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Toyota iQ and Avensis

Twin report: Does a tiny city car or big estate make more sense for modern drivers? Our new Toyota's will help us decide.

Little and large have joined the Auto Express fleet – in the shape of a pair of new Toyotas!

We’ve taken delivery of the smallest car in the Japanese firm’s line-up to find out just how clever the iQ really is. At the opposite end of the range is the Avensis Tourer – so how much more practicality do you get for your money?

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That’s the question we hope to answer in the months ahead. Neither the iQ nor the Avensis Tourer has managed to notch up overall road test victories so far, but will they be more attractive to live with on a daily basis?

First things first, though – because we need to decide who on the Auto Express staff should be looking after the latest additions to our fleet. That’s why we’ve brought the two together – for a kind of automotive casting session. The iQ is the first model to audition, and it isn’t shy. With its wheel-at-each-corner looks, upright body and wraparound rear windscreen, our white example isn’t a car for people who don’t want to get noticed. Or for those with a family!

Toyota bills the quirky iQ as the world’s smallest four- seater, but it didn’t take us long to work out that it’s actually a three-seater with a hugely impractical boot. Its asymmetrical cabin layout places the front passenger further forwards than the driver, liberating legroom to the rear. Yet trying to sit anyone behind the driver is a fruitless exercise – as there simply isn’t the space.

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On the road, the tiny turning circle and small dimensions make the iQ perfect for city driving, but it also has a trick up its sleeve, because longer trips are easily dealt with, too. Its grown-up driving position and tall gearing provide surprising high-speed refinement. As long as you’re not in a hurry, the three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine underneath its stubby bonnet is more than up to the job.

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Even so, the iQ is in its element around town, and our entry-level manual version emits only 99g/km of CO2 –qualifying the baby Toyota for free road tax. So, to take the keys, we need a self-confident and patient individual with no children, but who occasionally likes to get out of the city...

The Avensis Tourer is the polar opposite of the iQ. Its styling is so understated, you barely realise it has arrived for its audition. Its looks don’t turn heads like its smaller stablemate’s, so we’re looking for someone to take the keys who doesn’t mind blending into the background.

Mind you, the Avensis has more space inside. In fact, with ample rear legroom and a practical 543-litre boot, it can carry five people with space for their luggage. Our test car is a high-spec T4 example, which includes luxuries such as leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, and dual-zone digital air-conditioning.

It also features a 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel, which mixes punchy performance with decent fuel economy (44.3mpg). So it will suit someone who covers long distances carrying plenty of baggage – and who likes a bit of pampering. We’ll reveal in our next report which members of the team we chose...

First Impressions

iQ

SO near, yet so far... that’s my take on the iQ. In creating a city car that’s genuinely good to drive at speed, Toyota has managed a world first. However, the packaging is compromised – for me, this model would work better as a two-seater with a decent-sized boot. It’s great in town, though, fitting through tight gaps and squeezing into the smallest parking spots. - Chris Thorp: Road test editor

Avensis

IT feels like there’s a lot of Lexus in the latest Avensis. The way the electrically adjustable steering column moves out of your way when you kill the ignition is pure IS, as are the keyless entry and start button and cruise control. Fortunately, the gearshift is much better than in our old long-term Lexus, although the cabin plastics and exterior styling are a letdown. - Ross Pinnock: Road tester

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