2012 Scion iQ new car reviews

For the 2012 model year, the Scion iQ comes to America.
Overall length is just 10 feet--just about the same as the original Mini.
A Buick Roadmaster, by the way, is a bit longer.
The Toyota Yaris shades more of the driveway, too.
Front seat passengers get a pair of roomy buckets.
There's room for two in the back, but with the seats up the way-back pretty much disappears.
Think the iQ has zero hop-up potential? A few years ago it was the darling of the Tokyo Auto Salon.
See?
And because we like you, here's one more modified iQ from Tokyo.

Better than: walking
But not as good as: Scion FRS
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 64.78

During trips to Japan we have seen a curious vehicle called the Toyota iQ. It can pretty much be described as the Japanese giant's version of the smart.

For a congested Tokyo, the iQ's tiny footprint makes sense. Could it fly in America? We're about to find out as the model has been added to Toyota's Scion lineup.

The iQ doesn't leave much for personalization, though, as it's only available with a 1.3-liter engine backed by a CVT transmission.

Want to have your mind blown? The iQ is also available through European Aston Martin dealerships as the Aston Martin Cygnet.

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Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I had seen the iQ during trips to Japan, and during my last visit I got to sit in one. Hmm, it was roomier than I figured. It kind of reminded me of my Mini.

It wasn't until the model came stateside that I got to drive it. First off, it goes down the highway better than you'd expect. To be honest, I thought it tracked down I-4 better than the Fiat sport we sampled. No, it's not my ideal cross-country machine, but it wasn't nearly as twitchy as that Fiat. The seats were a bit flat, but the nearly invisible hood gave a huge, open view of the road.

The proportions are interesting, too. Yes, the overall length is tiny by today's standards, but the front doors are huge. It's like they were lifted from a '78 Camaro. The front half of the cockpit is equally cavernous. The door sills are on the deck. Ingress and egress could not be easier.

Some of the details felt a bit cheap, though, like the radio. It's also not a very clever vehicle. I didn't see a lot of storage bins. And no cruise control?

During a back-and-forth to Orlando--about an hour each way--I averaged 29.6 gallons. That's not bad, but lots of normal-sized cars can match or beat that figure.

That then is the rub: Does something like a Yaris or Kia Rio make more sense? For me, at least, I'd have to go that route. I can really only see two scenarios where this makes sense: You're either a slave to fashion or your parking space is limited to 11 feet.

Per Schroeder Per Schroeder
PowerDork

Ok, I can see what they're trying to do—outsmart the Smart. But as David points out, it really doesn't make any more sense than a raft of other small cars. Toyota is really good at making 31 flavors of vanilla—this is just not the one that I'd pick.

Other than the basic design philosphy, the only real problem I see with this car is that it makes absolutely dreadful noises if you ever break traction with it. The ABS pump cycles so loudly that I literally thought one of the wheels fell off. So much for trying to drive it with gusto.

Marjorie Suddard Marjorie Suddard
General Manager

Didn't drive it. Didn't want to.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

I'm no crash test engineer, but I have a hard time believing anyone could survive even a modest rear-end impact while seated in the IQ's rear seat. Seated in the back, you are maybe 6" from the rear of the car. Dummies don't lie, but I'd like to see the crash test data. I know some folks equate airbags to safety, but I'd like a little more breathing room for the laws of physics to do their thing.

Once inside the IQ is adequate, but odd. Like David said the doors are giant, and run nearly the entire length of the car. This car is tiny. Seated behind the wheel, I could turn and touch the back window glass without unbuckling. With it's itty bitty wheelbase, the IQ feels darty and twitchy underway. It never feels dangerous, but it never feels planted either. The throttle mapping is extremely aggressive, no doubt to mask the car's meager power. Dip into the throttle just a bit, and the little mill screams at you, even when you only wanted a quiet conversation.

I had trouble taking this car seriously. Each time I'd drive it I expected clowns to pop out of the interior binnacles, and I hate clowns! It's almost as if Scion wanted to create a modern Nash Metropolitan, but without the charm.

The IQ doesn't seem like a smart choice, unless you live in Manhattan, Tokyo or San Francisco. For the rest of us that live in less congested areas, the IQ is more clown than car.

Alan Cesar FartSmeller69
SuperDork

The iQ is a horrible pile of failure. There's no cruise control available at all. It makes tons of noise at highway speeds. Its interior is an abysmal sea of plastic, with more ugly plastic embellishments glued on top of already ugly plastic.

You'd expect a tiny car called iQ to have at least clever storage solutions to make the most of its tiny dimensions, but you'd be horribly, horribly wrong. There's no glovebox as we would normall know it; the optional glovebox is actually a sad little tray under the passenger seat. The trunk isn't deep enough to fit a gallon of milk without folding the rear seats down; even a package of pitas is a tight fit.

Folding the seats down requires that you remove the rear seat headrests. But where do they go? Again, something that deserves a clever solution—like what the Yaris has—but is not actually implemented in the car that needs it.

For all this misery you'd expect blazing fuel economy or a staggering four-digit price. You'd be disappointed. Fuel economy is 36 city (not bad), 37 highway (huh?). For about $2000 less you can buy a Yaris, which will fit five people in much more comfort and return better highway fuel economy. Fitting four people in iQ is a desperate-situation option only; limbs will crisscross, belongings will mash together. Dropping off a couple kids at school? Good luck fitting them and their backpacks.

This car would make sense with the Yaris drivetrain and its five-speed stickshift; those 100 or so horsepower would make the iQ into a real hoot to drive. But it has an anemic 1.3-liter engine and sad little CVT. It's just too slow and too small for its own good, and doesn't really make sense in any American environment.

Everything about this car sucks hard. And for its high sticker price, you don't even get a full tank of gas. For a full 6 gallons of fuel when you leave the dealer lot, you need to check an option box. Seriously.

Toyota already has a small car in its stable that does a lot of things just fine. Unless you're after parking prowess or high city MPG numbers, the Yaris is a better answer to every automotive question.

J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

I'll start out by saying that I like the Scion iQ, even though it makes little sense. It's small, but doesn't get particularly good gas mileage for it's size. There are plenty of cars that are 60% larger but only get 5% worse fuel economy. So the lack of size really isn't made up for by a fuel savings. Should you need a small car, though—perhaps your parking or commuting situation lends itself to a diminutive ride—the iQ certainly succeeds in that department. While small, the driving dynamics are most certainly those of a larger car, and the iQ never feels squirrley or unstable, even at extra-legal highway speeds.

Still, even though the overall size is small, it punches the same hole in the air as a "normal" car, which is probably a large reason for mediocre fuel economy. But if your parking space is too small for a normal car, or you commute to work with several clowns, the iQ may be worth a look. Aside from that, it's a bit of an answer to a question no one asked. It's a good answer, certainly, but maybe not THE answer.

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Comments
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richard_rsp
richard_rsp New Reader
5/24/12 3:26 p.m.

I have to agree with Alan and Joe on this one. I havent driven one, but I sat in it at the dealership. While I was reasonably comfortable in the front seats, the back seats felt more like the 2+2s of old (Supra, Eclipse, etc). Funny, but while sitting in the back, I actually said the EXACT same thing to my wife about being in a crash: NO WAY I would want to be in the back seat in an accident. The seat is WAY too close to the rear window/bumper.

I didnt even notice the lack of cruise control, but that seems to be a big oversight on their part. THE big failure (and the Smart cars as well) is the lack of a manual transmission. In my opinion, a true manual transmission is the only way to get the most out of a tiny engine.... So, I bought a 2012 Yaris L, 3-door - In a 5-speed manual. PLUS I added OEM cruise control for $60. I dont see why ANYONE would chose the iQ, especially at its price point.

integraguy
integraguy UltraDork
6/18/12 7:19 p.m.

In Europe, the iQ is available with a manual transmission, don't know about cruise, and several European car magazines have STRONGLY suggested avoiding the CVT. The iQ is (apparently?) aimed at "drivers" who would appreciate being able to sqeeze into small spaces or jump into tiny spots in the next lane while commuting. The iQ seems to be marketted to drivers who are commuters only in mind, the so the lack of cruise control makes more sense (and really, would you want to drive this car in a situation where cruise would be nice to have?).

Toyota sells a slightly bigger car than this in Europe, smaller than a Yaris, but I imagine it couldn't be sold on it's "cutesy pie" looks...which it doesn't have, as easily as the iQ.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

During trips to Japan we have seen a curious vehicle called the Toyota iQ. It can pretty much be described as the Japanese giant's version of the smart.

For a congested Tokyo, the iQ's tiny footprint makes sense. Could it fly in America? We're about to find out as the model has been added to Toyota's Scion lineup.

The iQ doesn't leave much for personalization, though, as it's only available with a 1.3-liter engine backed by a CVT transmission.

Want to have your mind blown? The iQ is also available through European Aston Martin dealerships as the Aston Martin Cygnet.

Like what you read here? You can get a whole magazine full of these types of articles delivered to your home or shop 8 times a year. Subscribe now!
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