Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
The standard features of the Scion iQ Base include 1.3L I-4 94hp engine, 2-speed CVT transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, driver and passenger knee airbag, airbag occupancy sensor, air conditioning, 16" steel wheels, ABS and driveline traction control, electronic stability, and power mirrors. (en)
Sharp steering and a tiny turning circle of only 13 feet make for some snappy maneuvers in parking lots and through city streets. We nearly lost our lunch circling a roundabout in our IQ in what turned out to be just a few too many times.
Our biggest complaint about the 2012 Scion IQ is the continuously variable transmission (CVT). While good for fuel economy and not as gutless as some incarnations, it robbed the IQ of its potential pep. We'd love to see a manual option in the U.S. in hopes the IQ could emulate any of the famous go-kart handling found in the Mini Cooper. Still, the CVT in the 2012 Scion IQ is miles ahead of the angst-inducing sequential gearbox found on the Smart ForTwo, which with every shift simulates the movement of whiplash in uber-slow-motion.
The TRD springs and sway bar on our Scion IQ made the car feel a little more sporty and hunkered down compared to the base model. MacPherson struts up front and a compact torsion beam suspension kept the ride relatively smooth and controlled, but it was rough riding over railroad tracks.
Ventilated disc brakes in front and drums in rear stopped the car without any drama.
Although one would expect cars in this segment to be hopelessly cheap-looking, the Scion IQ does a decent job striking a balance between quality and economy. Bold exterior styling, consistent with the Scion brand, helps to fend off any would-be bullies. But let's be clear, you're not going to look macho driving down the road in a Scion IQ. But at least it won't look like you're piloting a rollerskate, either.
Powering the 2012 Scion IQ is a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes a modest 94 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque. A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) kills some of the fun but, on the upside, helps to achieve an estimated 37 miles per gallon combined.
Sure, the car is tiny, but it doesn't feel that way inside. Several features enable the IQ to stay small without forcing occupants to feel like sardines. It's proportionately wider than other cars, allowing not only more space, but a greater sense of confidence on the road. In the cabin, that means an offset passenger seat along with thinner seat backs to give rear passengers more space. Under the hood, it's smaller, more compact components such as the front-mounted differential and air conditioning unit, as well as a high-mount steering rack with electronic power-steering. Underneath, a flat gas tank beneath the floor reduces rear overhang.
The 2012 Scion IQ's closest competitors appear to be the Smart ForTwo hatchback and the Fiat 500. Dimensions-wise, the 2012 Scion IQ sits in between the two (20 inches shorter than the Fiat, but 14 inches longer than the Smart). The IQ could even be considered an alternative to the Mini Cooper. And while the IQ's base price seems fair at around $16k compared to the latter, that's not a lot of car for the money. Pricing for all accessories is not yet available, but springing for navigation, upgraded audio and suspension enhancements skyrocket the IQ's sticker price to nearly $20k. So unless you live in a congested area and are specifically looking for a diminutive footprint to ease urban parking woes, you might get more bang for your buck with larger vehicles such as the Mazda2, all-new Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta or Honda Fit.
To make the IQ seem less diminutive, Scion designers took a chance by straying from typical vehicle proportions. Although only 10 feet long, the IQ is unusually wide for a car in its segment.
Thinner seatbacks eek out a little extra legroom, but they're comfortable enough that you won't miss the extra padding. Rear seats split and fold down 50/50 and offer enough space for a couple of large suitcases.
Total cargo room is rated at 16.7 cubic feet with the rear seats flat.
The instrument cluster, like other Scions, is simple and attractive, with a pleasing and easy-to-read blue lighting scheme. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is substantial and feels good in hand. We liked the wheel-mounted audio controls, but wish there were also a button to access to the Bluetooth hands-free phone feature.
Climate controls consist of three large, vertically placed knobs on the center stack that are easy to see and reach. Audio controls vary depending on what system you choose. On base and premium versions, controls are adequate and are easy to use once you get the hang of what everything does. On systems equipped with the optional navigation, buttons are integrated into the touchscreen display.
Sound quality from the Pioneer audio system is fair, but even with the 200-watt upgraded stereo it's nothing to write home about. But, since Scion customers tend to be big on customization, we expect music aficionados will roll with aftermarket speakers anyway.
Accessories include 16-inch alloy wheels, wheel locks, fog lights, body side moldings, mudguards, a rear spoiler and paint protection film. Toyota Racing Development offers TRD lowering springs and TRD anti-sway bars. Interior accessories include floor mats, cargo mat, cargo net and a seven-color interior light kit.
An optional 200-watt Pioneer premium audio system is available with a 5.8-inch LCD touch-screen display, Pandora live audio streaming, and six RCA outputs to add external amplifiers. The navigation system will get you the same audio setup with a seven-inch touch-screen LCD display.
Safety features standard on the 2012 Scion IQ include 11 airbags (driver- and front-passenger airbags; driver- and front-passenger seat-mounted side airbags; side curtain airbags; driver- and front-passenger knee airbags; driver- and front-passenger seat-cushion airbags; and a rear-window airbag, an industry first), antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control, and brake-override.
Laura Burstein filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from San Francisco.
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