The 2013 Scion iQ is quite simply the smallest four-seat car sold in the U.S., at just 10 feet long. That's slightly deceptive, though: Scion deems the iQ a 3+1-seat car—meaning there's room for three adults in the driver, front passenger, and rear right passenger positions, along a smaller, child-size space behind the driver that will likely only ever hold a backpack.
What makes this work is the Scion's asymmetric dashboard, in which the passenger side of the dash is recessed several inches toward the base of the windshield. That lets the passenger seat slide a long distance forward, as well as tilting up for better rear-seat access on that side. Even the front seats are all-new, with ultra-slim backs, though they feel every bit as supportive as those in the Yaris or Corolla.
And it works: They really do maximize rear-seat legroom. Our lanky 6'-6" test driver couldn't quite fit in the rear, but average-height passengers did--with cooperation from the front passenger. You won't find adults volunteering to sit back there, but it's usable in a pinch.
Every part of the Scion iQ has been designed to maximize interior space, from a shallow, under-floor fuel tank to reorganized climate-control blowers sited in the center stack.
Ride quality in the iQ isn't soft and supple, but it's not too harsh either. And the CVT eliminates the major sin of the Smart ForTwo: the excessive fore-and-aft movement with acceleration, shifting, and braking that make the Fortwo fatiguing in city driving. The little Scion also tracks solidly down the Interstate—meaning that even several hours on the highway for two adults isn't all that fatiguing.
But for buyers who use the Scion iQ essentially as a two-seater, the rear seatbacks can be folded flat to produce a low load floor and 16.7 cubic feet of cargo volume. That's enough for a full family's grocery run. With seatbacks up, there's a mere 3.5 cubic feet--not even enough for a laptop bag. Think two hardcover books, perhaps. If you fold the seatbacks forward, however, you'll have to remove the headrests altogether--though they stow neatly under the cushions.
Up front, there's plenty of storage space, including large cupholders. A leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel—with audio controls—is standard. There's a 12-Volt accessory power outlet, and one nice touch is automatic up/down switches on both side windows. Pivoting LED dome lights maximize utility in the small cabin, too, just like in an airplane. We were disappointed that the steering wheel didn't adjust telescopically, though, as well as up and down. Also, the orange LCD trip meter was hard to read in bright sun.
In terms of refinement, the iQ really does feel like a premium offering—even compared to larger but cheaper cars, like the Nissan Versa. There's not much road noise or wind noise on the highway, though the engine intrudes under hard acceleration. The iQ uses an acoustic windshield (like the one in the Toyota Camry Hybrid), and does a great job damping those econocar buzzing sounds and any general coarseness. There's an additional silencer under the dashboard, and the roof and pillars are filled with urethane sponge material.