Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Scion iQ - Small Outside, Big Inside

Just from a quick glance, you'd say that the new Scion iQ is Toyota's version of the smart car. It's got very little in front of it's windshield and a vertical hatch in back. But it is no smart car.

Before looking at the numbers, all I can say is that when you're driving the iQ (nice take on "smart" name, right), it doesn't feel small. That's because it's not little where it counts. The seating is high, legroom is plentiful, the windshield stretches far forward, and truly, when you're driving a larger car you don't see the hood or trunk anyway.

The iQ may be small--10 feet long--but it is 14 inches longer than a smart, on a 5-inch longer wheelbase. It also is almost five inches wider and weighs about 300 pounds more. It's powered by a 1.3-liter four cylinder engine under its diminutive hood that puts out 94 horsepower through a continuously variable automatic transmission.

The smart has a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine in the rear that produces 70 horsepower through an odd "automated manual" transmission.

The iQ actually offers rear seating, something you won't see on a smart. With the dash pushed far forward on the passenger side, you can fit an average-sized adult in back. Really. Behind the driver, there is zero legroom, unless that driver is very short of stature. Normally, I left the rear seats folded down for a handy cargo-carrying space.

How about the MINI Cooper? Well, the iQ is 26 inches shorter, although the width is almost identical. The MINI's wheelbase is 18 inches longer--which is why that legendary box can carry so much. The MINI is about 400 pounds heavier too. So you can see that the iQ is pretty small. But--it doesn't feel that way.

The iQ is very nicely finished, even in the pro-production model I had the privilege of testing for a week. Handsomely detained surfaces and thoughtful touches make it seem much more than an econobox.

Fuel economy: The iQ is rated at 36 City, 37 Highway. The smart gets 33/41. The MINI is 29/37.

Pricing: While the smart claims to have a $12,000 car to sell you, the iQ should start at about $16,000. The MINI is more like $20,000 plus.

The iQ was just delightful, with its strong, full Pioneer audio system, surprising road presence, and, as previously stated, perceived roominess. The only thing is, it's too short to carry an upright bass, which is the only possible reason I have for not ordering one immediately.

I dubbed the iQ the Nash Metropolitan for today.

The iQ will arrive shortly on the West Coast of the U.S., and elsewhere over the following several months.

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