New & Used Scion iQ: In Depth
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The Scion iQ is a microcar that has few rivals--the best one being the Smart ForTwo, though the larger Fiat 500 factors into the mix. Even though it’s a better car in some ways than its competitors, it’s still not a car that has caught on in the U.S.
The iQ is known elsewhere in the world as the Toyota iQ and is designed for crowded cities where road and curb space is at a premium. Many countries have steeply graduated tax rates as vehicle size, engine displacement, and price rise, making the little iQ "three-plus-one seater" the smallest practical vehicle you can get for crowded megacities.
MORE: Read our 2015 Scion iQ review
In the States, you'll see Scion iQs parked at the curb in cities like New York and San Francisco. They make less sense in sprawling cities like Detroit or Dallas. Even for those who like very small vehicles, the full-width occasional rear seat found in a MINI Cooper or Fiat 500 is worth the extra foot or two of length.
Size is, after all, is the iQ's unique selling proposition. Though its 10-foot length seems almost toylike next to a compact Toyota Corolla, its stance and attitude make it feel like it could pull off the trick of seating four people. Scion calls the interior arrangement 3+1 seating, since there's more leg room on the passenger side due to a hollowed-out dashboard on that side. An average adult will fit into the third seat, but the fourth seat behind the driver is only for kids--or, more likely, a backpack or bag of groceries.
The Scion iQ has offered just one powertrain to U.S. customers since its 2012 introduction. The 1.3-liter four-cylinder seems small to most American buyers, as does its 94-hp output, but this is actually a larger engine than most markets receive in this vehicle. The lone transmission is an efficiency-seeking continuously variable unit (CVT). Because of the low power numbers, the iQ can have some trouble entering highway traffic, but its small size makes it easy to maneuver n cities and into and out of tight parking spots.
Scion does make an iQ EV, although green small-car devotees can't purchase one for themselves. They are only available to fleets and have a very limited range that wouldn't be useful to most consumers anyway. The EPA quotes a max of 38 miles on a charge, or about half of what most other EVs offer.
Around cities and suburbs, the littlest Scion offers enough power to feel almost frisky, something we've never said of the Smart, with its abrupt, rough, feckless automated manual transmission. The iQ's handling is a magnitude better than the ForTwo, too--it feels well-grounded at highway speeds, though you're keenly aware that you can reach over your shoulder and touch the glass in the hatchback.
For any city car, gas mileage is likely a strong selling point. Minicars tend to underperform in that respect, due to their aerodynamics. The iQ delivers 37 miles per gallon on the EPA combined cycle, 1 mpg better than the Smart (which does better on the highway). Both cars are rated as more efficient than the slightly larger MINIs and Fiat 500s, though.
Scion positions the iQ as a premium entry in its class--however you define that class--and its starting price of about $16,000 is thousands of dollars pricier than the sub-$13,000 pricetag on the Smart ForTwo. Buyers will decide it the extra value is worth it, but there's no doubt that the Scion is a more pleasant place to spend your time behind the wheel. It feels more sophisticated than the Smart, at least in fit, finish, and materials. It's also far less noisy, though the engine will howl under maximum power.The iQ has been sold in essentially original form since it was launched. For 2015, there are no changes.