Officially, the 2014 Scion iQ is by far the shortest car with four seats sold in the U.S. But that's pretty much a technicality, as one of those seats--the one behind the driver--isn't usable by an adult, and we doubt that the seat behind the passenger, which has a bit more legroom, will ever be used for something larger than a backpack or laundry bag.
Scion calls its iQ a a 3+1-seat car—and it works because the dashboard is heavily asymmetric, with the portion in front of the passenger pushed far toward the base of the windshield, opening up room for the passenger seat to slide forward and fit another adult behind in a car that's only 10 feet long. (It also tilts up for better access to that seat.) While our 6'6" editor couldn't quite fit into the rear, a portion of the adult demographic certainly will--if the front passenger cooperates by sliding forward.
The seats themselves have ultra-slim backs, and indeed, Scion has redesigned most of the car's components--including ones you don't see, like the air-conditioning compressor--to be tinier and lighter. There's a shallow, under-floor fuel tank, and entirely redesigned climate-control fans in the center stack.
The seats may be thin, but they're every bit as good as those in other Toyota products like the Yaris or Prius. Ride quality is hardly luxury-car smooth, but it's not harsh, and better than the competing Smart ForTwo. Its continuously-variable transmission also eliminates the pitching and lurching of the Smart's automatic manual gearbox, and overall, there's no competition between those two. The Scion is just nicer to occupy and drive. It also tracks well on highways, meaning it's not too fatiguing over long trips, though high engine speeds can make it noisy under those circumstances. Scion has used acoustic glass in the windshield to reduce noise, though, and insulation is fitted under the dash and in the roof pillars as well.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio controls, and its bottom is flat to increase driver's leg room--though it doesn't telescope for adjustment. We were pleased to find automatic up/down switches on both door windows, a luxury-car touch that few other small cars offer. Pivoting dome lights like those on jetliners offer good cabin illumination, and there's a 12-Volt power outlet.
Folding the rear seats flat--which we suspect many or most owners will do--exposes a low load floor at 16.7 cubic feet of volume for cargo. You'll have to remove their headrests, but they stow tidily under the cushions. Put the seats back up, and there's a miniscule 3.5 cubic feet. That's not even enough to fit a laptop in a backpack. Think more like a handful of hardcover books.
Given its size, the Scion iQ comes off as close to a premium offering--especially against larger but cheaper cars like the Nissan Versa. Only its dark nylon seat material lets down the image.