The 2013 Scion iQ offers just a single powertrain combination: a 94-horsepower, 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a belt-and-pulley continuously variable transmission (CVT), tuned to give the engine enough revs when needed while avoiding both the 'rubber band' feel to throttle response and any surging feeling on moderate acceleration.
While the engine is one of the smallest and least powerful in the U.S., it's enough to move the 2,100-pound iQ minicar around town just fine. Especially on level city and suburban roads, the iQ feels mostly responsive and capable. On the highway, however, the iQ runs out of pep fairly quickly--in part because the CVT's top ratio isn't really that tall. At highway speeds of 70 to 80 mph, the tach showed the engine spinning up to 4000 rpm, which meant that when you needed more revs for passing, you'd already used up most of them.
Despite the frisky feel, a stopwatch shows that the Scion iQ is actually quite slow. The official 0-to-60-mph time is a drum-your-fingers-on-the-table 11.8 seconds, no better than economy cars of 30 years earlier.
But the handling goes some way toward making up for the slowness. With firm but well-tuned suspension, the wide iQ accommodates curvy roads and multi-lane highways with aplomb. The suspension loads and unloads predictably, giving the feel of a much larger and heavier car. The electric power steering is tuned to provide a more stable feel on the highway, while being quite communicative on those twisty roads.
All models have front discs and rear drums, and brake feel is confident enough for all city-driving needs. One huge plus for city dwellers: With a turning radius of just 12.9 feet--only 3 feet more than the length of the car itself--U-turns are possible under almost any circumstance.