30 Aug
America's smallest four-seater feels like anything but

Although the first all new Scion to hit the US market since the tC way back in 2004, the iQ is hardly new. In fact, it’s been zipping through crowded cityscapes in Europe and Japan since 2008, the year it won Car Of the Year in the land of the rising sun. But it is brand new to America, bravely entering the micro-subcompact segment once thought rendered lifeless by the terribly executed Smart ForTwo. Introduced at a great financial risk, of course, in a country known for making pancake-wrapped sausages on a stick. Let’s just say America doesn’t do small all that well.

So Toyota decided to enter the iQ under its smaller and edgier Scion badge, lessening its exposure to what could be a total Smartcar-like disaster. Lucky for Scion (and Toyota), the iQ is anything but a Smart. In fact, if you want to compare the iQ to any car its likely to butt heads (and wallets) with, its Fiat’s 500. Both cars put design at a premium — a rarity in the painfully bland compact/subcompact segment — offering Americans diminutive cars that are good to look at and, gasp!, actually fun to drive.

And the iQ actually is fun to drive, not at all like the Smart which feels like it might get blown off the highway by a passing 18-wheeler (let’s not even discuss that transmission). Thanks to various space saving innovations — such as a Front-Mounted Differential and High-Mount Rack-and-Pinion Steering — the front wheels are pushed forward way out to the corners, giving the iQ a deceptively spacious cabin. And its wide stance — 5” wider than the Smart, and 2” wider even than the Fiat 500 — gives the car a sturdy ride, more solid feeling than the larger Cinquecento and leagues above the Smart. Other engineering adjustments like moving the AC unit behind the center console from the passenger dash and eliminating the glovebox entirely give the shotgun rider a surprising amount of legroom — which allows the seat to be moved forward, making the rear seat behind the passenger actually usable. The seat behind the driver…? Not so much — let’s just call that the ad hoc “trunk”, as there isn’t one to speak of in the iQ. We’re also not huge fans of that center stack — the vertical positioning of dials is simple, clean and ergonomic, but not very attractive. Apparently a necessary fallout when design that maximizes space over aesthetics is implemented.

Hit the Jump to continue reading the Unlocked LIAS Testdrive of the 2012 Scion iQ, plus second gallery of images photographed by Robert Kerian exclusively for Lost In a Supermarket…

“You can hit corners with gusto, and the car will stick its turns. Try that on the Smart, you’ll end up sideways…”

Other space saving innovations include a 5” tall Low-Profile Fuel Tank placed under the driver’s seat. Sure it’s only 8.5 gallons, but when you factor in the iQ’s remarkable 37 mpg fuel efficiency that means over 300 miles between fill-ups. Its combined 37 mpgs is noteworthy, making it the most fuel efficient non-hybrid car in America — and better than 75% of hybrids on the market. Of course fuel efficiency has its drawbacks — such as the tepid 94 horsepower summoned from its 1.3-liter engine. But as weak as double-digit horsepower sounds, the iQ never feels wimpy or sedated. A lot has to do with the microcar’s ample footprint — you can hit corners with gusto, and the car will stick its turns. Try that on the Smart, you’ll end up sideways.

Scion has the distinction of having the youngest buyers in America, and this is why personalization has always been at a premium at Toyota’s burgeoning sub-brand. The irony is that like all Scions, the iQ subscribes to the marque’s Mono-Spec philosophy. It means that there is only one version of every car, with one trim level. But what you do with that standard car — adding over 25 accessories and playing with various color schemes — means that you can walk out with a combination of car different from anyone else. There are some nice accessorizations like interior light kits and door sill enhancements that allow you to custom tailor the cabin’s lighting with 7 colors to scroll through, lighting up the footmats and door sills with the switch of a dial. Rear spoiler, high gloss liquid alloy 16” wheels and fog lights also all improve the iQ’s looks. There are other accessories, however, such as floor mats, cargo mat, cargo net, ashtray kit, etc. that just seem like they should be standard.

Safety is another major concern with subcompacts which Scion has addressed superbly. Outfitting the iQ with a segment leading eleven airbags — including knee, seat cushion (which keep you from submarining under the seat belt) and an industry first rear window airbags — you can rest assured that you will be as well protected as possible in a collision.

Driving the iQ has some other nice benefits, such as its amazing 12.9 foot turning radius — allowing us to park the car sideways in a driveway. It turns like a mathematical compass, making parking a breeze. The rear headrests pop off and can be placed on the seat with the back folded down, allowing the rear seats to fold completely flat offering some true trunk space while sacrificing the second row of seats. Its acoustic windshield is engineered to keep out mid and high range frequencies, making for a very quiet cabin — which is surprisingly non-claustrophobic thanks to big windows and an airy greenhouse. Other standard touches include Bluetooth streaming, CD, HD radio and iPod hookup  — although you may want to click the subwoofer package with extra speakers for $995. Treat yourself — if you’re gonna sacrifice power for a super fuel efficient, easy-to-park microcar, you might as well make the non-existent trunk rattle.

Due to supply problems caused by last March’s earthquake and tsunami, Scion will roll out the iQ dependent on location. The Scion iQ will be available in 7 colors, the Hot Lava (shown here) being the “hero” color of choice, with a base price of $15,995.

Below are the areas and dates of release:

West Coast:                     October 1, 2011
South:                               January 1, 2012
East Coast:                      February 1, 2012
Midwest:                         March 1, 2012

11 airbags; remarkable turning radius; airy cabin deceptively spacey considering size; ample footprint provides fun drive; superlative fuel efficiency; standard Bluetooth connectivity; price.

No trunk; some “accessories” should be standard; double-digit horsepower; awkward center stack

No Responses to “2012 Scion iQ: Unlocked LIAS Testdrive”

  1. For more information regarding the sound system upgrade referenced “although you may want to click the subwoofer package with extra speakers for $995” go to: http://oemaudioplus.com/audio-systems/audio-upgrade-scion-iQ.html – Also, is it possible to include the company name that offers the “sub woofer package” (OEM Audio Plus)? Greatly appreciated – Please contact me directly if available.

  2. Duane says:

    The Scion XB has always been a very large front seat/head room. As a big Man I have no problem driving them. The XD however, I am unable to clear the roof. How does the IQ compare?

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