Toyota iQ: 3,969 miles

Second report: City car stars in our very own little and large show

Is bigger really better, or is it small that’s beautiful? This is the question I faced when our tiny Toyota iQ was confronted with the giant John Deere tractor that starred in our 300bhp group test.

There’s no denying that the huge green and yellow machine is a blast to drive: everyone who went for a spin emerged from its towering glass cab with a big grin on their face. But the tractor is only really at its best when ploughing fields and pulling machinery – which is not much help on my daily commute across London!

This is where the iQ comes into its own, as my trip to the office includes numerous width restrictions, sleeping policemen and traffic jams. With its compact size, light controls and willing three-cylinder engine, the Toyota is the perfect urban partner.

Better still, its talents don’t disappear when you hit the outskirts of town. If anything, the Japanese car’s performance is even more impressive on the numerous long trips we’ve taken together. Motorway journeys are particularly enjoyable, as the combination of tall gearing, a good driving position and strong refinement make the city car surprisingly comfortable and composed. Only on steep, fast inclines are you reminded of its lack of outright performance.

I’ve even been pleasantly surprised by the Toyota’s practicality. I normally travel two-up, which means I can fold the rear seats flat to liberate a useful 242-litre carrying capacity. However, the iQ isn’t without its faults. While the six-speaker stereo is powerful, it can only be controlled by the tiny steering wheel-mounted joystick and button. This makes tuning radio stations a little tricky. You end up scrolling through endless menus, when a simple button on the dash would be far more logical.

This complexity hasn’t dented my affections for the little Toyota, though – and it appears that I’m not alone. Whenever I pass a fellow iQ owner I’m greeted with a wave, a flash of headlights and a big smile. I’m not sure that I’d be treated to the same enthusiastic reception from behind the wheel of the John Deere!

Second Opinion

A series of airport runs in our iQ has confirmed that it is just as competent on a motorway slog as it is around town. Refinement is so good, I’m often surprised when I turn around and find the rear screen within touching distance! I’m still confused as to why the car needs to be so short, though – the back seats are virtually unusable.

- Jack Rix Motoring writer

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