January 10, 2012
2012 Scion iQ. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Review and photos by Michael Schlee
2012 Michael Schlee
No other car I have driven this year received as much attention as the little Scion iQ. Not the range-extended electric Chevrolet Volt, not the trendy Fiat 500 and not even the head-turning, double-take-inducing Hyundai Veloster. Park the iQ in a public place and there was almost certain to be someone looking it over upon my return. On the highway it was much the same story; pass a vehicle and watch as the driver’s head turns staring at the unusual orange box passing them by.
This attention-getting cube on wheels is Scion’s new ‘smart’ city car, the iQ. Stretching a minuscule 3,045 mm in length and tipping the scales at only 965 kg (about 2,123 lbs), the iQ is Scion’s take on a barebones point A to point B city car. Uncreative name aside, the iQ is quite smart and features offset seating that allows the front passenger to sit roughly a foot ahead of the driver, thus allowing enough room for a third adult passenger behind the front passenger. There is a fourth seat behind the driver as well but it is basically useless for anyone over four feet tall, although we know a pair of five-foot tall twins that would fit perfectly. Scion officially lists the seating in the iQ as three adults and one child.
2012 Scion iQ. Click image to enlarge
The Scion differs from other city cars like the Fiat 500 and Smart Fortwo in its proportions. Although shorter than the Fiat, the iQ is nearly as wide as a regular car and is actually taller than most midsize sedans. From the driver’s seat, the view feels like driving any other car on the road; that is until you turn your head around and see the rear hatch a couple feet from your face. These proportions are deceiving to the eye and although the iQ is nearly twice as long as it is wide, the vehicle gives off the impression of being a perfect cube in shape.
Inside, the iQ is spacious up front and offers plenty of head room for taller drivers. However, I found I could not get the seat low enough and was partially staring into the sun visor, a complaint I have with the Fiat 500 as well. Hard plastics dominate the interior, as can be expected for a vehicle in this class and price range. Scion has done a good job breaking up the monotonous grey plastics with nice artistic touches like the glossy, sparkly black radio and door speaker surrounds. The radio itself is a stylish piece with more than a little resemblance to a mid-20th century desk radio. Sound from the radio is acceptable but has a tough time competing with road noise at highway speeds.
Safety is a concern for many drivers, with a car as small as the Scion iQ. To help ease their minds, Toyota equips all iQs with 11 standard airbags; how they cram 11 of them in there is a mystery to me. Cargo space may suffer due to the airbag party as only 99 litres of space is available behind the rear seats. Fold the rear seats down and space grows to an impressive 473 litres (according to Toyota/Scion). We took the car grocery and Christmas shopping and never ran out of space.
To save space (and maybe money) the iQ does not come with either a glovebox or an armrest. The small rear wiper has no intermittent setting and the front wipers have no selectable intermittent setting. It is not all bad news on the features front. The iQ does have some unexpected standard features like automatic express up and down power windows for both the driver and the passenger, projector beam headlights and Bluetooth connectivity. The latter consisted of three buttons beside the parking brake and no apparent display function. I never could figure out how to use the Bluetooth as my tester lacked an owner’s manual and no combination of button mashing triggered the pairing process, and I wasn’t the only one to try and fail.
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