Toyota iQ Review

The Toyota iQ on its Green car guide road test

Toyota iQ

Road test of the Toyota iQ

Model/Engine size: iQ2 1.0 VVT-i Manual
Fuel: Petrol
Fuel economy combined: 65.7 mpg

The iQ is an exercise by Toyota to see how much of a grown-up car they can squeeze into the smallest possible size. And we’re pleased to report they’ve achieved their goal.

Side view of the Toyota iQ

It’s shorter than three metres in length – marginally longer (290mm) than a smart fortwo – however the internal packaging can seat ‘3 plus 1’ – this means 3 adults plus one child-sized person. This feat is achieved by some extreme, innovative packaging measures.

However despite all this, when driving the iQ, it feels like you’re driving a ‘normal’ car. The cabin feels wide (it is), and because of the unusual width for a city car, it rides like a stable grown-up car on proper out-of-town roads. The main difference comes when you get out of the iQ and suddenly realise that someone has chopped off the back of the car behind the driver’s door.

It should be stated at this stage that this very small car with a big car feel also has a big-ish car price tag. The better equipped iQ2 (pronouced iQ ‘squared’) as tested – with different wheels, climate control, auto wipers and lamps, and keyless go – is £1000 more, weighing in at a hefty £10,495 – and it’s possible to get the price much higher than that with accessories such as satnav and leather.

So the iQ is targeted at people who want a small city car that can also drive properly out of the city . And those people need to be prepared to pay a premium for this ability.
If nothing else, the iQ is interesting – especially from a packaging design point of view. It has six key innovations that Toyota is particularly proud of.

The interior design has a dashboard which is further forward on the passenger side, allowing the passenger to sit further forward, so accommodating a large-adult type person to sit behind.

The iQ has a fuel tank that is very thin – just 12cm high – which sits underneath the car. Although it has a claimed range of around 450 miles, the fuel gauge goes down very quickly, and putting in £5 worth of fuel when its empty appears to take the tank to half full, so in everyday driving we’d be very surprised if owners managed 450 miles between fill-ups.

The differential sits in front of the engine, which means that the front wheels can be stuck right out at the front corners of the car.

The steering rack is high and far back in the engine bay, allowing space to be optimised under the bonnet. The air conditioning unit is also super-small.

And the seats are much thinner than normal, freeing up vital extra interior space. You can also fold down the rear seats, providing decent space for shopping if the family aren’t doing the shopping with you. Or if they are, maybe they can get the bus home.

The engine is a three cylinder 1.0-litre with 67bhp. This is obviously not the most powerful of engines, but it just about works OK in a car of this size and weight. Especially in its intended home, the city. Although the relatively long-gearing is primarily intended for good economy out of town.

And the iQ plays another one of its trump cards in urban environments. Turn the steering wheel of most cars and you’ve got a pretty good idea about how it will feel. Turn the steering wheel fully of the iQ for the first time and it feels like some theme park ride that plays with your senses, so unusual is the extra lock and the resultant tiny turning circle.

Be aware that the iQ can be specified with a CVT automatic transmission. This costs an extra £1000, makes the economy worse, the emissions higher, and results in you having to pay £35 per year for a tax disc under current prices, compared to the free road tax with the sub-100g/km CO2 manual version (sub-100g/km CO2 being unique for a petrol car at the moment) – so the CVT is obviously not selling itself well.

Despite its small size, the iQ’s safety credentials are good. It even features the world’s first rear-shield airbags that protect rear passengers in the event of a rear-end shunt.

The iQ's dashboard and passenger seat space

What do we think could be improved? Well, there are better looking city cars out there – we’d choose the looks of the new Ford Ka over the iQ any day. And in the quest to make the iQ refined to drive, the fun factor has been dialled out. This is not a shortened wheelbase Mini Cooper, despite what you might be hoping for.

And there’s the price. It’s around £2000 more than a Toyota Aygo . The Aygo has more space, it’s more fun to drive, and in real world driving you could expect similar fuel economy – the economy of the iQ on test was only in the mid-40’s – some way short of the claimed 65.7mpg. We’d even be tempted to say we prefer the looks of the Aygo.

A small gripe is the steering wheel mounted four-way ‘joystick’ control for the stereo, which is very difficult to move up and down without also moving side to side. In fact this reflects the overall feel in terms of quality – the interior certainly feels modern, but rather cheap and not completely solid in all areas.

However all that is missing the point of the iQ. As the name suggests, this is an intelligent car for modern city driving. And as with anything well-thought out, you should expect to pay a price premium. If you want to make a statement that you drive an innovative environmentally-conscious city car, then the iQ has to be today’s choice.

Car details and fuel economy data

Fuel economy extra urban: 72.4 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 57.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 99 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – £0
Weight: 880 Kg
Company car tax liability (2008/09): 10%
Price: £10,275 (From £9,495 to £10,495)
Insurance group: 2
Safety: NCAP TBC
Max speed: 93 mph
0-62mph: 14.7 seconds

For a Toyota iQ visit http://www.oakmeremotorgroup.co.uk/toyota