Vellum Venom: 2012 Scion IQ

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
We’re committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using links in our articles. Learn more here
vellum venom 2012 scion iq

Every lesson in car design school is a new challenge: draw a new type of vehicle and be ready to strut your stuff next week in the studio. It was always brutal, as I wasn’t trained to be an artist.

While I enjoy Panther Love references as much as anyone, they point to a sad reality: small cars are tough to render. I always added more crumple zones, too much dash-to-axle ratio, and never added enough flair; something necessary for vehicles with a small canvas. Maybe this is one reason why the (new) 1970s European subcompacts were always my favorite, or the 3rd Gen Honda Civic. And even the Ford Festiva…but maybe we should pretend I didn’t mention it.

On to our victim, the new Scion iQ compact. I will admit that Toyota did an admirable job keeping the iQ visually apart from the SMART car. Witness the fat bumper, giving the impression of a bigger, hunkier, two-tier body. The SMART looks skinny and tipsy by comparison. The face looks decent enough, with mouth that is neither angry nor happy, with headlights that stare with the intensity of a man on a mission. The oversized, flared emblem takes away from the package, adding a touch of Bozo the Clown where it absolutely isn’t necessary. Distinctly not smart, indeed.

No overhangs, but the leading edge of this bumper is an interesting way to add flair without literally adding fender flares. It looks like the beginning of a retro-renaissance of open fendered beauties like the Talbot-Lago. Okay, probably not…but such extravagance should be encouraged in vehicles this darn small.

And yes, this is a very small vehicle. The side translation of the front’s not-SMART stance is lost in a sea of short and tall. That’s not to say Toyota didn’t try, but the greenhouse is so “fast” you expect more overhang to extend the lines. Honestly, that A-pillar looks like something I’d draw…and then get panned on for not being honest to the small car design.

This cowl is so cute! Small cars don’t have to be hastily designed, as the plastic trim housing the windscreen washer has curves that empathize with the shapes on the rest of the cowl. Nice touch.

Another reason why the A-pillar is dishonest. The little black triangle that artificially extends the silhouette of the DLO (daylight opening) shouldn’t exist. A more upright A-pillar would discourage this need for fake “sleekosity”, and probably give you a better, roomier city car too.

The big hunk of plastic near the B-pillar is terrible on the eyes. I suspect it exists to extend the door without needing a bigger piece of glass. Which probably wouldn’t roll all the way down given the rake of the door next to the body in this area. So perhaps the designers had no choice, and at least the curves match a corresponding crease in the metal portion of the B-pillar. The SMART car looks a little smarter here.

Wheel covers that don’t cover the wheel need to die a painful death. Does anyone believe this could be an alloy wheel?

I suspect this odd piece of plastic re-directs air so the iQ is more stable on the highway. A similar trim item was installed on Ford Sierras to accomplish just that. Still, it’s a terrible implementation and needs a re-think.

I do quite like the elements presented here. The thicker bumper appears to sprout pre-war fender elements just like the front, and the taillight/glass above encourages the wave.

While I liked the front’s use of two tiers, the back looks too much like a pear. These hips don’t lie, the Scion iQ needs a little trimming…or a larger cargo area and less tumblehome.

The hatchback’s outside release is a nice piece of design, every curve, contour and material pictured here is an ergonomic delight. Go ahead and try to open it, you will see my point.

The flat black trim that covers (and visually thins) the rear bumper has a nice touch: negative area which exposes a little bit of body coloring. The factory has to paint the entire rear bumper, so why not show off a little more this way? It looks more expensive than it was to produce.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

More by Sajeev Mehta

Join the conversation
4 of 24 comments
  • MaintenanceCosts So there is no Sonata trim without some type of Theta engine.It seems like they've been doing a bit better when attached to a hybrid system, so that's probably the one to get, but they're going to have to go several years without further engine troubles before I'd trust a H/K ICE product again.
  • Lou_BC Full sized sort of autonomous RC's. Cute.
  • Art_Vandelay Autonomous capabilities are being deployed (or planned anyway) in multiple combat vehicles. Should be fun from my perspective
  • Drew8MR Interior is trivial now you can get repro everything in various levels of quality. Getting the top sorted will be a couple grand, but I'd drive it as it. I drove a $1500 67 GTO convertible for 20 years, not every old car needs to be like new.
  • John Not everyone pays that much for power. Mine is 10 cents per kw…..