2011 Scion iQ: The World's Smallest 4-Seat Car
Posted Apr, 08 2010
Scion launched a new vehicle recently the New York Auto Show, giving Toyota more arrows in its small-car quiver as it attempts to hold onto its theoretical title of America's greenest carmaker. The tiny little city car is positioned as a premium micro-subcompact for "new urbanites." It's bigger than the famous Smart ForTwo, but it also adds an extra 2 seats. Will it work here?
The iQ will be the smallest 4-seater sold in America, but the company is playing fast and loose with the number 4. Here's how they come to their conclusion: The front seats are slightly offset, leaving room for one adult in the back as well as space for a child, pet, small package or scale model of an actual 4-seater. The front seats are incredibly thin, too, so those rear passengers can maximize their legroom. The rear seats split in half and fold flat as well. Even though we can't imagine the owner who would do this, Toyota says the rear cargo area achieves the all-American checkmark of accommodating a golf bag with the seats folded flat.
Let's compare this new iQ to the Smart ForTwo, currently the shortest mass production car sold in America. The Smart is 106.1 inches long, 61.4 inches wide and 60.7 inches tall. The iQ is slightly longer at 120 inches long, slightly wider at 66.1 inches across, but shorter at 59.1 inches tall. It's almost as if someone pushed their thumb down on top of the smart, squishing it in all directions and dropping in two extra seats in the process.
Whether or not iQs will be able to slot into parking slots perpendicular to the sidewalk (as the Smart ForTwo does) remains to be seen, but it's unlikely. The iQ is more than a foot longer than the Smart and would likely stick out too far.
With a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine and a low curb weight (U.S. spec curb weight isn't available, but the Toyota iQ sold in Europe weighs in at 1,896 lbs, or about 90 lbs more than the Smart ForTwo sold here), our partners at Autoblog speculate that fuel economy will be "in the high 30s, which is reasonable but far from overwhelming for such a small package." 30 MPG driving just isn't as impressive for a small car these days when a vehicle like the Ford Mustang can hit 31 MPG on the freeway (to its credit, the Smart ForTwo squeezes out 33 city and 41 highway from its 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder engine).
Fuel capacity is 8 gallons on the European iQ models (again, no word yet from Scion on the capacity of the U.S. fuel tank), so a total range could be as high as 300 miles but as low as 200 miles with aggressive city driving (which is the type of driving Scion is expecting for most iQ buyers). Until we know specific numbers from Scion, we'll hold out hope these numbers will be higher.
Where the Smart ForTwo went for cute and child-like in its design direction, the Scion iQ takes another tact altogether. The high beltline wraps around the car and into a very aggressive, angry-looking set of front headlights. The front fascia is cut with all manner of (mostly non-functional) intake openings, giving the appearance of a fire-breathing car that needs all the air it can get. Out back, the smoked rear lenses seem to melt into the sickle-shaped rear quarter glass. Wheels are pushed to the corners, like the Smart (where else are they going to go on a car this small?), but the openings are blistered and sculpted to look wide and muscular. It is a car with a Napoleon complex.
Scion is calling the iQ "premium," giving notice that the vehicle won't simply be a cheap city car and nothing else. In keeping with the Scion brand, the audio system is significantly better than what you'd find in comparable vehicles. The iQ will come standard with a six-speaker system, USB and iPod ports and steering-wheel audio controls. The car is also packed with safety features, including 10 airbags (among them: a rear-window curtain airbag and a driver seat-cushion airbag), anti-lock brakes and stability control.
If you've spent any time outside of the U.S. you may have already seen the squat little hatchback. Toyota launched the iQ back in 2008 and sales started in Japan and the United Kingdom shortly thereafter. The European versions get north of 50 MPG, but that figure comes from the diesel model (which Americans will not be able to buy, at least for now).
It might be hard to believe but Scion is calling this car a premium micro-subcompact. Americans seem to have a tough time accepting that luxury comes in different sizes, but Europeans sure don't. In fact, a version of the Scion iQ will soon be sold as an Aston Martin. The famous British sports car brand entered into a partnership with Toyota to make a car called the Cygnet, based on the iQ platform. The ultra-exclusive city car will only be sold to current Aston Martin buyers, limited to just 1000 or 2000 cars in the initial production run. Prices for the Cygnet haven't been released, but since you have to own a current Aston to qualify, the total out-of-pocket costs might be somewhere in the neighborhood of an entire lot full of Scion iQs.
I remember driving home though suburban Detroit one night in a new Smart ForTwo when a passenger in an old Ford F-100 leaned out the window and asked me if (okay, he basically told me) I was a Shriner. I didn't dignify him with a response. There are still plenty of places in America where the size of your car is seen as an extension of your standing in the world.
How will this new Scion fare? It's difficult to speculate as the company hasn't released pricing as of yet (the on-sale date is still unknown as well, although expect it to sell at some point this year). Our only guess is that given Scion's larger dealer network, the iQ will sell more than Smart sells of its ForTwo (only about 15,000 cars in all of 2009). If gas prices spike, Scion has another small, 30+ MPG vehicle that might tempt buyers.
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