Joe Duarte

2012 Scion iQ

Scion iQ acts smarter than the average city car

2012 Scion iQ

Car Review

Overall rating:


Strengths and weaknesses:

  • four seats
  • fuel economy
  • squat looks
  • turning circle
  • no room for four
  • not much room for cargo
  • uncomfortable on longer trips

Editor's Ratings:

  • Price: 8/10

  • Performance: 5/10

  • Comfort (front): 6/10

  • Consumption: 9/10

  • Look: 7/10

Scion iQ acts smarter than the average city car

"iQ can pull a u-turn in two lanes, which means street parking doesn’t really impede its ability to get around a city."

So what’s so smart about a teeny tiny car into which you can barely fit your family? When it’s the new Scion iQ, the smart part is that you can fit more of your family in … and still get all the advantages of driving a teeny tiny car in the big city.

Search available trim options for the 2012 Scion iQ

The car is marketed as the Toyota iQ (reportedly standing for intelligent quality) outside North America and a rebadged version is sold as the Aston Martin Cygnet (mostly to existing Aston owners).

The iQ’s main competitor is the Smart Fortwo (iQ … Smart; see the relationship?), but unlike the tiny German city dancer, iQ has an extra set of seats. Not a lot of extra space, mind you, but enough for a couple extra seats.

The iQ is over a foot longer than the Fortwo, riding on a wheelbase that is about five inches longer. It’s also about five inches wider, but about an inch and a half shorter in height. It all adds up to a car that looks better balanced than the Smart, with a turning circle that is about the same size. If you’ve ever tried to turn around on a city street, you know the benefit of a tight turning circle, and iQ can pull a u-turn in two lanes, which means city street parking doesn’t really impede its ability to get around a city.

If you’ve seen the Youtube videos to promote the product, you’re familiar with its ability to perform tight donuts in a parking lot while holding four occupants munching on donuts and drinking (spilling would probably be a better description) milk, but you may not have noticed that the driver is always the same petite blonde.

The moral of the story is that you can truly take along three passengers provided the driver is a slim petite blonde. However, my wife won’t let me have one of those, so I have to do with two passengers. Now, if we had a newborn in a child carrier, it would fit in nicely in the space behind the driver’s seat, but otherwise there is no knee room whatsoever once I get situated behind the wheel.

Are my passengers comfortable? Yes, provided the trip isn’t a long one – the uprightness of the seats (iQ has plenty of vertical space, so it comes down to how you like to sit in a car) makes for tight backs, especially in the rear where there is no reclinability and really no opportunity to stretch out across the bench.

In fact, the bench (whose back folds in a 50/50 split) may end up living most of its life as a parcel shelf. With the rear seat(s) in use, there is barely enough room in which to fit a computer bag and a jug of washer fluid. But, remove the high headrests and fold the seatbacks down flat and you have room for a couple fairly large suitcases (maybe one full sized bag, an overnight bag, video camera case and a tripod … in other words, the essentials for a “romantic” overnight with your loved one).

The problem with loading it up, though, is that driving also drains a lot of the engine’s power, especially when you consider the transmission of choice for city dwellers is an automatic (and in the iQ’s case, that’s a continuously variable unit). Although the iQ 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine is larger and peppier than the Smart’s 1.0L “three,” it still makes just 94 hp, which means adding 250 lbs. worth of passengers and some cargo is going to make the engine struggle.

As a personal vehicle, though, shuttling just the driver to and from work each day, it really can’t be beat. And although it’s easy to dismiss it because the Smart Fortwo will also perform those same duties, the iQ is cheaper, less annoying to drive every day and marginally better in the economy department.

Personally, I’d rather raise my iQ than act Smart.

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Fact file

  • Year/Make/Model: 2012 Scion iQ
  • Price as tested: $17,690
  • Options: Pioneer premium sound system ($595); fog lights ($335).
  • EnerGuide fuel economy ratings: 5.5 L/100km city; 4.7 L/100km hwy
  • Observed fuel economy: 5.8 L/100km over 841 km
  • Warranty (powertrain): 5 years/ 100,000 km
  • Competitors: Smart Fortwo
  • Warranty (basic): 3 years/ 60,000 km
  • Freight: $1,495