• Image Credit: Autoblog

Though drivers on the coasts, especially in the big cities, have clamored for smaller and smaller cars, making a truly functional diminutive auto has been a work in progress thus far. I myself, like many, was genuinely excited to hear that the Smart car was making it to our shores a few years back, only to experience the resounding disappointment that ultimately ensued.

Many of us in the industry, however, believe that the Smart was solely a failure of execution and not the underlying idea, which is why the Scion iQ is such an intriguing vehicle.

All new for the 2012 model year, the iQ is a small "4-seater" (read on to see why I use quotation marks) that looks to take over the city streets by offering good gas mileage, a small, extremely maneuverable body and a sharp, fashionable exterior.

Since there hasn't been a true effort by any automaker to echo the idea of the smart car since it came to the U.S.--save maybe the Fiat 500--the iQ looks to raise a bar that is already set quite low. Can it overcome the bad taste in our mouths left by the Smart ForTwo? Read on to find out.

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How Much?
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How Much?

MSRP: $15,265
Invoice: $14,501

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Key Stats
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Key Stats

-1.3L I-4 engine
-94 hp, 89 lb-ft of torque
-36 mpg City, 37 mpg Highway
-2-speed CVT transmission
-16.7 cubic feet max cargo area (rear seats must be down)
-Seats 4 (technically)

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The Competition
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The Competition

Smart ForTwo (pictured), Fiat 500, forthcoming Chevy Spark

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What We Like
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What We Like

Michael: This is a sharp-looking little car -- even better looking than the Fiat 500. The designers at Scion did a great job with the exterior, giving it a fun, yet aggressive look. It's going to get you noticed around town, but not in an obnoxious way.

Speaking of driving around town, the iQ really excels at big city driving and, especially, parking. Zipping through LA traffic and squeezing into little spots on the street made my commutes considerably easier. Knowing that where the rear window ends is where the car itself ends makes parallel parking a breeze. Additionally, the turning radius is incredible.

Autoblog: The interior is a genuinely enjoyable place to spend a bit of time, with relatively high-quality, soft-touch plastics up front that predictably devolve into lower-class kit further down. The steering wheel tilts but doesn't telescope, and comes complete with redundant audio controls and a "flat bottom" (barely) that frees up some knee space. The seats, thin and lacking any serious bolstering, kept us comfortable during a pair of hour-plus stints behind the wheel, although said wheel's ability to communicate anything aside from deep ruts and bumps could be charitably described as lacking. But again, this isn't a driver's car.

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What We Don't Like
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What We Don't Like

Michael: Unfortunately, this car has quite a few shortcomings, most notably in the passenger space department. Plain and simple, this car cannot fit 4 people. And it can barely fit 3 people. To do so, the person in the back would have to contort their body so that their legs were occupying the space between both of the front seats. I tried driving around for an hour or so with 3 people in this car and no one emerged in a good mood. But if you want a commuter car that you, the owner, will be using the iQ for most of the time, it should be on your shopping list.

Another issue I had came in the form of a severe blind spot that really complicates backing out of parking spaces and changing lanes. For such a small car, one would think visibility on the road would be decent, but the big pillar in the back makes for a lot of guesswork and neck strain in the parking lot.

Finally, this car is simply too expensive. Considering that you can get a small, four-door sedan for about the same price (Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Sonic, etc.), you need to really be sure you don't need any extra space if you're going for the iQ.

Autoblog: Toyota tasked its tallest engineer (over six feet), Hiroki Nakajima, with development of the iQ, and he squeezed in with Jack Hollis, Scion's Vice President, and two other six-foot Toyota employees for a 30-minute drive around the city. So yes, it can be done. But unless you regularly shuttle midget amputees, it's best to consider this a two-seater with 16.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the 50/50 rear seats folded down (a tiny 3.5 cubes with the seats in place).

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Bottom Line
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Bottom Line

Bottom Line

Considering what you can get for a similar price (Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent), you would have to really want a tiny car to opt for the iQ. If you are looking for something in the pint-sized department, the iQ is undoubtedly a better option than the Smart ForTwo and, despite its flaws, makes for a solid vehicle to have in the big city, especially if you are rather fashion-conscious.

But at the end of the day, the iQ gets the same fuel economy and costs the same price as several other cars that can comfortably fit 4 people and their stuff at the same time. Knowing that I'll certainly need a backseat at some point during my car ownership experience, I can't say I would opt for the iQ.

AOL Autos Score:



2.5/5 Stars


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