When it comes to selecting and purchasing a ‘city car’ i.e. a smaller scale vehicle that is both nimble in terms of maneuvering, and frugal in respect to the amount of petrol it consumes, there hasn’t really been a motor worthy of that title until now. Despite the fact that it took five years for Toyota to develop, the iQ, as the new Japanese hatchback city car is called is like no other small car currently on the market. In short, no pun intended, the Toyota iQ is shorter than the original Mini Cooper. It has the smallest turning radius of any of the so called city cars. It is also capable of seating four adults reasonably comfortably (well sort of), and it offers first class safety for its diminutive size.
When the car was still just an idea, chief Engineer Hiroki Nakajima envisioned an automobile that could be marketed to a consumer who wanted a small car, not to
those who merely wanted a cheap car. This is precisely what sets the iQ apart from the micro cars that other automobile manufacturers have been turning out. This fact is reflected in the car’s price which is a bit steeper for a vehicle of its size and class.
Available in two models: the standard iQ with a 1.0 liter engine and the iQ3, which is equipped with a slightly more powerful 1.3 liter engine. The iQ, which is one of the very few cars to be completely developed from scratch in no way relies on existing parts from other Toyota models. Therefore, its toy-like appearance is most singular, and entirely unique. But isn’t that what happens when one breaks new ground instead of recycling the same old ideas?
Styling & Comfort
In an attempt to break some new ground of my own, I’ll start this review with the mini-motors faults rather that its virtues. Given the car’s small stature, certain design elements that are normally taken for granted had to be sacrificed. The most noticeable shortcomings are as follows:
The ‘A’-pillars at the front are notably wide for such a small car, and hinder forward visibility to a certain degree. Perhaps the extra width was needed for structural integrity and rollover protection?
The rear headrests also interfere with rearward visibility and should be removed whenever no passengers are seated in the back.
Passengers seated in the rear will have to get used to the fact that visibility through the rear, side windows is practically non-existent.
The brightness of the headlights, while fine on well-lit city streets will be sorely lacking in wattage when driving in dimly lit areas.
In respect to storage, what passes for the boot on the iQ, is greatly lacking in storage capacity. Some critics accuse the iQ of having no boot at all, just “a miserably small space behind the seats into which you might just squeeze a briefcase.” In fact, when the rear seats are folded down the boot’s storage space is only marginally increased.
What’s amazing about the iQ’s engineering is that when viewed from the outside, one wonders is it really possible for four non pygmy-sized persons to actually squeeze inside the iQ’s rather posh interior, let alone experience any degree of comfort. It’s definitely possible for two, six foot tall individuals to be comfortably seated in the front, but only in the back if there is a diminutive driver piloting the vehicle. In other words, the driver’s seat must be pulled all the way forward. When a six footer is driving, then the iQ inside is only fit for three full length passengers. The room that remains behind a normal sized driver is enough to accommodate a child or a bag of groceries. Headroom is adequate, if not ample provided you’re not a centimeter above six feet in length. Given the fact that the car is less than three meters long, the miracle of seating four comfortably can be attributed to the cabin’s asymmetrical design, the vehicle’s thin seats, and the other numerous unseen innovations. Another virtue of the iQ not found on other city cars is the ‘rear curtain airbag’. This was likely deemed necessary for reasons of safety, due to the rear passenger’s close proximity to the rear windscreen and any vehicle that may come into unwanted contact with the backside of the iQ. While the interior is not perfectly perfect, Toyota has surprisingly created an ambiance that looks and feels as if it belongs in a much larger automobile. The iQ rides on 15 inch alloy wheels and its safety features include ABS brakes and an anti-skid system. Passenger protection is provided by the obligatory safety harnesses, and a nine point frontal airbag system as well as the above mentioned rear airbag curtain.
Power Plant & Performance
The 67 horsepower that’s put out by the 1.0 liter engine is said to allow the car to reach a top speed of 99mph. In reality, because the iQ’s overall weight is a tad heavier than other city cars, it’s doubtful that it will ever be described as “speedy”. Road tests show that the iQ labors some 13.6 seconds to reach 60mph. Agreed that’s not too bad, but when the 25.4 seconds the iQ takes to climb from 50 to 70mph is factored into the equation, its overall performance can best be described as tortoise-like. But once the desired speed is achieved, the iQ hums along for as long as necessary with nary a complaint. Surprisingly, the larger, and more powerful 1.3 liter engine does little to improve the iQ’s overall acceleration. It shaves a scant 0.7 seconds off the time it took the vehicle with the smaller engine to reach 60mph.
Around town, the iQ’s maneuverability is greatly enhance by its ultra-compact dimensions, and by its extremely small turning radius. This, combined with power steering, a standard feature on both models, allows the iQ to nimbly change directions in the midst of busy city traffic. Its tight turning ratio and lack of length also allows the iQ to easily slip both in and the out of tight parking spaces, which after all, is one of the most important characteristics of a city car. When it comes to out of town driving, the iQ handles impressively. Despite being the shortest four-seater car on the market, its wide wheel base prevents crosswinds from pushing the puny car around. In addition, the suspension has been engineered in such a way that the level of comfort is that of what one would expect from a mightier motor.
Conclusion & Specifications
With all its flaws, the iQ is more than sufficient for its intended purpose – that of being an urban car. But beyond that, the iQ’s cruising ability is adequate if not ample when driven outside the confines of a busy city. Despite the rather wide windscreen supports, the driver’s visibility is actually quite good thanks to the vehicles wider width and the well thought out layout of its interior. The car easily admits three adults and one child, however, the proposition of including a fourth fully grown passenger largely depends on the forward position of the driver’s seat.
The iQ is 2985 mm in length, 1680 mm in width, and 1500 mm in height. It weighs in at 890kg, and has a maximum fuel capacity of 32 liters. The estimated MPG is between 59 and 64mpg depending on the model and the conditions under which the car is driven. The estimated price for the iQ starts near 1.49 million baht and maxes out around 1.55 million baht.