Scion iQ packs a lot into its short body
By JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media December 17, 2012 2:49PM
2013 SCION iQ
ENGINE: 94-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable transmission
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 36 city/37 highway
BASE PRICE: $15,265
AS TESTED: $17,189
The streets of Chicago are undergoing a change. A subcompact used to be the smallest car you would see while driving, but now there are several micro-subcompact cars on the road — and many more are coming.
Scion markets the 2013 iQ as a car that “meets the needs of a new trendsetting generation of urban drivers, taking big ideas and concentrating them into a small package.” Translation: It’s a small car for people who want big mileage and transportation for two.
Scion iQ’s small size is not for everyone. The 120 inches front to rear, 66.1-inch width and 78.7-inch wheelbase make it a tight squeeze for just about anybody. It’s as if its creators simply took a box and added four wheels. I think the iQ looks quirky, but several female bystanders called it “cute.”
The iQ’s size is made possible, without sacrificing comfort, due to six engineering innovations. A compact front-mounted differential, high-mount steering rack with electronic power steering and a compact air conditioning unit all amount to 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.
The iQ is equipped with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 94 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque. It features the latest dual intelligent variable valve timing, which Scion says allows the engine to be efficient, providing a broader power band requiring less fuel and generating fewer emissions.
All iQs come with a continuously variable transmission that I found disappointing. Only a few automakers have figured out CVTs, and Toyota is not there yet. During driving I noted that getting the revs up is agonizingly slow and drains any sense of urgency or a deeper sporty drive experience. When you do get the revs up to the “red zone” you’re not there long as it drops back down.
Small size and small engine combine to deliver Environmental Protection Agency figures of 36 mpg city, 37 mpg highway. The city number is the highest to date of any non-hybrid vehicle. I didn’t quite equal that number, getting around 34 mpg city.
Driving the iQ was a pleasant experience in spite of the CVT, as this small car delivers nimble handling and communicates with the driver better than expected. The short wheelbase feels like an oversized inline skate. During city driving the small car was easy to fling around corners aggressively, and the low center of gravity and decent tire grip from the p175/R60 16 tires made it entertaining. Acceleration is quick despite the CVT’s handicapping. The iQ does have a few vices, including plenty of engine noise that climbs with speed and the short wheelbase induces a “rocking” feeling at highway speeds.
Another surprise was the amount of front seat passenger room — it feels like a standard subcompact. Scion specified slim-back front seats to optimize rear legroom and quirky 3+1 offset seating layout. I transported an adult behind a front passenger and a child comfortably behind me, so the iQ is a four-person vehicle.
Standard cabin comforts included the Scion monitor that displays information like outside temperature, average mpg and an Eco-drive indicator that helps the driver maximize the iQ’s fuel efficiency. A standard AM/FM/CD/HD/USB 160-watt maximum output Pioneer audio system really wakes up the interior. A Scion navigation audio system is available, featuring an easy-to-use 7-inch touch-screen LCD display. While small, the cabin had a full array of power features, 50/50 rear seat, rear package cover and was iPod ready.
Safety can be a concern in a car this small, and the iQ addresses this with an industry-leading 11 standard airbags, including exclusive rear window airbag. All iQs come standard with the Star Safety System, which includes antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, traction control, vehicle stability control and Smart Stop technology brake override.
The iQ is a diminutive car that offers the functionality and comfort that drivers expect from a car twice its size. As a city car, the 2013 Scion iQ merits strong consideration and is a snap to park or even “invent” parking spaces. Pricing approaches $20,000, but you cannot measure value simply by the size of the vehicle you purchase.
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