Toyota iQ 2009 - long term test

It’s time to bid our super city slicker a fond farewell.

  • The three-cylinder engine split opinion in the office, with many criticising its lack of pace. However, I loved the characterful powerplant. While the performance was only ever adequate, the tuneful unit thrived on hard work, happily revving to the limiter in an effort to keep up with faster traffic. Better still, it produced only 99g/km of CO2 and delivers a respectable 50.7mpg.
  • Despite Toyota’s claims, the iQ is not a genuine four-seater. With an average height driver at the wheel, only small children or contortionists will fit in the chair behind. However, trips with three adults on board are no problem.

Here's now a small space in the road outside my house, but a big hole in my heart. After six months of faithful service, our Toyota iQ has been taken away.

It’s fair to say that after half a year’s motoring, I’d become extremely attached to the tiny machine. As a road tester, I get to drive all sorts of weird and wonderful cars, but I always relished the opportunity to get back behind the wheel of the iQ.

While it is designed to take on the confines of the urban environment, the Toyota has an appetite for adventure that regularly saw it travelling much further afield. Whether it was a dash through town, a blast along a country road or a long motorway journey, the Toyota always excelled. But that’s not to say it wasn’t without fault.

The most glaring issue was the firm’s assertion that this is the world’s smallest four-seater. On a technicality this is correct, as a quick glance around the compact cabin will reveal four chairs complete with individual headrests. However, in reality, there was never more than enough space for three adults, as the seating position for even average height drivers left no room for legroom behind.

In fact, I found that the Toyota was at its best when used as a practical two-seater. By folding the rear bench flat, you liberate a useful 242 litres of carrying capacity. Unfortunately, the press-stud fabric luggage cover is fiddly to fit, although the darkened rear privacy glass does a reasonable job of cloaking any  possessions left in the back.

Some colleagues complained about the lack of urge from the 67bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre powerplant – a problem compounded by the long gear ratios. But I enjoyed making the most of the unit’s limited pace. And while a brief spin in the new 1.3-litre version highlighted my car’s performance deficit, I’d still go for the smaller engine every time – not least because of its lower running costs.

The annual tax disc costs nothing thanks to CO2 emissions of only 99g/km, while average fuel returns of more than 50mpg mean you won’t pay a fortune at the pumps. On the other hand, while the Toyota is cheap to run, it’s not a bargain basement choice – a fact highlighted by its £9,495 asking price, which could easily buy a larger supermini.

The extra outlay is worth it, though – in terms of quality, the iQ feels like a scaled down Avensis rather than an upmarket Aygo. The only glitch were cracks that started to appear in the front grille slats just before we sent the car back.Some of the shiny plastics in the cabin looked a little low rent, but otherwise the fit and finish were excellent, and there was plenty of standard kit.

Our car had air-con and electric windows, plus a lovely leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel, which contained the frustrating joystick control for the radio. Once you’d mastered this confusing system – or plugged an MP3 player into the auxiliary socket – the sound quality from the six-speaker set-up was surprisingly good.

The driving experience proved impressive, too. Despite its dimensions, the Toyota feels very grown-up on the move, delivering strong refinement and comfort, even on motorway hauls. However, its natural habitat is the urban jungle.

Here you can exploit its black cab-like turning circle and small size, which even allows it to be parked widthways against the kerb. And it’s neat tricks like this that I will miss now the Toyota is gone. Unlike other models in the firm’s line-up, it has genuine character, nd a rich vein of talent that runs deep. It will take something special to fill the gap.

Second opinion

Like James, I had a real soft spot for the iQ. It’s great that Toyota is brave enough to build such an innovatively designed car. And I loved the tight turning circle and sharply laid out cabin.

My commute takes me out of London and includes a fair chunk of motorway running, and it’s here that the little Toyota really impressed me. It’s stable, plus is noticably more refined than its key rival, the Smart ForTwo.

Having just driven the 1.3-litre stop/start equipped version, I’ve a few fingers crossed hoping another iQ will join our long-term fleet!    

Owen Mildenhall Senior road tester

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