The new Scion iQ is a whole different type of car - for a whole different type of buyer. Not much bigger than a Smart Fortwo on the outside, the cleverly designed iQ is the world's smallest four-person passenger car, according to Scion.
A subsidiary of Toyota, Scion's stated main mission is to appeal to a younger car buyer than would typically purchase a Toyota. And it appears to be achieving that goal, as Scion claims to have the youngest customer base in the industry.
The iQ is aimed primarily at those who have embraced the urban lifestyle and want an easy-to-park, highly manoeuvrable small car that also offers outstanding fuel economy. While highly efficient, the iQ is not bare-bones transportation. It comes with power windows, mirrors and locks, air conditioning and all the latest in-car connectivity features.
Power comes from a 1.3-litre, 4-cylinder engine that can produce 94 horsepower and 89 lbs.-ft of torque. A CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) type automatic is the only transmission (no manual, unfortunately), and this combination achieves a very impressive 5.1 L/100km (combined city/highway) fuel consumption rating. It's also an Ultra Low Emissions (ULEV II) Vehicle.
Some unique packaging technologies were required in order to make the iQ the 'smallest four-passenger car in the world.' In most cars, the fuel tank is located below the rear seats. The iQ has a super-slim (only 120 mm thick) fuel tank that's centrally located under the floor.
Like all Scion models there are no trim levels - the iQ is offered as one well-equipped model ($16,760), but there are some options. My Test iQ came with two of them, a rear sway bar ($350) and a rear spoiler ($320) above the rear window.
There are bigger cars for less money on the market, so iQ buyers have to be sold on the advantages of owning a micro-car.
A turn radius of just 3.9 metres makes it highly manoeuvrable, it can fit in a ridiculously small parking space and its fuel economy is better than any non-hybrid car on the market.
The iQ's cabin is surprisingly spacious and even my big six-foot three-inch son was able to fit in comfortably. A unique space-making feature allows the front passenger seat to track further forward and allow the right side rear passenger extra legroom. Scion calls this a "3-plus-1" seating arrangement.
To allow this clever seating arrangement to work, the right side of the dash is pushed forward and the glove box is under the front passenger seat. It's a very slick and easy release-and-glide seat adjustment mechanism, plus the already mentioned extra slim front seatbacks have soft backs that add to rear legroom and comfort.
The instrument cluster is in front of the driver and includes a MultiInformation Display, a Trip Computer, a tachometer and an ECO driving indicator. The standard six-speaker audio system looks like an after-market job with lots of hard to identify little buttons, but it does come with auxiliary steering wheel-mounted audio controls. With the rear seats upright, rear cargo space is essentially non-existent.
However, they split and fold down in a 50/50 manner and offer enough space to easily swallow one or two medium-sized suitcases. The rear seat head restraints are large and block the driver's rear vision, but are very easy to remove and there's room for them in the sliver of cargo space behind the rear seats.
The iQ's seats are surprisingly comfortable even though there are only two adjustment levers. All-around driver vision is excellent, with one exception: the roof extends a good distance past the driver and if you're first in line at a traffic light you may have to stoop down to see overhead traffic signals. A shortwheelbase car intrinsically has a choppier ride that's more noticeable on a bumpy road. You also quickly learn to respect speed bumps, as bigger bumps (and dips) toss the little guy around even more. That said, the iQ's quick steering and nimble road manners allow you avoid most anything, if you're paying attention. The iQ is very stable on the highway and has a surprisingly quiet cabin, too. Its 1.3-litre engine is a smooth and willing little workhorse. The iQ was clocked at 11.5 seconds to 100 km/h at the Canadian Car of the Year evaluation event, which was faster than both Smart and Fiat. This CVT automatic is much smoother than the Smart Fortwo automatic and it offers two additional drive modes: S (sport) and B (braking). Acceleration is a little brisker in the S mode and the engine braking provided in the B mode on steep downhills was most impressive - and a feature that early CVTs sadly lacked.