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Toyota iQ vs rivals

Can Toyota’s revolutionary iQ shake up the city car sector? We stretch it to the limit in three unique twin tests.

The smallest four-seater in the world – that’s how Toyota is billing its striking new iQ city car. If you think that squeezing four people into a hatchback measuring less than three metres long is impossible, you’re wrong. Or are you?

To find out if the newcomer is the packaging marvel it claims to be, or if novel features such as its flat fuel tank and wafer thin seats promise more than they deliver, Auto Express has devised the ultimate road test. The iQ aims to offer a combination of practicality, ultra-low emissions and distinctive looks to go with its premium price tag, so we’ve lined up a trio of rivals.

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Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Toyota iQ

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Its first challenge comes from Smart’s cleverly packaged ForTwo. This car is rear-engined, but manages to fit only a pair of seats into its tiny coupé body. Still, it makes more sense than ever now thanks to a new micro hybrid drive system, called mhd, which claims to boost economy and cut CO2 emissions. Will that help the ForTwo see off its four-seater rival?

To test the iQ’s catwalk appeal, we’ve got the ultimate city car accessory. Fiat’s reborn 500 is the class leader, and its retro looks hark back to the cute Fifties original. We see if the futuristic newcomer can match the Italian for charm.

The final car in our trio represents another tough assignment for the Toyota – because the SEAT Ibiza SC combines space and style in a fun and affordable package. Its striking looks and sporty three-door body ooze kerb appeal, and it has more interior space than any of the cars in this test. The best news is that our SE model even undercuts the clever Toyota on price.

Small cars are big news in Japan, so can our European contenders beat the Japanese city runabout at its own game? Let’s find out…

Verdict

The Toyota iQ is one of 2009’s most interesting models. But what’s been designed as a four-seater city car is in practice a flawed three-seater with a compromised boot. Its looks are questionable, while cabin quality is poor for the price.

Arguably the most exciting thing about the iQ is the lessons Toyota will have learned ahead of the launch of its next Yaris.

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