The innovative Toyota iQ has hit the road - but is it as clever as it thinks?
With its space-saving 3+1 seating layout the iQ is a compact and agile city car. It’s also surprisingly capable over longer distances, comes well equipped and has supremely low CO2 emissions. However, it isn’t cheap compared to its traditional supermini rivals and the interior quality is patchy. One of the most exciting aspects of the iQ is what the space saving lessons learned here will mean for the next generation Yaris...
You would expect a car called the iQ to be clever – and Toyota’s new city runabout doesn’t disappoint. Measuring less than 3m long the firm says it is the smallest four-seater in the world, and it’s charged with attracting a younger audience to the Toyota brand.
With space-saving features including a flat fuel tank hidden in the floor and ultra-thin front seats the iQ is undeniably smart, but it’s wheel-at-each-corner stance and squared-off looks aren’t exactly pretty. Its unusual proportions certainly attract lots of attention, though, and the iQ won’t mistaken for anything else on the road.
Climb aboard and you’ll soon see that the little Toyota is really a 3+1 rather than a genuine four-seater. Its asymmetrical dashboard allows the front passenger to sit further forwards than the driver, freeing up valuable legroom behind for another adult, but legroom behind the driver is severely restricted.
Up front the cabin has the feel of a much larger car thanks to its width, and the distance you sit from the windscreen. The driving position is similarly comfortable too and while you don’t get the luxury of a reach-adjustable steering wheel it avoids the sit-up-and-beg seating position of the Smart ForTwo. In fact, it’s only when you glance back over your shoulder and see the close proximity of the rear windscreen that you’re reminded of the car’s compact design.
The simple dashboard is well equipped and in flagship iQ2 (pronounced ‘iQ squared’ trim you get climate control, keyless entry and nine airbags. It’s all feels solidly put together but some of the interior plastics are low rent and the inverted-triangle design of the centre console looks dated.
Fire up the three-cylinder engine and such concerns evaporate because the 1.0-litre engine from the Aygo is perfectly suited to the iQ. Its off-beat engine note is muted a high cruising speeds and it provides impressive performance.
Despite its short wheelbase the iQ also rides with impressive composure, and it doesn’t display the bouncy feel that characterises its Smart rival. In town the minuscule turning circle of just 7.8m also makes for excellent manoeuvrability, while tidy handling and a snappy gearshift complete the dynamic package.
For all its clever touches, though, the Toyota isn’t without its flaws. For instance bringing the front passenger forwards to liberate rear legroom puts them in the way of the driver at junctions. Passengers travelling in the back also enjoy little visibility or headroom. And if you do use all four seats the boot is non-existent. When you do fold the rear seats to gain some luggage space your bags will be on view as there’s no load cover.
As a car for space-deprived urbanites who rarely need to carry passengers it makes plenty of sense, but at £9,495 the entry-level iQ is expensive and a regular superminis provide more space.