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2012 Scion iQ Review By Carey Russ

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2012 Scion iQ


2012 Scion iQ

The Scion iQ is not a car for everyone, nor is it meant to be. It's the Americanized version of a car sold in Asia and Europe as the Toyota iQ, built for the densely-crowded cities on those continents. America is the land of wide-open spaceā€¦ except in our cities, so the concept can work here as well.

In size, the iQ is smaller than any other internal combustion car sold here except the similar Smart ForTwo. Which, as its name implies, is a two-seater. The iQ can hold four adults -- if they're not too large, and, in the rear seat, not for longer than an hour commute. At just over ten feet in length, it's nearly identical in length to the original 1960s Austin/Morris Mini, if ten inches wider and six inches taller.

In price, with a base MSRP of $15,285, the iQ is not so small, considering that the lower-level models of the larger Toyota Yaris are less. Look closer, and it's apparent that the iQ is a cut above the Yaris, or any other common subcompact hatchback. Scion calls it a "premium micro-subcompact", and claims it to be the world's smallest four-seater.

If you live on a ranch in Wyoming or in an uncrowded small town somewhere, this is not your car. If you live or work in the city, it might be the perfect commute module, and useful for everyday errands as well -- for groceries and small items. It's not going to work for large things from the home improvement storeā€¦

With as small a footprint as the iQ has, efficient space utilization is a necessity. And not only is no space wasted, the exterior is designed to maximize interior room. A 1.3-liter, 94-horsepower engine resides crossways between the front wheels, driving them through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Inside, the dash is designed such that the front passenger sits a bit forward of the driver, improving knee room for the off-side rear passenger in what Scion calls a "3+1" seating arrangement. The fuel tank is flat and mounted beneath the floor to further increase space efficiency. As in many cars today, there is no spare tire, just a tire sealant kit.

The iQ's premium position shows in its comprehensive list of standard equipment. Air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power door locks, one-touch up an down power windows, power mirrors, and instrumentation including speedometer plus tachometer, trip meter, and information display are all standard. As are bright projector beam headlights and a rear-window defogger and wiper. And a Pioneer audio system with iPodĀ® connectivity. Typically for Scion, the iQ comes in one specification with a host of dealer-installed options.

Living with the iQ was easy. It's tiny, true, but that means it's maneuverable and oh so easy to park, especially on the street. There is enough power available to enable it to keep up with traffic, although at some cost to fuel consumption. The EPA estimate for all-around mileage is 37 mpg; I got 32. A small engine working hard is not necessarily going to get the best mileage. And if I was gentler on the throttle I would have done better -- but the iQ was entertaining to drive and much more comfortable than you'd expect. It really is a class above the common subcompacts in its appointment and demeanor.

APPEARANCE: Automotive minimalism definedā€¦ The wheels are at the corners, with minimal bodywork beyond them, and the steeply-raked windshield blends into the ultra-short hood in a way that makes the iQ nearly a one-box design. The front face is inescapably cute, as are the proportions. Neatly-sculpted lines and interesting shapes proclaim its position above mere econobox, and the nearly vertical tailgate enhances interior space.

COMFORT : As outside, the iQ's interior design is a step or two above subcompact basic. Yes, interior materials are hard plastics, but varied textures and materials look good and keep interest. And the dark, roughly-textured material on the top of the instrument panel prevents glare in the large windshield. Front seat comfort is much better than the norm for small cars, and the textured synthetic upholstery works well in hot weather. The steering wheel adjusts for tilt only, but does have a stitched leather rim and auxiliary audio controls. There is no cruise control, but that wouldn't get use that much around town or while commuting. The speedometer and tach are easily read, and there is a useful information display. My test car had the optional upgraded Pioneer audio system, with good sound and AM/FM/XM(a further option) radio plus CD, external jack and USB, iPod and Pandora via iPod and Bluetooth. It projects from the top of the instrument panel, but does not impede vision.

Some things are sacrificed to size. There are door pockets with bottle holders, but no glove box or console box. A sliding tray under the front passenger seat takes the place of the glovebox. Luggage space with people in the rear seat is, at 3.5 cubic feet, nearly nonexistent. There is 16.6 cft with the 50/50 rear seatbacks folded. Both rear passengers have their own cupholder, but knee room makes airlines look generous.

SAFETY: Yes it's small, and inside you might get the feeling that the iQ could be used as a soccer ball by large pickups, not to mention semisā€¦ but passengers are protected by 11 airbags -- frontal plus seat cushion, knee, and seat-mounted side bags for the front seats, side curtains, and the world's first rear-window airbag. The Star Safety Systemā„¢ is standard, comprised of antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), traction control (TRAC), and vehicle stability control (VSC), plus Smart Stop Technology brake over-ride. A tire-pressure monitoring system is also standard.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Despite its diminutive size. light weight -- 2127 pounds according to the specs -- and ultra-short wheelbase, the iQ feels solid and tracks well on the road. Yes, it's affected by strong winds -- as are many larger and heavier vehicles -- but not too badly. The suspension design is class-standard with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam axle at the rear. It's tuned moderately firmly and combines good ride comfort with a higher level of handling performance than is usual for small cars, making it fun to drive. The chassis could handle considerably more power easily, and the brakes, although drums at the rear, work well -- no surprise given the light weight. With a 26.4-foot turning circle, low-speed and parking maneuverability is excellent, and the electronic power steering is balanced well.

PERFORMANCE: With 94 horsepower up at 6000 rpm and torque peaking at 89 lb-ft at 4400 rpm, the iQ's 1.3-liter engine needs to stay busy in order to keep up with traffic. The engine is a typical Toyota family design, a four-cylinder made of aluminum alloy featuring VVT-i continuous phasing on both overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. It drives the front wheels through a CVT that is programmed to attempt to maximize fuel economy. It reacts reasonably quickly to demands for acceleration; a manual would be better but is unlikely to sell in amounts worthwhile enough in the US market. I made no attempt to save fuel (well, until the fuel gauge display went to one bar and started blinking) and had no problem dealing with highway merges or hills. The iQ isn't the quickest car around, but works well enough on the highway or in town. The 8.5 gallon fuel tank is large enough for city duty and commuting.

CONCLUSIONS: In its iQ, Scion has an interesting solution to urban transportation.

2012 Scion iQ

Base Price			$ 15,285
Price As Tested			$ 17,397
Engine Type			dohc 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with continuously-variable cam phasing
Engine Size			1.3 liters / 81 cu. in.
Horsepower			94 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			89 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			CVT
Wheelbase / Length		78.7 in. / 120.1 in.
Curb Weight			2127 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		22.7
Fuel Capacity			8.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P175/60 R17 82 H Goodyear Assurance
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / drum,
				 ABS, EBD, BA, VSC, TRAC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  semi-independent torsion beam axle
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		36 / 37 / 32
0 to 60 mph				11.5  sec

Rear Spoiler				$ 285
Shift Knob AT				$  99
Carpeted Front Floor Mats		$  90
Pioneer Premium Audio			$ 479
Sirius/XM Satellite Radio		$ 449
Destination and Delivery		$ 730