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2012 Scion iQ Ride and Review By Larry Nutson


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2012 Scion iQ

2012 Scion iQ - Spacious for two and then some.

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

As I write this review the August 2012 auto sales reports show a surge as drivers react to high gas prices and seem to be buying fuel-efficient cars as quickly as possible. Gas prices neared or exceeded $4 a gallon in much of the U.S. and that combined with the need to replace many of the older vehicles on the road is pushing folks into smaller and smaller vehicles.

The 2012 Scion iQ came on the scene late last year on the West Coast. Having now become available across the country, the iQ has done its share to help boost Scion’s August sales up nearly 112% over year ago. The iQ is intended for trendsetting urban drivers and does a nice job of providing a whole lot of car in a small package.


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The 2012 Scion iQ is a front-wheel-drive premium micro-subcompact. One of a number of new micro-subcompacts on the market today intended for in-city residents who can’t meet all their transportation needs solely with public transportation. The iQ is amazingly city-friendly with its 10ft (120.1 inches) overall length. Combine this with its 12.9ft turning radius, and whipping a U-ey to grab a treasured parking spot is done with ease.

I have to give pause here and think about all the vehicles being driven around our large, crowded, densely populated cities with only a driver. If we replaced all those vehicles with micro-subcompacts such as the Scion iQ with its 120 inch length, and got rid of all the 180 to 200 inch long single-occupant vehicles on the road we would have much less traffic congestion due to all the additional space on the road. Something to think about, but back to the iQ.

Six engineering innovations are responsible for the iQ’s ability to be small in size. A compact front-mounted differential, high-mount steering rack with electronic power steering, and a compact air conditioning unit all amount to significant decreases in front-end length. In addition, the iQ is equipped with a flat gas tank housed beneath the floor that reduces rear overhang. Slim-back front seats optimize rear legroom, while the “3+1” offset seating arrangement allows one adult to sit behind the front passenger and a child or small package behind the driver.


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The 2012 iQ is equipped with a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 94 horsepower and 89 lb.-ft of torque. It features dual VVT-i, which allows the engine to be efficient while providing a broader powerband with lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions. The engine is paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that delivers smooth acceleration and good response. The iQ is rated an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV-II) and achieves an EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating of 37 miles per gallon on regular fuel. The fuel tank holds 8.5 gallons, which might seem small. However, the Scion iQ’s EPA city rating is 36 mpg and that is the forte of this car. Approximately 300 miles of in-city driving is, from my experience, quite a lot. Most routine trips I take in Chicago are in the 4 to 8 mile range.

I did a few expressway runs with the iQ and found it to be very comfortable and confident at higher speeds. The short wheelbase causes the car to pitch a bit making for a slightly choppy ride on bumpy city streets. Rapid lane changes at higher speeds are a different experience compared to a car with a longer wheelbase. Most cars this small have poor aero because they are tall and short. I was surprised at the iQ’s cD of 0.31.


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Don’t let safety in the 2012 Scion iQ be a concern. The iQ comes standard with safety features that drivers expect in every car today. The iQ has 11 standard airbags, including the world’s first rear window airbag. Other airbags include driver- and front-passenger airbags; driver- and front-passenger seat-mounted side airbags; side curtain airbags; driver- and front-passenger knee airbags; and a Scion-first driver- and front-passenger seat-cushion airbags.

All iQs come standard with the Star Safety SystemTM, which includes antilock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Traction Control (TRAC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Smart Stop Technology brake-override. A tire-pressure monitoring system is also standard equipment.


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The 2012 Scion iQ’s functional “3+1” seating equates to the world’s smallest four-passenger vehicle. The four-seat configuration is made possible because the driver and front passenger seats are slightly off set. The rear seats feature a 50/50 split and the ability to fold flat, growing the cargo space from 3.5cuft behind the rear seat to 16.7cuft. That’s as much volume as most compact cars offer and is plenty of space to haul your typical household shopping. The iQ comes standard with a leather-wrapped steering wheel with red stitching, and features a flat bottom that provides additional thigh room. The steering wheel incorporates audio controls to manage the iQ's impressive sound system.

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2012 iQ is $15,265. The delivery, processing and handling (DPH) fee for all Scion models is $730 additional. My test car topped out at $17,189 with its Blizzard Pearl special paint, a rear spoiler, and few other extras.

Again, the 2012 Scion iQ is a premium car with air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors, premium Pioneer audio system, a Nav system and more. So, you can cruise the city in comfort and park almost wherever you like while casting an eye to the folk in their long luxo-cruisers and monster SUVs who can’t fit in a parking spot. And, if you should need a large and roomy vehicle for a vacation trip with your extended family or best friends, renting one for that trip is much smarter than driving it all year round.

For 2013 the Scion iQ is expected to get minor trim changes.

© Larry Nutson