2012 Scion iQ
2012 Scion iQ. Click image to enlarge

Second Place: 2012 Scion iQ

It’s natural to think that the Scion iQ is merely another take on the Smart Fortwo, but in reality the cars are worlds apart. The Scion is lower, longer, and much wider, has its engine in the front, is front-wheel drive and can realistically seat three adults. It has meaningful acceleration (the best of this bunch), pretty decent steering and handles quite nicely, too.

The iQ was the least expensive car in the group, and the fact that it lost out by a mere point despite its disappointing fuel consumption suggests we probably enjoyed driving it the most. Wait a sec… there was no real driving enjoyment here. Let’s just say it scored best in Ease of Use, Handling, and Steering categories.

It certainly has the smoothest engine here, which is good because the CVT (continuously variable transmission) has this 94-hp 1.3L four singing away in the upper revs when you want some acceleration.

The iQ’s cool party trick is a turning circle the size of a large pizza. It is extremely maneuverable and is only trumped in the parking department by the Fortwo.

2012 Scion iQ
2012 Scion iQ
2012 Scion iQ. Click image to enlarge

This Scion is a cleverly packaged little thing. At only 3 metres in length, it will accommodate three adults in reasonable comfort, with the option of wedging a fourth very small and very understanding humanoid behind the driver. How? The scooped-out dash allows the passenger seat to slide farther forward than the driver’s, and the long doors give fairly ready access. With the rear seats folded, the hatch will even hold quite a bit of gear, though not Peter’s stand-up bass.

Being just about six-feet tall, I found the driver’s seat too high. I felt like I was peering down to see out of the windshield. Looking at the interior, you’d be forgiven for thinking the design team’s water cooler was spiked with LSD the day they came up with this one. It’s a hodge-podge of weirdness.

To the left of the analogue speedo and tach is a cheap-looking digital display for fuel, time, temp, etc. The centre stack incorporates three large rotary HVAC knobs and a faux-metallic inverted triangle swiped from a pile of Star Trek set design rejects. Topping the whole thing off is what appears to be the mutant love-child of a toaster and a ham radio. This is your audio unit with a bunch of tiny and inscrutable buttons. It only plays the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. The spotted seat cushion fabric is another nice hallucinogenic touch.

We did like the nicely contoured multi-function steering wheel wrapped in leather, and it must be noted this 960-kg Scion imparts a feeling of solidity and quality.

The iQ’s price includes air conditioning, Bluetooth, keyless entry, 11 airbags, power heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, and… wait for it… claimed fuel economy of 5.5 L/100 km city, 4.7 highway and 5.1 combined.

We were waiting for it, too. The observed 7.6 L/100 was a long way from the Smart’s 6.2 L/100 km and Spark’s 6.8 L/100 km, and positively Hyundai-like in its disparity from official estimates. –PB

Pricing: 2012 Scion iQ
Base price: $16,760
Options: $595 (Scion Accessories)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,495
Price as tested: $18,950

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