The Scion iQ proves that small cars needn’t be Spartan. For example, though the car measures just 10-ft long and 5.5-ft wide, there’s plenty of room for two adults in the comfortable front seats. It was the perfect vehicle for driving (and parking) in and around Boston for a week.
The hatchback is powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with an 11.5:1 compression ratio that cranks out 94 hp and 89 lb-ft of torque, enough to get the car in and out of traffic whether on Boston’s skinny downtown streets or its many freeways. The iQ could even pull a U-turn on some fairly narrow streets, thanks to its 26.4-ft turning circle (curb to curb). The engine also gets an honest 30mpg, city or highway, with the help of its continuously variable transmission. Though the fuel tank only holds 8.5 gallons, that’s enough to cover over 255 miles. And the transmission is sealed; Toyota claims drivers will never need to replenish the transmission fluid.
The roomy front seats come courtesy of a few nifty design tricks. For example, to make more space for the front-seat passenger, Toyota designers left out the glove compartment. To replace that cargo space, they added a drawer under the passenger seat. They also pushed the passenger seat a tad forward for a bit more legroom in the back seat. Also absent is the spare tire. Instead, unlucky drivers must use a repair kit in case of a flat.
Steering is crisp and precise on the front-wheel-drive iQ with the 6.5-ft wheelbase and electric-assist steering. The steering module is smaller than a conventional power-steering unit, so it takes up less room under hood. The front-mounted differential is also designed for compactness because room under the hood is so limited. The short wheelbase makes the ride a bit rough over bumpy roads but the car handles and corners well.
Those worried about safety when driving a small car can appreciate the iQ’s numerous safety features. They include stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes with assist, and electronic brake-force distribution. The car even carries 11 air bags, including one that pops up between the rear seat headrests. When inflated, it helps keep out broken glass and debris common in collisions.
The iQ also carries a full array of electronics: a 160-W, six-speaker stereo with HD radio and a CD player, Bluetooth, and a USB port for plugging in your iPod. There are also power door locks, mirrors, and windows, air conditioning, keyless entry, and even a tachometer (an odd instrument for a car with CVT). As expected, cargo room is tight, 3.5 ft3 with the back seats in place. But that’s enough for groceries or a briefcase or two. Folding the back seats flat opens up 16.7 ft3 of storage, which will hold easily hold a couple suitcases.
The car is easy to drive, easier to park, comfortable, and gets great mileage. If Toyota engineers designed the iQ with the same durability and reliability of their other cars, the iQs could be around a long, long time.
The car costs about $17,500, and comes in only one well-thought out trim level. There are a few options: an aero kit for the exterior, and some floor mats, cargo nets, and a seven-color special lighting kit for the interior. You can also get alloy wheels, some tricked out suspension components, and a navigation system.