2012 Scion iQ HD Video Review
Toyota’s Scion brand was launched back in 2003. In it’s short life there haven’t been very many models. That makes their newest one, the iQ, is a big deal because (rimshot please) of it’s small size. Scion says they were trying to create a premium micro sub-compact car. They certainly got the micro part correct, iQ is only 10 feet long.
Owners, get used to people saying “Dude, where’s the rest of your car?” I got it twice in just a few short hours of tooling around Seattle streets. Nearly everyone who sees iQ thinks it’s a Mercedes smart car (FYI, in the smart world nothing is capitalized). iQ is smarter, or at least more sociable, with four seatbelts to the smart’s two.
What a smart Guy Thinks of iQ
You don’t see a whole lot of smart cars on the road but I ran into fortwo owner John Bickley on my way to perform the TP trunk test. He was backing his diminutive ride into a free parking space only our two cars could wedge into.
He quickly sized up the Scion and was impressed, especially with the back seat (more on that later). With it folded flat, iQ has much more cargo space than his car (two bundles of TP vs. six for the Scion). He enjoys his smart but his other cars are Toyotas and says with the roomier interior, he’d have considered the Scion if it were available a year ago.
But There’s Other Competition
iQ retails for $15,995 with destination putting it into the crosshairs of vehicles like Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Nissan Versa, Fiat 500 and the upcoming Kia Rio. All are more conventional cars with more useful rear seats (more on that later, really). Some of them get slightly better highway fuel economy than iQ. So the Scion will depend on a good amount of charm, not pure logic to close the sale. Oh, the irony.
Through a small slit that is the hood you’ll find a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine. It makes 94 horsepower @ 6,400 RPM and 89 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 RPM. The only transmission is a continuously variable automatic. The CVT performance is much, MUCH smoother than the transmission found in a smart. Brakes are disks up front, drums in the rear.
Fuel economy? EPA rates it at 36 city, 37 highway. Pretty good though with Accent and Fiesta scoring 40 on the highway, shoppers might raise a curious eyebrow, wondering why such a small car wouldn’t get even better gas mileage than those two. iQ is geared toward the city and there it beats the competition by at least 6 MPG. That’s why.
There’s some interesting engineering. The compact differential sits ahead of the engine and transmission, a unique setup for Toyota. The steering column, electric power steering motor and the rack are positioned high at the back of the engine compartment near the bulkhead and the tie rods reach down to the steering arms. It means the motor and rack don’t take up space in the engine compartment near the front suspension, keeping front overhang to an absolute minimum.
Not So Fast Einstein
iQ has more style and brains than brawn, 0-60 takes nearly 11.8 seconds according to Toyota, though off the line it feels peppier than that. Top speed is 100 miles an hour. Can you imagine the face of the officer pulling you over for that? It’s surprisingly stable at highway speeds for a car with a short wheelbase (78.1 inches). Tires are pushed out to the very corners of the car, there’s virtually no body overhang.
Choppy roads don’t trip up iQ’s ride, there’s no diving or porpoising. Floor the throttle and like most continuously variable transmissions it lets the engine spool up and drone until it reaches cruising speed. Once it settles down it’s moderately quiet for a small car due in part to a laminated windshield.
Like smart, iQ shines in tight urban driving, no doubt two could park in the shadow of one Toyota Sequoia. The Scion is over four feet shorter than a Yaris in length but essentially the same width at 66.1 inches, making it pretty stable while cornering.
Speaking of, iQ has a very tight turning radius. Scion claims it can pivot around the space of two king sized beds. With none of those laying in the road, I’ll take their word for it. My drive partner for the launch, John Vincent of The Oregonian, was subjected to my hijinks of doing a dozen loops within the boundaries of a normal two-lane street. It’s a hoot. Neither of us had to reach for the barf bag… close though.
Sitting in driver’s chair looking forward, iQ feels like a normal car, even- dare I say- roomy. So it’s odd to reach back and touch the rear window with my fingertips. The cabin itself is a creative design with liberal amounts of piano black trim, soft touch material and fresh design. In case you forget which car you bought, the Scion name is boldly molded into the door panels.
A thin ribbon of crimson swoops down between the dash and the sound system hood. Bluetooth and USB port for audio players is standard. The gauge cluster uses a seashell motif, the speedometer is classically round, the tach a linear strip below it. An amber display for the fuel level and trip odometer is busy and difficult to read in bright light. The standard leather wrapped wheel sports a flat bottom. It tilts but does not telescope.
Heat and air conditioning controls are stylishly positioned vertically, knob operation on this pre-production unit a bit rubbery. The compact AC unit is mounted right behind the center stack. This frees up space on the passenger side, allowing that seat to slide forward more than the driver’s chair. It also eliminates the glovebox.
3 + 1 = 3
Finally, the rear seat. Scion is calling the iQ’s arrangement 3 + 1, meaning this- That front passenger seat with extra fore and aft travel creates sort of an asymmetrical dynamic so the passenger can sit ahead of the driver’s position. That gives the back passenger a fighting chance to fit. Sure, it’s a bit snug but headroom is OK and there are even cupholders.
The spot behind the driver is another story. There’s little to no legroom for that unlucky passenger so it’s best left to an infant seat. Or a computer bag. Intelligent people will call iQ a three seater… at best.
With the back seats usable there is no cargo space to speak of, just a small little cubby in the floor. There’s an inflation kit but like many cars these days, a spare tire is not along for the ride. The headrests pretty much need to be removed to drop the split seat backs. Again, six packs of Kirkland brand bath tissue fit so the space is pretty useful.
It’s hard to reassure people that a car this small is safe. Toyota’s answer? 11 standard airbags, the most in the industry. That includes the world’s first rear window airbag and even units in the front seat cushion bottoms to keep people positioned correctly.
In short, iQ has the capability to become a big inflatable cushion to keep occupants safe. Also, theoretically, it will spend the bulk of its time in slower moving urban traffic.
Everyone Will Have a Different iQ
That means accessories, not test scores. Except for color, all iQs are identical when delivered to the showroom. This and a no-haggle price policy is the Scion way. Buyers then choose wheels, body trim, TRD performance parts and sound systems. All are dealer-uploads installed options.
Great, but show some willpower. iQ can cross the 20 grand threshold adding accessories. Even without any additions the bulldog appearance turns heads (or maybe it’s the size). Toyota says the shape is “inspired by the mathematical perfection of nature, avant-garde Japanese fine art, and “J-Factor”. What is “J-Factor”? It, I have learned, is the Japanese approach to urban design. There you go. Use that info McNugget at your next party.
iQ will launch on the west coast in October. After a few months that the rollout will extend to the Sun Belt, then move on to the East Coast and finally the Midwest. This is much the same as the Scion brand’s original rollout.
For some iQ’s size will be a positive, for others, a negative. It doesn’t have the room of its price class competitors but the stubby design makes people smile, especially in Hot Lava paint. Clever, hip, and ready for customization, iQ is a no-brainer if your biggest need is something small.
FULL GALLERY BELOW. ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY TOYOTA.