PRO’s: Park anywhere capability, good front passenger interior room, amazing turning radius, great around town mileage.
CON’s: Useless back seats, very little storage, twitchy handling manners.
FINAL THOUGHT: A compromise car that is best left for city folk who don’t do mass amounts of driving or high mileage road trips.
When I first saw the concept of the Scion iQ back in 2009 at the New York International Auto Show I was actually quite pleased. Here was a micro-sized hot hatch that was well designed with the apparent goal of bringing sportiness to the pocket-car segment. Back then the only micro-car sold in the U.S. was the Smart ForTwo, a car which I wholeheartedly detest. Fast forward now to September 2012 and the little iQ you see before you. It’s small, actually quite peppy and an interesting vehicle that raises and eyebrow from all those who see it. The big question though is – is it any good?
*The original iQ Concept was flat-out bitchin’!
From a styling perspective the boys at Toyota did a nice job as the iQ conveys an image that I would categorize as, sport-thrifty. It’s better looking than the Smart ForTwo, but not nearly as good looking as the concept displayed above. In short, the iQ is a city car that’s meant to be shoved into small spaces where other cars wouldn’t dare go and thus had to be built as such. You’ll notice that the cool bulged fenders and deep dish wheels from the concept car have been ditched in favor of more pedestrian alloys and generic body panels.
A short squat nose with ultra large projector beam headlamps, small grill and big Scion badge up front gives the iQ the frontal looks of a pissed-off Pokemon character. I get that they were going for some aggression up front, but at days end this car is almost as long as it is wide, which makes that a bit of a challenge. Out back the iQ is treated to an optional rear spoiler that helps break-up the cars standard egg-like shape. Micro-car design is tough from every angle. You don’t have a lot of real estate to begin with, so the fact that the designers were able to make the little iQ look this good is something of a miracle.
Climb inside the iQ’s cabin and you’ll immediately notice a combination of materials that simply can’t decide if they should keep company with the other kids in the room. The seats for instance look like they’ve been dressed up with seat covers from the local Autozone. The materials are not consistent from top to bottom and unfortunately portray a very low cost look and feel. However, when you move to the steering wheel (which is amazingly comfortable) you’ll notice it’s covered with nicely stitched leather, as is the shift knob – again, nice touches, but items that don’t match up in the overall scheme of things.
The problem here as that you can’t have it both ways. You either go with cheap materials or moderately priced, but not both as the result is an interior that is struggling to deliver an upscale look and feel, but simply can’t.
Understand as well that this is not a micro-priced car. At $17,397.00, this optioned out 2012 Scion iQ is priced directly in the path of small cars like the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra, cars the trump the iQ at every turn. I understand that this car is made for urban environments, but there does come a point when financial logic has to overtake trendiness.
Like the Smart ForTwo the iQ’s interior is actually quite spacious and provides the driver and passenger with better head and legroom then some cars twice its size. Being 6’4″ I was initially skeptical but after tooling around for awhile I found the cabin to be quite comfortable. Technically this is a four-seater, however the back seats are a joke at best. Hell, you could kill your passengers, cremate them, put them in fancy urns, and then maybe, just maybe you could fit them in the rear seats. However make sure you remove the rear headrests because if they’re installed, you’ll have a bitch of a time seeing anything out of your rear view mirror.
Storage in the Scion is another issue. The glove box for instance is located under the front passenger seat. It’s small, difficult to get at, and is on a track that takes a good deal of effort to move. Rear storage space is ultra cramped as well even with the rear seats folded flat. In short, this car is good for the single man or woman who lives in an urban environment and owns very little luggage.
Electronics in the 2012 Scion iQ are pretty basic as well. My tester came equipped with the optional Pioneer Premium HD Radio set dead center in the dash. It allows for steering wheel controls, satellite radio and iPod hookup and in all fairness is a pretty trick touchscreen unit. There is also a small trip computer that shows mileage, range to empty and trip distance. Other than that though, it’s pretty basic.
From a driving standpoint the iQ is “OK” at best. The engine is a 1.3-liter I4 that pumps out 94 hp / 89 lb-ft. That power goes to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission that revs to the moon when your foot is planted. Understand that while 94 hp doesn’t sound like a lot of power, you’ve got to keep in mind that the iQ only weighs 2,127 lbs. That translates to a 0-60 mph time of about 10-seconds. Not blistering by any means, but it’s quick enough to move you safely into traffic where you can cruise all day at 75-mph. Any faster than that though and things start to get a bit shifty. Because of the ultra-short wheelbase and skinny 175-series tires, the iQ is prone to grab any ruts in the pavement which can be startling at times even though the steering is fairly precise. Handling is again, just OK, but a canyon carver this thing is not.
Everything else including braking and emergency handling seemed pretty compliant. I put the iQ through a few panic stops as well as some quick side-to-side turns and although these motions happened quite abruptly, they never did anything to throw the car out of shape.
Mileage figures are EPA rated at 36 city / 37 highway and are totally believable. The issue arises when you decide to leave the city for the open road as the iQ only has an 8.5 gallon tank which equates to a sub-300 mile range. Not great for a car that is this fuel efficient.
Overall the 2012 Scion iQ is a compromise car. Yes, you are getting an ultra-small car that will fit anywhere, turn on a dime and not cost you much as long as you don’t option it out. However I’m not sure if what you’re giving up is worth it. Hell, a standard MINI Cooper gives you more standard features, better build quality, usable room, better fuel range and a higher resale value for only a few dollars more. Therefore you must ask yourself if purchasing a micro-car is really the right decision and truly fits your lifestyle. If this is the case, then great. If not, then I’d highly suggest you start looking elsewhere.