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The 2012 Scion iQ—or Toyota iQ as it's known in other markets—was conceived for a part of the world where vehicle choice is largely governed by engine-based taxes, compact-only parking spaces, and six-dollar-a-gallon gas.
What is it doing in the U.S., you ask? Well, the Smart Fortwo carved out a very narrow niche of enthusiasm among those who don't necessarily equip bigger with better—as well as those few Americans who live in tight spaces—but Scion hopes to attract a wider range of fashion-conscious urban-dwellers with the iQ. Essentially, the iQ was designed from the start to be a premium minicar, with better materials, better noise isolation, and a more sophisticated feel than you'll find in other budget small cars—and even in the U.S., the stubby little Scion iQ somehow manages to truly buck the econocar feel.
There's still its size, which borders on toylike. In its 120 inches of length, Toyota has somehow managed to pull off some packaging magic and fit seating for four in the iQ; actually, the arrangement is termed 3+1 seating, as an asymmetrical dash and more space on the passenger side allow a little more space in the right rear position than on the left.
The iQ makes do just fine in the city with its 94-horsepower, 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT, but the combination doesn't deal as well with quick demands of the right foot, or with highway driving. But the iQ's driving dynamics go well beyond the comfort zone of city blocks, roundabouts, and stoplights—it feels solid and secure on the highway, even at 80 mph.
Of course, few if any Americans will actually choose the iQ mainly because of its dimensions, or for its performance. Fuel economy and price are big factors, and we bet Scion will be placing its bets on rising fuel peices—as well as a full roster of aftermarket accessories, which are already in the works. In the first respect, the iQ gets pretty impressive figures of 36 mpg city, 37 highway; in price, the iQ starts at around $16k—which slots well below the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper.
Besides being very small, and very space-efficient, the iQ stands out as evidence of what Toyota can do but isn't necessarily hitting with its other U.S. small cars. While it's hardly quick, cheap, or a mileage champ, it might just get you thinking a little differently about 'bigger is better.'
- Innovative seating arrangement
- Superb interior materials
- Tall folks fit!
- Tight, quiet cabin—except for engine noise
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- Sub-40-mpg highway rating
- Slow acceleration
- No available manual gearbox
- No telescopic steering adjustment