If you’re a city girl who actually lives in a big city where the streets are narrow, gas is expensive, parking is at a premium and you don’t schlep around a lot of people or need much cargo space, the Scion iQ is a fully-realized affordable automobile in a pint sized package that’s worth a look.
By Matt Stone
THE BIG PICTURE
Scion calls its new iQ a “premium Mico-subcompact” and a car that “takes big ideas and concentrates them into a small package.” We agree with that. It’s also a (pun alert!) smarter choice than a Smart. The Scion iQ is aimed squarely at chic urbanites that value style and technology, don’t want to spend a lot of money, and are interested in high fuel economy. If it’s just you and a Plus One or Plus Two, and cargo space isn’t a big concern, the iQ could makes sense.
Ingress and egress couldn’t be easier, as the doors are tall and wide. Scion claims the iQ to be the world’s smallest four-passenger car, then corrects itself to label the seating as 3+1. True enough: the two front seats are slightly offset, giving more room to the rear seat area just behind the front passenger seat. The driver’s side rear seat is best reserved for a small child, the dog, or your shopping bags. Otherwise, you may feel you’re in the front half of a very compact Toyota. A handsome, leather wrapped red stitched steering wheel sits dead ahead, with a neat and simple instrument panel easily visible through the wheel. The center stack/console area is logic defined, with easy access to the audio and HVAC systems. As you’d expect in a Toyota product, the materials, fabrics, and plastics are handsome and of high quality. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. And the cabin is wide, so you won’t be rubbing shoulders with your passenger unless you chose to. The interior isn’t luxurious in a leather-and-wood sort of way, but has a functional high tech look and feel about it that’s welcoming and easy to become familiar with.
That depends on the size of your family. If it’s you and a sig other, and/or one kid, its friendly enough. The interior space is used efficiently, but there’s just not a lot of it. Cargo room behind the rear seat? Zip. But that split rear seatback folds flat to make a worthwhile cargo bay. We say leave the rear seatback down, think of the Scion iQ as a two seater with a large package shelf in back, easily accessible through the rear hatch.
The Scion iQ is as safe as a car this size (about 120 inches – just ten feet long) can be. It’s filled with airbags, 11 of them, in fact, wrapped in a tough steel body structure. iQ also has all the electro-safety stuff on board: standard anti-lock brakes, traction control, Vehicle Stability Control, plus Smart Stop Technology, which adds stopping force if the car doesn’t feel your’re braking aggressively enough to avoid a collision. A tire-pressure monitoring system is also standard.
GIZMOS AND TECH
The Scion iQ is an honest, gimmick free car that packs crisp design and a ton of techno into its tiny bod. The audio system has it all, with AM, FM, CD and HD radio capability, and a USB and AUX ports so you can bring your own favorites along on a flash drive or plug in your music “device.” The system is provided by Pioneer, and packs 160 watts of maximum power (a fair amount, by the way, for a car of this size). This system is standard on all iQs, as is hands free Bluetooth operation for your phone. About the only option on the car is a 200-watt version of the same system with a few more features that are cool but that you can live without.
This thing is fun to drive; not fast in a thrill-a-minute Porsche sort of way, but it scoots in and out of traffic with ease. It turns on a dime and parks anywhere. The 36 City, 37 Highway EPA fuel mileage rating means you’re saving gas and money while laying down the tiniest of carbon footprints. The ride quality is good most of the time, but gets a little choppy on rough roads and bad freeways. Don’t worry about cornering: the iQ is wide for its length and feels stable in the curves. A 94 horsepower, 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine may not sound impressive, but it’s just enough for a 2200-pound car. The engine throbs a bit under heavy throttle, but cruises easy and moves the car well enough; you’ll want to punch it for those long freeway on-ramps. The automatic transmission has a Sport Mode to maximize shift points for the zippiest performance. A pleasant surprise is how quiet the car rides; with very little road rumble or wind noise to inhibit conversation or audio enjoyment.
Small and nifty — the iQ is a perfect 'round town runabout.
Inexpensive to buy, run, and own.
Loveable styling and a high tech, comfy cabin.
Not much cargo room, a little more power would be sweet, and it’s really small, so best not to tangle with those Kenworths and Peterbilts.