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2012 Scion iQ: Driven

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In our first drive of the 2012 Scion iQ, last summer, we were pleasantly surprised—almost smitten—with this new minicar (sold as a Toyota in other world markets), and impressed that such a daring product is coming to the U.S.

Compared to the Smart Fortwo, which is really the only other vehicle in the U.S. that's close to the same size, the iQ is a blast to drive—a conclusion we agree with in full after a follow-up. But after our second drive with the iQ, in what we would call real-world conditions, pragmatism has taken its toll and we're not nearly as thrilled with this so-called supermini.

Why? Especially with a fringe product like the iQ, context is everything. And with a car like the iQ, whether you like it or whether it feels sorely out of place and unnecessarily small depends on where you are—and who you are. Turns out, that first drive, which had us almost exclusively driving in small city streets in San Francisco, with a quick jaunt to the Marin headlands, probably painted a rosier picture than you'll have in most parts of the U.S.—even most American urban centers—as in a relative sense the iQ feels every bit as small as it is.

At about 120 inches long, the iQ is one of the smallest (other than the Fortwo) cars on the market, and the short, stubby profile looks almost toylike parked at an American parallel-parking spot—with several feet ahead and behind it. We can make sense of it in Manhattan or maybe San Francisco, where you need to shoehorn vehicles into sub-normal spaces, but unlike in some other markets, you can't typically double-park in the U.S., and there aren't otherwise compact-only spots small enough to truly take advantage of the iQ's diminutive size.

Does the highest-mileage non-hybrid deliver?

What does the iQ have going for it? Besides being compact and boldly styled (we still very much like the way it's designed and its unusual 3+1 layout), it gets great mileage, at an EPA-rated 36 mpg city, 37 highway. That 36-mpg city figure, by the way, is the best of any non-hybrid on the market.

But as we found—and covered in greater detail in this post—the iQ's real-world mileage wasn't what we expected. In 'normal' driving, running mostly city and suburban errands, we saw around 32 mpg.

That's not great mileage. of course. And they're close to the numbers we've seen in a wide range of new subcompacts like the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Honda Fit, and even the new Toyota Yaris we drove a few months ago.

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Comment (1)
  1. Excellent summary, as an owner of the 3 cyl CVT in the UK this article has pretty much nailed it for the American market.
    In crowded cities or even smaller towns its perfect but beyond that environment its down to maybe just wanting a smaller motoring footprint or needing a minimalist second car. When pushing design limits I wish designers would solve the problems they create. By making any car short the ride suffers so something has to be done to artificially extend the wheel base. This has been accomplished in the past by interconnecting the front and rear suspension which seems to have been forgotten. NO doubt cost is a main concern but the price for the IQ is hard to justify as it is.

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