iQ over Smarts?
The 2012 Scion iQ
by Giorgio Cerboncini 

A bit of Perspective
Toyota knew well in advance that youth would comprise a sizable chunk of new car buyers in the future. That was the reason for the creation of Scion, Toyota’s youth brand. And while their original projection of 60 million new car buyers entering the market by 2010 has not quite panned out, a significant number of new buyers have entered Toyota showrooms that would have otherwise never considered the purchase one of their products.

To the Chase
From a two-car lineup in 2003, Scion today has expanded to include five different models. One of their latest is the iQ, a micro car designed to take a chunk of the market occupied by brands like Mini, Smart and FIAT.

From the outside it looks larger than it appears, thanks to its wide stance, offsetting its vertical projection. It looks good from any angle, though. Speaking of looks, they mostly came from young people. The few older folk who actually looked at the car did so with puzzlement, as if thinking “who fits in there?”

And the answer to that is surprising, because its wide stance allows plenty of elbow room, much more than in the Smart, its closest competitor.

The Perks
Powered by a 1.3 liter 4-cylinder engine, the iQ moves competently, plus its CVT transmission provides a smother shifting transition than the arrangement found in the Smart, which is difficult to drive smoothly. The short wheelbase makes for a “darty” ride, but it more than makes up for it in the ease with which it can be handled. It’s one of those point-and-go rides, with very little body roll from the suspension.

Being a youth brand, youth stuff comes standard, like the AM/FM/CD/HD/USB 160-watt Pioneer audio system, along with Bluetooth connectivity, streaming audio, iPod and USB connectivity, a subwoofer and an RCA output. Oh yes, it also counts 11 airbags, for added safety, as well as ABS, EBD, BA, TRAC, VSC,  and Smart Stop Technology brake-override. A tire-pressure monitoring system is also standard equipment. Go to www.scion.com for a quick brief on the meaning of all those abbreviations.

The Claim
The iQ is billed as the world’s smallest four passenger car. Think of that claim in the same way that you take the EPA figures for gas consumption with a grain of salt: it can happen, but in all likelihood and for all practical purposes it won’t, as leg room space in the front is compromised to allow leg room for the rear occupants. Suffice to say that two early teens found it cramped back there.

The Bottom Line
The iQ represents yet another Scion attempt to gather as much of that potential 60-million potential as they can. Their expanding product portfolio certainly is a step in that direction, and the $15,995 MSRP (including destination) makes it an attractive alternative to the Smart, especially because it has that space back there where one more person can fit sideways, even if he or she has to carry the grocery bags.