Toyota’s new iQ minicar is already on sale in Japan and most of Europe but there are now indications that the diminutive hatch could make its way to the United States. A Scion badged version of the car was displayed in concept form at this year’s New York Auto Show and now there are reports that a production version will be available by early 2011 at the latest.
Targeted directly at Scion's already urban-biased customer base, the iQ offers Toyota’s best bet for a small and functional city car. Building it as a Scion gives it the style and pop it will need to have a shot in the U.S., where simply being small, efficient and cute isn't always enough. Another reason why it won’t be badged as a Toyota is because its low fuel consumption rating could end up luring away customers from the more expensive Yaris and Prius models.
The iQ could be a perfect addition for the Scion brand. Its expected price tag of less than $15,000 coupled with its young and hip styling could generate the same excitement that the original xA and xB models did when they were launched earlier this decade. The vehicle could also prove invaluable to Toyota in terms of meeting the new 35.4 mpg by 2016 CAFE regulations.
One of the biggest hurdles is that the car would need to be modified extensively to meet American safety standards. The iQ is fitted with a total of nine air-bags, including the world's first rear-window curtain air-bag, but if it were to be sold in the U.S. it would need better reinforcements at the back. One solution is to remove the back seat and make the car a strict two-seater in the same vein as the Smart ForTwo but Toyota is keen to keep the four-seat layout.
Toyota’s chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima has revealed that the iQ would also need to be extended by one and a half inches, have its airbags recalibrated for unbelted and out-of-position occupants, and have a more powerful 1.6-liter engine installed. The current version makes do with 1.3 and 1.4-liter engines.