January 10, 2012
2012 Scion iQ. Click image to enlarge
On the road, the little Scion drives like any other small car. It is inoffensive during most driving tasks and rarely reminds you just how small it is. Power comes from a 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine that generates 93 hp and 89 lb.-ft. of torque. With less than 1,000 kg to move around, the engine is lively and offers good pickup during both city and highway driving. Power is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission that is one of the better CVTs I have driven recently. Simulated ‘gear shifts’ are seamless and help to cut down on these expandable transmissions number one downfall: CVT drone. The transmission is very willing to hold rpms when enthusiastically driving the iQ, especially in Sport mode. We did find that sometimes full acceleration runs can cause the odd ‘gear change’ hiccup similar to bad four-speed automatics of the past decade. Pop the shifter into ‘Sport’ mode though and this issue goes away. The transmission is set up to maximize fuel economy and runs roughly at 2,700 rpm at 120 km/h. I say roughly because it is hard to gauge as the CVT is constantly wandering.
As can be expected of a vehicle this small, the turning circle is incredibly small; less than 13 feet to spin a full circle thanks to a nearly 45 degree front wheel angle. For comparison, the Smart Fortwo takes closer to 28 feet to accomplish the same turn. The iQ features unique 175/60R16 all-season tires mounted to steel rims. Even with these tall skinny tires the car is responsive in the corners thanks to its stiff suspension and low curb weight. It makes us wonder how planted the iQ would be if a set of wider low profile tires were crammed into the wheel wells. The stiff suspension does have an obvious penalty in ride harshness. Any car with a 2,000 mm wheelbase is going to have a choppy ride but the iQ’s is worse than others. On smooth roads things are fine, but when driving on broken pavement the slightly longer Fiat 500 feels downright spongy in comparison. “Bucking bronco” is how one colleague described the iQ’s ride on the broken Highway 427 in Toronto.
Aside from the ride, the only other real negative the iQ suffers from is wind buffeting. In normal day-to-day operation such as freeway driving, the wind has no effect on the little Scion. Pull up behind the wrong big rig on a windy day though and the Scion will start to mildly shake from side to side. However, this isn’t a unique trait for the iQ as any vehicle this small would have a similar issue.
2012 Scion iQ. Click image to enlarge
One of the main reasons someone buys a car like the iQ is for its amazing fuel mileage. Officially rated a 5.5 L/100 km city, 4.6 L/100 km highway and 5.1 L/100 km combined, the small 32-litre gas tank on the iQ can still obtain well over 400 km on a single fill-up. Keeping track of your fuel economy can be a bit tricky as the fuel computer resets the average L/100 km after every fill-up. Due to my fuel heavy commute (or maybe driving style) I was only able to achieve 7.5 L/100 km during my week with the car. However, that is still better than I achieved in the Fiat 500 (8.0 L/100 km), Honda CR-Z Hybrid (7.7 L/100 km) or Hyundai Accent (8.5 L/100 km).
Keeping with Scion Canada tradition, the iQ only comes in one trim level, priced at $16,760. For those who want to customize their cars, there is a list of performance and cosmetic upgrades available through Scion dealerships. At this price the iQ is a compelling package that features all the advantages of a city car while removing some of the usual disadvantages.
Time will tell whether Scion can break the stigma people associate with cars this small, but if any car is going to do it, it will be the iQ. With the Chevrolet Spark right around the corner, Scion may have gotten in on the ground floor of a market segment that’s heating up. Smart move…
Pricing: 2012 Scion iQ
Crash test results
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