicle types for different needs but for some people as an only car and for many families as an Nth car, this car will certainly do the trick.

      • 0 avatar

        What about this car warrants a reference to “Global Alarmists?

        He’s either a bit unhinged, or else he’s some sort of parody of the stereotypical Angry White Male. That over-the-top intro was enough to let me know that the rest of his rant was worth skipping.

        To most rational, sane people, it’s just a car. But I doubt that it’s a car that will sell well in the United States.

      • 0 avatar

        This car is nothing but a political statement. Bigger, more comfortable cars get better mileage. The few inches of diminished length are no more than a fig leaf for all but the most unusual situations. Where I live, on a wealthy island enclave near Seattle, some people commute to work in their Escalades, but keep ’em in their garages, while the Prius stands proudly out front. No doubt this is their real target market, or, even worse, this is the car they will force their kids to drive, so they can make their statement at the country club. Denial is not just a river in Egypt, KixStart. With no basis, it just makes you the one whose politics drown practicality.

      • 0 avatar

        This car is nothing but a political statement.

        Leave your island and visit some of the large cities on the East Coast. We have a different driving environment than Seattle. Try parking in a residential area with on-street parking in the Boston area and see if you still think this car is a political statement.

      • 0 avatar

        Mellow, get out of Mercer Island and try parking on Capitol Hill where parking is scarce in many places and has gotten worse now that parking has been rejiggered along the west slopes in places.

        Then you’ll begin to see the benefits of cars like the iQ, the Smart FourTwo (not that I approve of the Smart), the Fiat 500 and other small cars in the A/B segments.

        I lived on Queen Anne Hill and parked on the street and loved it when I had my old ’83 Honda Civic hatchback as it was small enough to get into all but the ultra small spots and finding parking for it was MUCH easier than it was for my bit larger ’88 Honda Accord, which was easier to find parking for than my extended cab Ford Ranger. I plan on going back to a small small car for this very reason, but nothing less than a Fiat 500 as it CAN be used as a single do everything car and take the place on longer highway trips as well, unlike the iQ and the Smart.

      • 0 avatar

        I used to park on the street in Manhattan. A strong bumper was FAR more important than a couple of feet of length. It is better to pass up a few smaller semi-spots if the tradeoff is that your car is still in one piece when you get back to it. That is why nobody who parks on city streets drives a new car. That is why this baby will spend its life in paid garages during the day, and will be proudly displayed, as proof that its owner CARES about the planet more than anybody else, at all other times.

        This is a niche vehicle, that niche being – a car that its owner can show it off as looking better than a Prius, smaller than a Fiat 500, in the twenty first century version of the stoplight drag. Not faster, but greener. If anybody wants to save the planet, he should be buying used in any case, so this is not about emissions at all, it is all about ego.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like you obviously see the car as a political statement, even though you claim you don’t see the car as a political statement.

        I see the car as a political statement because of people like you.

  • avatar

    Tiny cars are supposed to be frugal and cheap. This thing isn’t. Fail. Do they give an assortment of stickers, like Chill in Global Warming, Save The Whales, Bush Killed, We Believe?

    They should’ve saved all the money and redesigned the xB back to what it was intended to be.

    • 0 avatar

      “They should’ve saved all the money and redesigned the xB back to what it was intended to be.”

      Automotive history will record that Scion’s demise began with the 2008 xB2. I think it’s too late for Scion; the Cube and Soul have filled the niche the xB2 should have.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      “Tiny cars are supposed to be frugal and cheap.”

      What jackass decreed that?

    • 0 avatar

      Cube is exactly what old xB was. How’s the sales? That simple fact really should put the xB nostalgia into a coffin, but it doesn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        You are right, actually. Scion’s xB success would have continued for a bit longer had their next gen been more like the Cube. But the ‘box’ look was a fad that has burned out, mostly.

        I love the utility of my xB1, but my next car won’t be a box, simply because I’m tired of the unstylish look of it.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    If you wanted to step up from a scooter and like snagging all the parking spots that normal cars won’t fit you looked at a Smart Car and took a test drive. Then you noticed how much you hated the Turd. It was the bad transmission. Welcome to the Toyota solution.

    Zip Car have their own parking spots in NYC. All fleet sizes.
    ZipCar does not have Smart (dumb) cars in their fleet. Hertz Connect does. No one likes them. Those who try them hate the tranny. Really bad. Must use manual mode & pray the trip ends soon.

    Even if the law allowed nose in perpendicular parking I would fear the damage the other cars would do to the no-5-mile-bumpers.

    Looking for a reduced human footprint statement?
    Your ride has arrived.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    Maybe we are all wrong and the rich people think they should own one that more then doubles the cost and sold as the Aston Martin cygnet.

  • avatar

    I really don’t understand why Toyota would federalize this car for the U.S. It’s tiny, expensive, and doesn’t make sense for most people. They must have some research that says it’ll sell. But besides fleet sales, I can’t see that many regular people who will buy them. The 16″ wheels are kind of ridiculous. 14″ or 15″ would be fine and would result in lower replacement tire costs for those fleet buyers!

    Maybe NAPA will buy a bunch of them to replace their Aveo parts delivery cars.

    • 0 avatar

      The iQ is for densely populated areas with on-street parking. The market is larger than what you might think. Take for example Somerville, MA. According to the cities web site there are 11,600 registered vehicles per square mile. Most of the parking is on the street, so imagine what it’s like finding a space. Winter makes it even harder. The smaller the vehicle, the easier it is to find a space. Try spending a winter driving in one of these densely packed areas and your opinion will probably change.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m in Somerville, and yes cars are parked “bumpa to bumpa ” with little space in between.
        Luckily I have a garage.

      • 0 avatar

        I park on the streets of Seattle and yes, at times I’m parked bumpa to bumpa here, but right now, I’m stuck with my 1992 Ford Ranger extended cab truck and there’ve been many a time when I’ve wished it were the size of the Fiat 500 or there abouts so I could squeeze into small leftover spots that my truck just can’t squeeze into, no matter how hard I try.

        I’m lucky that I know how to parallel park as I’ve gotten my truck into parking spots barely longer than the damned thing and was successful at it too.

      • 0 avatar

        The advantage, of course, is that you need only one garbage can to hold your shovelled-out spot when you are at work.

    • 0 avatar

      I second the commments about parking in somerville, cambridge, brookline, etc. If I had to park often in those places, particularly if I didn’t ahve a residential sticker, I’d… I’d… I’d… well I wouldn’t buy this thing based on the low fun-to-drive quotient. I’d probably get a MINI. Maybe a fiat 500.

      Michael K: what single clutch manual on a smart? I thought all the ones coming into the US had that clunky slushbox.

      • 0 avatar

        he means “automated manual.” You see, all Smarts (worldwide) use a single dry clutch disc, five speed manual–that happens to have its clutch actuation controlled by a computer, either completely automatic in automatic mode, or with steering wheel paddles.
        There’s wide-spread confusion about this because there’s no clutch pedal, but, under the skin, it’s a conventional five-speed. No Smart has ever had another transmission system, by the way, regardless of market or model.

  • avatar

    It’s a little more money than I’d like to spend but, even though I live in Suburbia, the very small footprint is highly attractive.

    Garage space can be precious, too.

  • avatar


    Yet another reviewer who totally misses the mark on this city car.

    Try to think of cars as motorcycles for a moment. If you did, the iQ would be a simple scooter, about the smallest entry point for motorized transportation on 2 wheels. If you have priced a modern scooter, you’ll find that many of them cross right into proper motorcycle pricing territory at around $2,100 for a 50cc Honda to start.

    I would liken the iQ to a slightly larger scooter since it can hold 2 people, so it would be more like a Honda Silver Wing, which has a similar sized engine (582cc) as a “proper” bike, but like the iQ, it has a CVT and the MSRP on it is $9,000 to start.

    9 grand for a freakin’ scooter? And Honda actually sells them!

    For that kind of money you could get a way more capable cruiser like a Honda Shadow with a 745cc engine for $8,200, with a proper gearbox and way better acceleration and top speed right?

    Would the Shadow be as easy to maneuver around town or to park as a Silver Wing? No, not at all.

    I know the 2 wheel to 4 wheel analogy doesn’t always work well, but it does in this instance, because the iQ isn’t about capability, top speed or interior appointments. It’s about ease of use in tight urban areas where roads are narrow, parking is expensive and difficult to come by when it can be had.

    No American reviewer of this car has managed to fathom that point, or even try to register that concept in a review, or even take it to the next level of taking a B segment car which it is ALWAYS compared to and perform similar parking functions in a busy urban area.

    Why not actually compare it to a B segment car by running a few of them around Boston, New York, or San Fran, or another busy urban environment and see how well a much larger car fares against it in a city environment.

    If you’ve ever driven in any of those environments, you’ll know straight away that handling, soft touch plastics etc. don’t really matter anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the review clearly states in a couple of places that the car is for people who put a very high priority on ease of parking. But I felt I should also touch on the car’s other aspects.

      • 0 avatar

        You didn’t really put this car through any kind of city paces though. You quickly compare it to the Fiat 500 and other cars where you get more for your money, but you don’t pit those vehicles against the iQ in any meaningful way whatsoever.

        If a B segment car works just as well in a busy metropolitan area, then you should prove it.

      • 0 avatar

        The pros and cons aren’t that complicated.

        For obvious reasons, the iQ will fit in smaller parking spaces than anything besides a smart. No detailed proof required.

        Everything else the larger cars do better, with one noted exception: the iQ does ride more smoothly at sub-highway speeds than the 500.

  • avatar

    Uncharacteristically this review misses the point.

    Toyota’s sales target for this car is a mere 1-2k a month. For comparison Fiat’s sales target is 50k in the US. In fact, the Versa’s monthly sale in September (at near 12k) is the lower end of the sales target Toyota wants from the Scion iQ for the ENTIRE year.

    The IQ is aimed as a niche vehicle. In fact, Toyota North America seems to be positioning this vehicle as something to differentiate the Scion brand. The diminutive stature of it is attention very grabbing. The average commuter wouldn’t give a second glance at halo sports cars like the Mustang, Camaro, or even the upcoming Scion FR-S, but the iQ is very hard to ignore on the American road. Probably greeted with the reaction, “what the hell is that?!”

    And it makes sense, Toyota already has the xD, and the Yaris, and soon even the Prius C. It has enough small vehicles in its stable that it doesn’t need the iQ to cannibalize those sales. The sub-compact market in the US is already a crowded low-margin market. Importing Japanese-made niche cars makes little money as the yen is strong and the dollar is weak.

    The IQ is rolling PR vehicle. It’s saying, “hey look at me! Toyota can make something unique and different, come to our showrooms and buy a more practical car to your suiting”.

    • 0 avatar

      Two things.

      First, that sales target follows a qualification that “we don’t really have a sales target” and other such hedging–they clearly don’t expect strong sales. They’re really just throwing it out there and seeing if it will stick.

      Second, nearly all the weaknesses I note could be corrected without compromising the strengths. So the strengths don’t excuse the weaknesses.

      • 0 avatar

        First, that sales target is over twice that of Smart ForTwo. It could even be considered high for a niche vehicle such as this. Its not ‘see if it’ll stick’ proposition. But yes, they don’t expect high sales compared to B-segment cars, its clearly a PR vehicle designed to bring attention to the Scion brand.

        Secondly, the weakness you find in this car is based on a price/size practicality ratio. Making the argument for B-segment cars in the price range.

        Again, very American thinking. And uncharacteristically missing the plot.

        The reality is even B-segment cars themselves are a poor price/practicality proposition in the US. C-segment cars are already priced very close to the B-segment vehicles. Which illustrates the overall weakness of all B-segment cars here in the States.

        This entire review falls into this train of thought. Size equates to value and quality. Which would be fine, but the iQ is about packaging. Toyota already offers the Yaris cheaper than the iQ, that is bigger. But that’s not what the iQ is trying to be.

        While I generally like your reviews. Your review follows that same one-dimensional thought process that fails to see what the car really is. They are bringing as little as necessary from its production in Japan, at a razor thin margin due to the weakness of the dollar, as a marketing vehicle to stimulate conversation for the brand. Which is the whole point of the existence of Scion, to appeal consumers that wouldn’t buy Toyotas.

      • 0 avatar

        So I’m supposed to praise the car as a brilliant marketing strategy? Even for this role it needs better styling.

        I praise the car, in detail, for its intelligent packaging, and admit that I’ve bought a car because I admired its packaging–but realize that this is very, very rare.

      • 0 avatar

        I think the main point of the car you are missing is that its SMALL. Its meant to be small. Again its small, that’s the whole damn point.

        Yes, in the US, bigger is better. You can make the point that B-segment cars are more practical, just as affordable, and most will agree with you. But not everyone.

        But Toyota is trying to sell just a mere 1-2K of these. Not designed for everyone, obviously not designed for you (or me for that matter). Its a niche vehicle and Toyota knows it.

        As far as exterior design, that’s subjective and not worth discussing. But your failure in this review is that you can’t see this car for what it is, and what its trying to be.

        Its like a soccer mom reviewing sports car- you just can’t seem to wrap their mind in why someone would buy something less practical when their are so many cheaper alternatives.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s a New York City Car

      • 0 avatar

        Again, very American thinking.

        Considering that this is a US-spec model, it’s probably not a bad idea to review it from an American perspective.

        the iQ is about packaging

        You miss the point. The car ultimately has to be about its audience. If the car doesn’t serve the demands of buyers, then they aren’t going to buy it.

        I suppose that Mr. Karesh could have focused on the essence of the car, which is the ability to park it. But stories detailing the joys of putting quarters into parking meters don’t make for great reading on a car website.

        I think that we all can comprehend that a car of this type is easier to park. (The whole length thing is a big giveaway.) Most readers of a car website will want to know how it feels on the road and what it is generally like to live with it, for it is, after all, still a car.

        They are bringing as little as necessary from its production in Japan, at a razor thin margin due to the weakness of the dollar, as a marketing vehicle to stimulate conversation for the brand.

        If that’s the goal, then I hope that they brace themselves for the puddle of silence that is likely to be produced by this vehicle.

        I agree with Mr. Karesh. This sounds like an effort to dip a toe into the market to see whether there is any demand for this in the US. Smart has been a flop; TMC wants to see if it can do better (which serves a secondary purpose of putting the squeeze on a rival). Since Toyota is already familiar with the kei car business and has a domestic market for such things, they can take a stab at a car of this size with minimal risk.

        Smart has been a failure in Europe because parking there, even when it’s bad, isn’t **that** bad. I think that most of us know that the parking situation in the US is considerably better, so a car designed around parking considerations has even lower odds of success here.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the nudge–making me really think through this.

      I feel your point was covered with:

      “In the end, the iQ’s key strengths are its short length and ultra-tight turning radius, both of which make it easy to park in the city.”

      And earlier with the extensive discussion of the car’s brilliant packaging.

      It’s not like Toyota started out by saying, “Okay, let’s develop a niche product.” They developed the car primarily for Europe, with significant sales in mind, and secondarily decided, “Let’s pitch it as a Scion in the U.S., and possibly sell 1-2k a month.” It was not designed with the Scion role topmost in mind.

      If the iQ was primarily intended as a niche product it would have far more style along the lines of the bB/xB, Cube, Soul, or even the fortwo (though the fortwo wasn’t primarily intended to be a niche product, either).

      Instead the iQ is styled like an appliance. The emphasis is on function, not style. And so I evaluated the car primarily based on how it functions, not on the statement it makes. And in terms of functionality it does a couple of things very well, a few others “well considering its size,” and the rest…

      • 0 avatar

        The iQ is unquestionably a niche car in the US.

        What I’ve liked about your reviews in the past is that you’ve always seemed to grasp what a car was trying to accomplish, and who their audience was. Instead of injecting some enthusiast paradigm into every vehicle- nobody cares about Nürburgring lap times of a minivan after all. To your high standards, this iQ seems to have been a curve ball. You can’t seem to understand this car. Why its a niche, and why it was designed the way it was.

        The reality is size of this vehicle is its main selling point. As someone who has lived in densely populated urban areas on three continents, packing is crucial, especially when you have to rely on uncertain parking conditions. Even if you have a designated parking space in the city, it doesn’t mean that your destination will have parking; all too frequently street parking is the only option. Being able to parallel park is a very small space means it saves you 30-minutes of having to drive around the block several times, have to park far away, or have to pay for parking.

        Parking in the city isn’t just about turning radius of the car. Its about the acquisition of parking, sometimes you need to zip across lanes suddenly as potential space opens up, go to the opposite side of the street, squeeze into tight areas. Here size countst.

        For the US, with sporadic dense urban areas and a luxury in land mass. True urban cars are a niche. From this perspective, the B-segment in the US is the worst of both worlds. Priced near the larger more practical C-segment but lacks the packaging of the iQ. Less practical in the city than the iQ, less practical than the C-segment cars everywhere else. Which is the bottom basement Versa dominates the segment, because people buy these cars based on price not packaging.

        Also disturbing, your review and subsequent also dwells far too heavily on looks. Which is subjective. But is no use to us readers. You see, the invention of photography allows to come to our own conclusions of the aesthetic nature of the car. The value of an automotive reviewer does not exist in things we can see for ourselves.

  • avatar

    “…Why a microcar…”
    “…a lot of better choices…”
    “…don’t see the need or appeal…”
    “…a step backward…”
    “…total flop…”
    “…Corolla Territory…”
    “…largely impractical…”
    “…mind boggling…”
    “…perfect car for a world of global alarmists…”
    “…supposed to be frugal and cheap…this thing isn’t…”
    “…step up from a scooter…”
    “…reduced human footprint statement…”
    “…doesn’t make sense for most people…”

    Sheesh, guys, lighten up! Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…and sometimes a little car is just a g-d little car. Not a threat!

    While there may be a little cynicism in targeting this car at a specific demographic, IMO there’s nothing cynical about the design, or offering it here. It’s an answer to an engineering question very few people asked, perhaps, but it’s an inventive answer nonetheless.

    No, it doesn’t have widespread appeal. Yes, it looks…silly. But 36 mpg in the city on regular is pretty frugal, last time I checked. Calling it impractical misses the point: where it will thrive, larger cars are impractical.

    And in any case, since when did cars have to make sense, or be priced proportional to their size, or make a profit for the automaker? Even if the iQ does none of those things, it has just as much right to exist as a Corolla.

    Why does every car sold in the US have to be as big and as cheap as possible? 90% of cars on the road already are as it is…can’t the other 10% get a little creative?

    Despite its size, this is not meant to be mobility for the masses like a Nano, so it’s not priced as such. In a way, it’s a reverse halo car for Scion, trying to tap back into the quirkiness of the first-gen xB…

    But I don’t really care who or what Toyota or Scion intend the iQ for. Nor do I care how many people like it or will buy it. All I know is, I like it.

    (Though in all honesty, I think I’d prefer a VW Up…)

    • 0 avatar

      +1 philadlj,

      I like iQ’s concept but have to agree, the VW UP! looks much more interesting than this thing.

      And I also agree that many people here – and elsewhere are totally missing the point of this car and of small cars in general.

  • avatar

    Just a quick note about turning radius. Are you really saying that this car turns within its own length?

    I always have seen turning radius listed as the diameter of the circle drawn by the outside edges of the car as it turns, not the inside edges. That gives us a sense of the smallest driveway we can turn around the car within. For my Forester, that’s 34 feet. I suspect your 12-foot measurement tells us about the diameter of the largest bush you can circle.

  • avatar

    I don’t quite understand how this car makes city parking much more available. Parallel parking would be easier, when you can find it. But here in Denver, like most cities, every downtown parking spot is either lined out with paint on a lot or attached to its own curbside parking meter. Each car is expected to pay for its own parking spot– the whole spot, so if you could somehow get two mini cars into one, you’d be ticketed for cheating the system.

    Things would be different if you lived in a city of free streetside parking, but do those cities exist? In the USA?

    • 0 avatar

      In cities parking in neighborhoods usually has no lines–you don’t feed a meter to park outside your house. This would be a great car in many areas of Chicago, for example. But even in Chicago would I rather have this over a Fiesta, Mazda2, or Accent? Probabaly not, at least not when the cost is about the same. A used one for $5k down the road? Much more attractive.

    • 0 avatar

      Not all of Denver is lined or metered, and the grid is a small part of the city. Much larger cities either aren’t lined and/or use parking kiosks that print a ticket to put in your window. There’s plenty of free and kiosk controlled street parking within the Chicago city limits, including the loop.

      • 0 avatar

        and in Chicago, the only times you will find lines marking where cars park is when they draw a box that covers all the available space. It isnt hashed into individual spots. In the neighborhoods, I dont think you’ll find any marked parking spaces. I’ve also lived for stretches between 4 months and 4 years in Seattle, Tucson, DC, Charlotte and Santa Cruz and I am pretty sure none of those places mark the metered spaces individually. I could be wrong about that.

        Michael, I agree. I would take the Mazda2. You just aren’t gaining that many more places to park to make it worth sacrificing places to hide things and driving entertainment (which I think is critical in small cars).

        When I was in DC, which seems more dense in the neighborhoods than chicago, I didnt have a car at all and didnt miss one. Metro gets you within a few blocks of anywhere and I got a cheap 149cc scooter which, after cruising between the rows of stopped cars at stoplights could beat them off the line (and ease into the lane well ahead of them). It was almost like having a red light pass and the traffic didnt move as fast as the scooter could go. It didnt require registration and could be chained to parking meters on K street’s sidewalks.

        In Chicago with it’s potholes, snow, and traffic, I find having a comfortable car outfitted with a suspension that can travel more than 1.2inches along with s bit of ground clearance and enough room to hold a day’s worth of errand running is the way to go.

      • 0 avatar

        Gee, I thought we were all up to date here in the River-less City, with our new curbside meters, now accepting credit cards for your marked parking space. I know of only one new local development that packs ’em in with unmarked parking paid by timed ticket.

        Your mileage, (or footage) will vary, of course. There are plenty of old medium-density neighborhoods where free street parking space is tight, so these vehicles have a niche. It just seems like that sweet spot for the mini cars is pretty narrow: an urban place, but not too urban. If you pay for the whole parking place, as my downtown-commuting wife does, you might as well use more than half of it, right?

    • 0 avatar

      Downtown, yes, the spaces are metered, but even there, not all cities do this, but get out in the residential neighborhoods,all bets are off as most are not lined and people tend to either crowd you or leave copious room in front of or behind as they fail to pull up or back to leave room for another vehicle (admittedly a small one usually) to park.

      And this even applies to the inner city residential neighborhoods that are adjacent to downtown or very nearby such as Sattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, Capitol Hill or First hill to name 3.

      It is these types of neighborhoods where the small cars like this Scion will shine.

  • avatar

    The primary reason I won’t be buying one of these is the CVT, but I don’t care for the idea of locating the passenger forward of the driver either. That doesn’t sound like good design to me, as sometimes I need to turn left onto one way streets, and I don’t want a head where what I need is a clear view of approaching traffic. I also don’t want a head or a head rest in my way when I’m checking my blindspot to change lanes. iQ? iRonic.

    • 0 avatar

      The passenger doesn’t have to sit ahead of the driver, but this option is available to open up more space for a third person in back.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the clarification. From reading various reviews, I was under the impression that the tracks for the passenger seat were forward of the driver’s, and being 6’2″ means that I’m usually near the extreme back of seat travel.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like I need to clarify my clarification.

        If you slide both seats as far back as they will go, they won’t be even. In this case the driver seat is pressing against the rear cushion, while the passenger seat leaves 2-3″ for some very skinny legs.

        For a driver like myself, the driver seat will be a few inches from the rear seat, so the passenger seat can be even with it.

  • avatar

    Toyota finally makes an interesting car and everyone remarks it’s too niche and mainstream cars are way more practical. Meanwhile, Toyota’s mainstream cars get derided as boring and bland. Car makers can never please people! Bah. So what if the iQ isn’t practical for you? It’s interesting and it has great engineering put into it. Look how many people buy Mini. It’s super small and thousands upon thousands more expensive, yet no one bats an eye at the price.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting ideas aren’t always good ones. This thing costs $20K fully loaded from what I remember. A fully loaded Yaris, w/2 more doors, 2 more seats and a continually usable trunk, costs $3K less and is only 3 feet longer… still incredibly short and parkable.

      I live in NYC now, I wouldn’t waste my $$$ on this. I went for a much better 2 person city vehicle- a motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on the great engineering and interesting packaging, but to be cool it needs a more stylish exterior and friskier handling. It’s small, but it ain’t frisky.

      (Meant to use “frisky” in the review, as something the iQ should be but isn’t. Well, got it into the comments.)

  • avatar

    Okay, as an urban car this thing is a joke, just like the Smart car. Besides, to compare a new IQ to a horribly outdated Smart is ridiculous.

    There’s a reason that these “city cars” haven’t done well in major cities like NYC. Here’s why. It’s just as easy to find a full sized parking spot on the street as a small parking spot. So there’s no value there. And , unless you park on the street, which is a complete pain in the ass no matter what you drive, parking in an enclosed garage costs about $400-500/month in NYC no matter if you drive an IQ or if you drive a Mercedes S-Class. So why would I drive this? Lastly, if you live in an urban area, like Boston, NYC, SF or any city that isn’t car-friendly, you take mass transit when you’re moving around within the city limits… you don’t even touch your own car for many days. So in my case in NYC, I only drive a car to drive a significant distance to get far outside the city. The last car I want to drive to get to Montauk every weekend would be a rattletrap like this. That’s the reality of it, and that’s why this car is not going to do well.

    • 0 avatar

      RIGHT ON!!! The last true ‘scientist’ I had any respect for was the RT HON Dr. Frankenfurter (Rocky Horrow Picture Show) and look what happened to him!!! We have all these ‘rocket scientists’ designing all these ‘pushing the envelope’ ECO-cars but no one thinks about any practical considerations. What? Everyone is to own a City Car and a Suburban car and an impress the neighbours car? I work in OZ, you know, SAN FRAN-nowhere-to-park-CISCO? You have the same size parking space, wheither you buy this clown car or a HUMMER H-3. Since 90% of city drivers are single commuters, you will flood OZ with all these gutless Meep-Meep mobiles. Did you see the photo of that engine? You’d need a PHD just to replace the spark plugs!!! My city car is a stylish, PAID FOR, trouble free 1999 Madza Miata. It gets 30miles highway or (81%) of what a Scion gets and I won’t cry if its stolen, towed or broken into because ITS PAID FOR!!! $20K to trade up for an extra 7mpg? I ain’t buying it!!!

  • avatar

    A very interesting car indeed, and I rather like it’s outside design to be honest.

    But it’s a tad too city car oriented than I’d like. For a small car that can do well as both a city and long distance cruiser, the Fiat looks to be a much better alternative, given their respective sizes.

    Having driven the Fiat 500 Sport and on the highway (Seattle’s 405 highway, it felt just fine and I didn’t find its ride harsh, nor bouncy and what motions it did exhibit, it was well muted and to be honest, it’s ride was quite nice for such a short wheelbase car.

    But in the end, the iQ simply won’t cut it for those of us who can only afford one single car and it has to do double duty as both a city commuter and a highway cruiser when called upon and live where a small sized car is preferable when parking on the streets in an urban environment. Reason being simply NO cargo room if any other passengers in either rear seating position, where as the Fiat retains some cargo room with the rear seat up and there is a cargo cover to hid stuff.

    Small cars and trucks just won’t do if you plan on carrying the occasional bulky item around like I sometimes do.

    Since I currently drive a truck, a nearly 20 YO Ford Ranger, finding parking for it is sometimes a challenge due to finding a spot that’s, A, available and B, is large enough to take the truck and I’ve been known to go around and around the block several times before a space opens up that I can take. I refuse to park blocks away just to find parking.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    When gas goes up to over $4 per gallon…..and it will, soon….they will be lining up for these. Toyota didn’t get where they are by being stupid: First they invested and cornered the market on expertise in the hybrid arena…now that is a very profitable niche for them…now they are, with this class of vehicle, investing in design, engineering and manufacturing of ultra-light, ultra-efficient platforms and packaging for remaining ICE vehicles. Imagine this with a LNG or propane fuel system, for example. When the next oil ‘crisis’ inevitably hits, Toyota will capitalize on the engineering experience already in their portfolio,learned from this excercise, to once again lead the industry….

    • 0 avatar

      I agree Toyota didn`t get where they are by being stupid – they have played the long game well. I would just add other companies are doing the same – whether it is on hybrid technology or small/micro cars (VW Up!). None of the big companies are solely populated by idiots – there are clever people in all of them.

  • avatar

    The 16″ wheels probably help it step over bumps a bit more easily.

  • avatar

    Regarding #4 on the list of things Toyota is most proud of… I have a 2007 Fit with this feature.

    • 0 avatar

      The Fit and European Civic both have that feature. It’s handy for packaging, but it badly compromises cruising range. I know I make a lot of 35L pit-stops in my ’08 Fit.

      Again, though, it’s a city car, so it’s not terribly relevant.

  • avatar
    John R

    Maybe they should offer a hotted up version with a Yamaha YZF-R1 motor in it?

  • avatar

    forget about the Smart and 500….the iQ’s biggest competitor is the Yaris. especially since it drives like a Yaris (which you can get with a manual transmission)

    I appreciate that Toyota left the styling funky, but its disappointing to see that Toyota took the fun out of driving it. Makes me feel less optimistic about the FT-86.

  • avatar

    I think a lot of the commenters here are totally missing the point about cars like the iQ with comments like it should be cheaper, small cars should be cheap to buy, I can buy something much larger for about the same price, and so on.

    Some had said it, but I’ll repeat, making a GOOD small car takes thoughtful planning and design to make it right, otherwise, it comes off as a cheaply made and designed car, such as the old Chevy Aveo for instance, or the early Hyumdai Excel or any car that while it may be durable and last a long time, can’t get out of its own way or handling is so bad it’s verging on unsafe, stuff like that.

    The biggest selling feature in a small car is it’s city friendliness and its frugal gas mileage. True, some here say they can get almost the same mileage on a bit larger car, but the thing is, that’s probably true for highway mileage, but not necessarily city mileage. A real indication of mileage is what people are ACTUALLY getting mileage wise. Take the Fiat for instance. The EPA estimates say, City, 38 Highway with a combined average of I think 33. Real world mileage indicates (so far) closer to 32 city, 40 to as much as 42 highway with the combine average closer to 36mpg. That’s not shabby at all for an A segment car that is actually fun to drive that runs strictly on gas. Diesels will do better in both the city and highway mileage but since we don’t have diesels here like they do in Europe, we have to go by the gas motor instead.

    Now, since we DO much more highway driving than in most places Europe and tend to drive at much faster speeds, cars with super tiny motors that barely do 90HP with today’s weight difference often means the car can’t maintain highway speeds much beyond 70-80mph, which makes them fine for short runs, but not for long trips, which is why cars like the Fiat, the Fiesta are much more preferable for both city and highway use.

    I’m all for spending upwards of 20K for a GOOD small car that can also get good mileage and have it have not be a basic stripper car with barely more than the essentials as the total cost of the car is not how much you pay for it, but how much it costs you to RUN and INSURE it that counts more than its price.

    And that leads me to this. Expecting a GOOD designed small car at a cheap price, and by cheap, leas than $15K is simply asking too much, which is why cars like the Yaris and the Versa costs as little as they do for their base strippers is that they are NOT all that much fun etc so they aren’t as good as they could be in other words. This is why the Hyundai Accent’s current model is now priced where its at, so it could finally become a very DECENT car with GOOD handling and performance, something the previous generations lacked to a huge degree as a result.

    The old adage of you get what you pay for.

  • avatar

    I am interested in the Ad copy that will appear for the SCION. “SCION, Life is a Circus; therefore it fits THREE CLOWNS comfortably and FOUR CLOWNS in a pinch?!!” Call me RETARDED but my Funky 1985 Chevy Sprint had a zippy little 3 banger and routinely got 50mph highway in 4th gear @ 3grand. Thirty years down the pike and we get a CLOWN car that gets, what? 37mpg IF we are lucky?

    I don’t know which I hate the most: Pointy-Headed ‘TreeHugging’ Liberals or Shovel-headed ‘Clear Cutting’ Conservatives. The technology currently exists to have a car go 100miles a gallon AND you don’t have to squeeze yourself into a CLOWN Car. It’s called DIESEL—but getting an American to buy a Diesel powered car is like getting REP Weiner to describe himself in millimeters rather than inches—ain’t going to happen!!! Having survived the Caddy 8-6-4 (remember that fabulous engine?), I’m not into gimmicks (and a hybrid car IS a gimmick car). We need to achieve PINNNACLE TERMINATION on fossel fuel powered, internal combustion engines (an 1880 German technology) which is why the world governments should pool resources to develop THE DIESEL ENGINE and mass produce it!!!

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    This,like the Smart that precedes it, will be a quick flourish,followed by a sales decline.There’s simply not enough MPG involved for the trade off,unless you live in an area with the worst parking in the world.I used to own a ’91 Swift GT(Curb Wt:1850lbs,30-31 MPG city.)5sp,no A/C,no power steering,but unlike this overpriced number,it was goddamn fun.The IQ’s camshaft probably won’t snap at 34K,and it won’t need 5th gear(Or any gear,for that matter.)replacement at 60K.But what does the IQ give, except for an extra small parking footprint?If this was a hybrid,or a diesel(Like the Canadian Smart) that got somewhere in the 60-70 MPG range,then its cost and size would be an adequate trade-off.The only “statement”(Based solely upon my life experiences only,of course.)this car will make will be “Oh guurl,mix another cocktail,I’m still gettin’ready!We don’t have to show up at the club until primetime! Missy,I used my i.q & bought me an IQ,I can park this anywhere AND we’re on the list,bishh!” “Greenies” may wince with regret,but only because they have to leave earlier to the club for a parking space,while getting 43 mpg city in their Priuses.

  • avatar

    Most of the comments about this car seem to ignore its purpose. It’s a CITY car. In my two-person household, we have two cars, a smart fortwo and a Volvo XC70. My partner walks two blocks to work, and I drive to work 2.5 miles from one part of Washington, DC to another. The posted speed limit is 35 mph or less the whole way, and the drive takes 10 minutes at 5:00 a.m. and up to 30 minutes at 5:00 p.m. I’ve done this for 20 years, using a variety of vehicles including a C5 Corvette and a Mini Cooper. The smart fortwo is awful in many ways – it’s slow, and the automated manual transmission makes it almost impossible to drive smoothly. It also gets very unimpressive gas mileage and requires premium fuel. But the gas milegage doesn’t matter much, because even though I drive it 7 days a week, after 3 years I have only 8,000 miles on it. Fuel economy is a big deal when you’re commuting 50 miles each way, but it’s really inconsequential in my case.

    Friday night we drove about 20 blocks to a restaurant and parked right in front, in a parking space 12 feet long. Dozens of other cars were inching their way around the neighborhood looking for parking while we were being seated inside. If you don’t live in a city (and I mean a city, not a suburb), then you just don’t understand why a car 9 or 10 feet long is so wonderful. The iQ seems better than the smart in almost every way, so I’ll probably get one when it becomes available here.

    • 0 avatar

      Have to concur with this sentiment. The IQ’s trump card can be summed up in one word – footprint. Even if it got 10% worse gas mileage, for its intended purpose, it’s a winner. For those people who would still own a smart if it weren’t for the reliability/driveability problems, their ship has come in. In effect, the IQ is a well-built fortwo.

      Personally, I think Toyota should have partnered with Segway since it and the IQ have very similiar markets. If the IQ (and micro, city vehicles like it) is viewed from the perspective as an all-weather, multiple-passenger, reliable Segway, its real virtue becomes quite a bit more apparent and why “‘X’ is a better car for the money” isn’t a good argument when ‘X’ is larger, even by a small amount. IOW, urban populations increase and parking space is always going to diminish and be at a premium.

      It’s the reason that the Cygnet (the Aston Martin version of the IQ) may not be anywhere near as foolish as would first appear. It could turn out to be the perfect ride for the well-heeled urban dweller.

    • 0 avatar

      True about footprint of vehicles. I’m suddenly having to do a lot of city driving and my 7 passenger CUV is proving to be completely impractical. I’m making my wife unhappy with borrowing her Subaru while shopping for a compact vehicle suitable for a large driver.

      Elantra Touring, Jetta, and Fusion (borderline too big) are leading candidates right now.

    • 0 avatar

      5:01 PM 3/9/2012
      Scion IQ Butt Test

      I was visiting a multiple mark dealer to look at the Chevy Sonic, when I spied the IQ. I had read about it and forgetting about the IQ a while back. Now I had a chance to check it out.

      The Scion section was devoid of humanity so I was able to examine the IQ in peace. First impression, it was a very appealing shape, much wider than expected and I was digging the rear triangle windows, facing the other direction from the usual rear hatch/sedan window windowlets. Opening the immense doors, getting into the drivers seat was a cinch. one small concern with the wide doors, cars meant for tight urban parking shouldn’t have such long wide doors, the door must be opened much wider to get out than a smaller door.
      Revelationary visibility! Easy to see all the way around. So many of the new B segment cars have teensy high rear windows, in the IQ, I could easily out in four directions, nice large rear window.
      Plain direct instruments, with a funny central binnacle up high containing the radio head unit. No glove box, that space is for front passenger knee room, which should allow the front passenger to sit forward enough to allow an adult passenger in the right rear seat.
      This is a 2 person car, 3 person in a pinch.
      The rear seat backs are right up against the rear hatch, so the rear seats compose the complete area for cargo. They fold down easily enough, and its enough room for 2 people and the results of a grocery run.
      I didn’t get a chance to drive it, the CVT sounds dreadful, so sad if this is true, as its a very clever package.

      Suprised by all the angry posts about this car, but its understandable that few Americans get the mission of this car, as not many of us live in urban density. But for those of us that do, this size can make sense.

      The value propostion for a micro car in the US only exists in a few urban areas o course, the IQ in, say, the suburbs of Des Moines makes about as much sense as a Ford F350 pickup as a primary vehicle in Chicago.

      So, lots of posts about the pricing (for 16k I can get a Fiesta/Accent/Used Lincoln Town Car!). But that is missing the point, the use of this car is the parking trick, which is very very valuable to some urban folks.
      For example, I have headed out to one of Chicago’s many cool urban neighborhoods for dinner, only to circle helplessly looking for parking. The few Smarts out there have founds spaces, but not me. A few minutes turn into 45 minutes, or longer, and I have simply returned home.
      I could use public transport, but its a good hour one way, and riding back at night with drunk and smelly people isn’t a very positive end to the evening.
      I could rent a Zipcar, but good luck getting one on prime weekend hours.
      Can be a very long wait for taxis on a weekend evening as well.
      So, the parking spoils go to the small, and the REALLY small will find easy parking victory every time, B segments have a fighting but lesser chance, and everyone else must pray to the parking gods for mercy or go home hungry.

      I may be the rare demographic for this car. Grocery runs with the spouse, dog park runs (perfect back seat for dogs), and an actual shot and finding on street parking on weekend evenings in areas with restaurants and bars.

      Sure I can get a Mazda2, the shortest lenght B I know of at 155 inches. I would have more utility more seats (that I very rarely need) but a microcar would STILL get me a space the Mazda2 can’t fit it, being 3 feet shorter.

      The IQs CVT may be a deal breaker, but I would take the IQ over the Smart any day if I go the microcar route…

      • 0 avatar

        Good points there Chicago_salt,

        Here in Seattle, I’m seeing these cars suddenly pop around here frequently, though not overly common as yet but they ARE being bought, as is the Smart and the Fiat 500.

        The Fiat itself is becoming rather common and yes, I would say some are rentals, but the amount that I see, most are probably owner occupied.

  • avatar

    Nice idea but like you said it’s all about dimensions with these cars. Here in madison, WI, now that there’s a smart dealer those things are multiplying like rabbits because there IS no parking, especially in winter. I doubt, though, that people are going to say yeah I’ll get a “4 passenger” micro car instead of the smart… or this over a Fiat! Though some people might buy this instead of the obligatory madison scooter.

  • avatar

    “4.Developing an ultra-thin fuel tank—it’s only 4.5 inches tall—and locating it beneath the driver’s seat.”

    Little disturbed by that. Especially if it goes Ford Pinto on you.

    “the EPA rating of 36 city is much more impressive than the 37 highway. Then again, the iQ is marketed as a “city car,” not a “highway car.”

    So was my ’93 Festiva with the 1.3L and 12” tires. It got better mileage than this with the A/C on. Funny, don’t remember paying $16K for it.

    • 0 avatar

      The dollar has lost a bit of purchasing power in the years since your Festiva left the plant…

    • 0 avatar

      Little disturbed by that. Especially if it goes Ford Pinto on you.

      Very different scenario. Exploding gas tanks (Pinto, Vic) tend to be fitted too far outboard (like, well into the trunk) and in the crush space. The iQ’s tank is well inside.

      The Honda Fit uses something similar, and doesn’t have any appreciable tendency to fireball.

      So was my ’93 Festiva with the 1.3L and 12″ tires. It got better mileage than this with the A/C on. Funny, don’t remember paying $16K for it.

      Crash safety, emissions standards, refinement, etc. You can still buy a used Festiva, and this car is still a veritable Cadillac by comparison.

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