With a name that playfully tweaks a tiny rival, Scion's micro subcompact iQ will turn heads for its contemporary styling and its size — or the lack thereof. The two-door hatchback resembles a Pixar Cars character, but what about its character as a car?
Appearance: The iQ has large, wide-set headlights and a narrow black-plastic grille that looks as if it were drawn on; a slight bump of a nose with a large Scion badge completes the look. Our tester's Hot Lava paint is one of the nicer orange hues we've seen. It's bright and noticeable, and in a car this size you need to be seen. The hatch window dominates the rear of the abbreviated car, with curved wraparound glass that adds a contemporary look.
Performance: This is not a car made for highway driving. We had separate experiences, however; Peter felt safe enough in the car; Lyra did not. Either way, the iQ is a city car, not one made for long commutes. Around town, the 1.3-liter, 94-horsepower (!) four-cylinder with Continuously Variable Transmission offers adequate performance, but the engine and CVT are noisy, especially under anything resembling hard acceleration. You will feel every bump in the road. With hardly any visible rear bumper and its low stance, Lyra feels rear passengers might not fare too well if the car is rear-ended. There is one area in which the iQ is a big player: the parking lot. The 120.1-inch car can easily share a standard parking space with a scooter or motorcycle (yes, we tried it), and its turning radius is one of the smallest we've tested, outside of a child's tricycle.
Interior: The iQ feels roomy enough inside, with plenty of legroom and decent headroom up front, although Peter did feel the driver's seat sat too high for taller folks. Scion managed to squeeze in rear seats to make this a four-seater, but to carve out that space, there were compromises. For example, to give the rear passenger any semblance of legroom, the front passenger has to slide the seat far forward. So Scion (Toyota) eliminated the glove box for more space. In its place, you get a flimsy plastic drawer under the passenger seat, which is difficult to get to for the driver. You have to be a compact contortionist to get into the rear seats. Anyone other than a small child is not going to be comfortable. With the rear seat backs up, there's only a sliver of storage space. To fold the backs down, you have to remove the headrests first. Peter packed in a week's worth of groceries with the back down. For such a little car, there is a large — and somewhat cumbersome — center media touchscreen. And there is no secure place to put your electronic gadgets.
Our 3 favorites
Peter Couture Nice try: Scion tries to make the interior more interesting, especially with its modernist design in door handles.
Simplicity: The center console has dial controls; all others are on the nav screen.
Speedo: A turbinelike design.
Lyra Solochek Safety features: ABS, stability control, traction control and more. I just wish there was more protection in the back.
Hot Lava: Brilliant orange — to be noticed.
Parking: No problem.
The bottom line: If the world were a parking lot, then the Scion iQ would be its king. But alas, it's not. Its price can easily pass $16K, and there are plenty of larger small cars, including Toyota's own Yaris, that offer more for the price.