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2012 Scion iQ Comfort & Quality

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Looking at the 2012 Scion iQ from the outside, at first glance, it's very hard to believe that Toyota has managed to provide seating for four in this minicar. In fact, the iQ is the smallest four-seater in the North American market.

Scion calls the iQ's seating '3+1'—meaning there's room for three adults in the driver, front passenger, and rear right passenger positions, with a smaller, child-size space behind the driver. One of the keys to actually making this work is a unique asymmetric layout. The passenger side of the dash goes several inches forward of where it does on the driver's side, and the entire passenger seat tilts forward for easier access on that side.

Toyota even designed all-new slim-back front seats for the iQ; they actually feel more supportive and better proportioned than those in the Yaris or Corolla, yet they help maximize every bit of potential rear kneeroom. Mostly, it works. This very lanky driver couldn't quite fit comfortably in the rear right position, but we saw an average-height female do just fine with another passenger scooting the front seat a bit forward. Overall, you're not going to find people volunteering to sit in your back seat with the iQ, but the space is there in an absolute pinch.

With its innovative asymmetric interior and quiet, refined feel, the 2012 iQ makes the most out of a very tiny minicar package,

Toyota has also done a lot from an engineering and design standpoint to maximize interior space, with a details like making the fuel tank shallow, under the floor, and moving the climate-system blower away from the footwell and instead inside the center stack. And inside, the blower motor for the climate control system has been located inside the center stack, not at the front of the passenger-side footwell, as it often is in other small-car models—allowing the passenger-side footwell to be a little roomier and assisting that '3+1' layout.

You'll probably be keeping the rear seatbacks flipped forward, where they settle flat, to a low cargo floor and 16.7 cubic feet of cargo space—easily enough for a sizable grocery run. With the rear seats up, there's just 3.5 cubic feet of cargo space—basically space enough to wedge a few hardcover books into the space. Seriously, it's not even enough for a laptop bag (although there is a small cargo tray underneath). And we were a bit surprised to see that Toyota used removable headrests in the iQ's rear seat; most automakers have no opted instead for flip forward headrests as the removable ones tend to be lost. However, in the iQ, they stack unobtrusively under the cushions.

In most respects otherwise, the iQ feels up to U.S. standards in most respects; there are plenty of large cupholders, an extra auxiliary 12-volt outlet for accessories, and both side windows are auto up/down. And Scion has borrowed an element from air travel—pivoting LED dome lights that will likely never need bulb replacement and can of course be aimed away from the driver. However we found the orange LCD trip meter much harder to read in bright sunlight. The only gripe that might keep some from getting absolutely comfortable in the iQ is that there's no telescopic steering adjustment. A leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel—with audio controls—is standard, though. And throughout the interior are superb materials and trims—ones that feel a distinct step above those Toyota uses in the Corolla and Camry.

Ride quality in the iQ isn't soft and supple, but it's not too harsh either. Compared to the Smart Fortwo, however, what's more important is what the iQ doesn't have. In addition to the great steering and unfussy transmission, it doesn't have the excessive fore-and-aft movement with acceleration and braking that make the Fortwo so fatiguing in city driving; it also tracks solidly down the Interstate—meaning that a few hours on the highway for two adults is not at all daunting.

In terms of refinement, the iQ really does feel like a premium offering—even compared to somewhat larger but cheaper cars, like the Nissan Versa. There's not all that much road noise or wind noise on the highway, though you do hear the engine somewhat. Factor in elements like an acoustic windshield (comparable to that in the Toyota Camry Hybrid), and the iQ does a great job damping some of those traditional econocar buzzing sounds and general coarseness. Underneath the dash there's an additional silencer, the floor panel is crowned to curb vibrations, and the roof and pillars are filled with urethane sponge material.

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