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Heels on Wheels: 2012 SCION iQ REVIEW

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2012 Scion iQ

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The all-new Scion iQ is the perfect mascot to a minimalist lifestyle, but not the first micro-mobile to hit the roads. Popular UGG boots have their own form of competition – fashion circles give fake ones the unfavorable nickname of “fuggs” – but the iQ is no cheap imposture to the two-seater Smart Fortwo in terms of performance and conveniences.

I drove a 2012 Scion iQ with the standard 94-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with an automatic Continuously Variable Transmission with intelligence that gets a combined fuel economy of 37 miles-per-gallon. Available in one trim, the following are standard features: sixteen inch wheels; leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls; four-speaker Pioneer audio system; Bluetooth; and remote keyless entry. Options included a $285 rear spoiler, an upgraded $99 gear shift knob, and $145 worth of carpeted floor mats. Total vehicle price came to $15,794.

This ultra-compact’s most obvious competitor is the Smart Fortwo. Many base-level subcompacts on the market deliver comparable fuel economy and a similar price, like the Honda Fit and Kia Rio, creating some curiosity about the pro’s and con’s of going so small.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Interior highlights are the Pioneer stereo (despite the fact the speakers are the size of climate dials), steering wheel audio controls and yes – spaciousness for two. One edge the iQ does have over the Smart Fortwo is a second row. Although microscopic, the area does feature the advantage of LATCH (anchors and tethers for children) for a baby seat. Just forget having a front passenger if it is employed. I found it easier to lift a baby through the rear door – which offered more clearance than transporting such valuable cargo through the passenger side – but back pain is inevitably the price for such a need.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Obviously one of the biggest issues, the iQ scores an overall rating of 4-Stars with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Surprisingly, the Smart Fortwo fairs just as well, achieving The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) highest ratings of “Good” for both frontal and side impact crash tests. The iQ features Toyota’s standard Star Safety System that includes traction control, anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control and smart stop technology.

Cost Issues: The five-passenger subcompact Honda Fit base trim is priced at $15,175 but drop in gas numbers at a combined 29 miles-per-gallon. The Kia Rio sedan does slightly better with a base price of $13,400 dollars and a combined fuel economy of 33.

Activity & Performance Ability: The iQ does a swift job of eliminating a feeling of being vulnerable through responsive acceleration and tight handling. Turning radius is generous, having you rally for any small spot without a moment’s hesitation. There is a vague feel from switching to Sport versus Eco mode. The driver’s side rear-quarter window is impossible to see out of, creating a blind spot. A combined 37 miles-per-gallon is better than most compacts but far from ground breaking.

The Green Concern: If being green to you means great gas mileage, the almost-all-electric Chevrolet Volt – in a bigger, more stylish (and much more expensive) package gets you an EPA-estimated 37 miles-per-gallon. The Toyota Prius hybrid achieves 50 MPG and the Plug-in version 49 (the advantage over the former is 13 miles in electric-only mode). If you want to go100 percent electric, choose the Nissan Leaf or the recently released Honda Fit EV.

Going green with the 2012 Scion iQ involves giving up less space, not driving habits, as it doesn’t require you to find a plug like some of the electric-only competitors do. It’s an affordable alternative to the more expensive gas-electric hybrids as well, and offers a few surprises not found in the Smart Fortwo.

2012 Katrina Ramser