Scion iQ, 2012: Brainy microcar with a lot of room to roam

Three years to the month after it made its debut in Japan, the Scion iQ arrived in the United States in October 2011 as the country's second "city car." And, of course, it's the immediate rival of the Smart ForTwo, the now nearly teenage microcar.

Like its rival, the Scion iQ mini-car is innovative, controversial and immediately attracts attention with its petite presence.

Like the Smart ForTwo, the Scion iQ also has an odd name. Toyota, the Scion parent company, explains the "i" means "individuality," "innovation," and "intelligence." And the "Q" stands for "quality."

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

During my test drive, several people stared at the car while it was parked in front of our house. One guy in a Ford F150 pick-up gave me a thumb's up at a stoplight. I looked out coffee shop windows and saw people talking about the car.

All of which makes perfect sense for a car that's exactly 10 feet long, 66.1 inches wide and has a 78.7-inch wheelbase. Add its weight (2,172 pounds) and horsepower (94) into the equation and the iQ is tiny, even among other flyweights on the road.

Surprisingly, though while two feet shorter than the new Fiat 500 (and nearly two feet longer than the Smart Fortwo), the Scion iQ feels substantial, particularly in highway driving.

Further, with the exception of the miniscule backseat, the Scion iQ is surprisingly spacious. And for its size, there's also a useful (16.7 cubic feet) cargo space behind the hatchback when the head rests are removed and the split back seats are folded down.

Likes:

Extraordinarily small turning radius.

Less than 10 feet long? Hello, any parking space will do.

Eleven airbags. I want to see the demonstration all 11 airbags simultaneously engaged.

Very cool interior/exterior styling.

Gas mileage averages work for me.

Maplight above the dash on a swivel. More expensive cars should take note.

Dislikes:

No glove box (There's a sliding tray under the front passenger seat.)

Has two back seats. But for whom? No human is that small.

Acceleration at higher speeds and cruising speeds are fine. Not so much from off the line.

No spare tire (tire repair kit, though).

Facts & Figures, 2012 Scion iQ

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 10.4 seconds.
Airbags (11). Includes an industry first rear window airbag.
Antilock brakes: Yes.
First aid kit: No.
Fuel economy: 36 mpg (city), 37 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: Not rated.
Horsepower: 94
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $15,265.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.scion.com
Price As tested: $20,650.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 mile; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 2 years/50,000 miles; Free Schedule Maintenance, 2 years/50,000 miles.

What Others Say:

"Surprisingly, standard wheels and tires on the iQ are larger than expected — 16-inchers. Because they are positioned at the outermost corners of the car and the iQ is relatively wide, the car has a more stable feel than you might anticipate." —- Ann M. Job, Associated Press.

"Though it looks like a grown-up Smart Fortwo, the Scion iQ actually performs like a downsize Toyota Corolla. It's usefully calm and composed, keeps pace with freeway traffic with confident stability and churns through city errands without protest." —- Edmunds.com

"Here’s what the new Scion iQ has going for it: It’s tiny outside, but not so small inside. Four people can wedge in when necessary. It’s good-looking, the interior design is about the best of any cheap car, and the seats are comfortable. The suspension is simple, but it works well, and the precise steering and its size make the iQ super easy to park." —- Car and Driver.com

"But where the ForTwo falls woefully short, the iQ steps up in every conceivable metric. It drives better, it looks better and it's better suited to both bouncing around town and taking a day-trip on the freeway." —- Autoblog.com

What The Wife Says:

"It has an incredible amount of interior room. I like this car!"

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"If you're named iQ, it's not a good thing in automotive industry if you're also nicknamed 'Lack of iQ' Certainly that's not the case with the new Scion. However strange it may sound, because of its efficient use of space and steadiness on the freeway, among other qualities, the iQ is the best 94 horsepower car money can buy."

Scion iQ Images © James Raia

 

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