2012 Scion iQ: Good things in the smallest package
By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Scion has an intelligent way of naming their vehicles. Working on the concept and name of the Smart Car, they have upped the quotient and have created the premium micro-subcompact Scion iQ, “The World’s Smallest Four-Seater”. According to Toyota, Scion’s parent company, iQ does not stand for intelligent quotient; the i stands for "individuality" "innovation" and "intelligence", while the Q is for “quality” and points to the vehicle’s “cubic” shape. Under any initialese, the iQ is a small car with big economy.
The Scion iQ is only 10 feet long yet seats four people, and meeting the needs of a new trendsetting generation of urban drivers, the iQ concentrates big ideas into a small package. Instead of sacrificing features or comfort to reduce its footprint, the iQ relies on intelligent design, utilizing six engineering innovations to remain small in size, but large in capability. A compact front-mounted differential, high-mount steering rack with electronic power-steering, and a compact air-conditioning unit all result in 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.
Weighing in at a light 2127 lbs. (some trim packages come in under 2000 lbs.), iQ measures 120.1 inches long, 66.1 inches wide and 59.1 inches high on a 78.7-inch wheelbase, with a close-to-the-pavement ground clearance of 5.3 inches. From a styling perspective, the iQ’s profile, defined by a strong and high beltline and tapers from the large, stout headlamps, up the A-pillar, across the roof and wraps around the rear, emphasizing the iQ’s geometric shape. Side mirrors with integrated turn signals accent the clean design, while the modern rear architecture employs trapezoidal lines that run toward the wheels, from the hatch to the bumper’s rear diffuser-like accent.
The front-wheel drive iQ powers up with a 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder, EFI aluminum alloy block and head engine linked to a continuously variable transmission, The system only produces 94hp and 89 lbs-ft of torque, and is EPA rated at 36/37. Now, you aren’t going to win many track meets with the iQ, but that isn’t its purpose. You get maneuverability – it can fit and steer into any parking space and ably darts in, around and among city traffic challenges. Short in length, its wide stance gives it larger-car handling capabilities.
On the Interstate, power is something to strategize. Up long hills and attempting to pass are true trials. Steering is responsive, but soft, and in wind, long straights or quick turns, the vehicle can drift. But at speed and over rough roads, iQ feels secure and supple. MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear suspension with 16x5-inch steel wheels covered by 175/60R16 Goodyear all-season steel-belted radial tires keep the ride confident, while ventilated disc brakes up front and drums in the rear with an anti-lock brake system provide assertive stopping power.
For those who need the speed numbers, slow and steady is the iQ theme. My test ride was able to move from zero to 60mph in 10.4 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 17.8. During the run, the cockpit encountered more engine noise than I would have expected, but on the highway, under normal performances, the cabin was quiet enough for the niche.
Speaking of the cabin, it is filled with standard niceties including air conditioning, radiant orange instrument panel illumination, 4-way front seats covered in woven fabric with integrated headrests, outside temperature gauge, power door locks and outside mirrors, acoustic windshield for reduced NVH, power windows with driver and front passenger one-touch auto up/down, rear window defogger, tachometer and trip meter, leather-wrapped shift knob, ECO driving indicator, Bluetooth® System, roof-mounted antenna, folding side mirrors with turn signal indicators, rear wiper, 4-speaker 160-watt Pioneer AM/FM/CD head unit (MP3/WMA CD and satellite-tuner capable), steering wheel-mounted audio controls, HD Radio technology and auxiliary audio and USB input ports.
The micro-subcompact lives within its parameters as headroom is a tight 37.7 inches in front and a scrunched 35.9 in row two (no NBA basketball players need apply), leg room is good in the first seats at 40.9 inches but a knees-to-the chest 28.6 inches for second seaters; shoulder room is a comfortable 53.1 inches in row one and 50.2 in row two. It is a great economical two-seater with extra storage in row two.
Regarding safety, the iQ includes nine airbags – dual frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side torso airbags, side curtain airbags front passenger seat cushion airbag, a driver's knee airbag and a newly developed rear curtain airbag to protect backseat passengers' heads from rear end collisions. Also installed are Vehicle Stability Control, traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.
The 2012 Scion iQ starts at $15,265 plus transportation fees of $730 for a base price of 15,995 with an automatic transmission. A storage package for $20 and a rear speaker package for $100 brought the final sticker to $16,115.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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