- Fast Facts
TUCSON, Ariz. — A clever little car — conformed as a curvaceous cheese wedge cast on tiny wheels with a raked prow, lots of glass up front and the tail squared for a hatchback rear door — whips smoothly through chicanes on a corkscrew course east of Tucson in the Arizona desert.
The 175/60R16 all-season tires prance independently over rippled pavement as the chassis, stretched to a wide track but on a curt-length wheelbase, maintains a flat stance through so many bends in the two-lane road.
And in the cockpit one driver strapped into the bolstered bucket maintains a firm hold on the leather-bound steering wheel while surrounded by 11 inflatable safety devices — there are air bags even on front seat cushions and the rear window.
To pace this automotive action, a deep-beat rhythm throbs in the micro-sized four-seat cab, due to tunes off our iPod tracked by the stock-issue 160-watt Pioneer audio kit through multiple speakers.
Is this a wild set of wheels, or what?
It scores major marks for style and substance, and, as we observe during drive tests in the urban sprawl of Tucson, also draws spectator attention on street corners due to the unusually small package and dramatic geometric styling.
This itsy-bitsy economy car carries the nameplate of iQ for model-year 2012 and conforms as a micro compact 3-door hatchback coupe developed exclusively for Scion in America.
The brand of Scion, derived from Toyota, showcases rather cool but affordable small cars pitched to that 20-something market called Generation Y.
iQ looks progressive, even daring.
Rather than the typical long, low and slinky shape of a conventional car, our tester stands tall in the aerodynamic format of a cubistic bubble on wheels which seems to tip forward due to the high tail and low nose united by the roofline initiated by a boldly raked windshield.
It has a monochromatic face with the fat lip of fascia set low and tinted to the body color. The grille is narrow, as unusual shapes for the multi-lens headlamp clusters wrap around front corners.
Flanks are wavy but fenders emphasize the wheel arches with sculptured rims.
Dimensions of the iQ body are absolutely tiny — only 10 feet long and about 5 feet tall but 5.5 feet wide.
Inside, the cabin floor dips low so you can step aboard easily, and the ceiling bows high to fit tall chair-like seats. Riders in the two front buckets sit upright, with their heads positioned higher than normal for better visibility though an expansive wrap of windows. Still, ample air space remains overhead, which diminishes the crammed and jammed atmosphere of the typical small car.
The right-side front seat mounts slightly forward of the left-side driver seat to provide more legroom for the right-side rear seat. But the driver seat almost butts against the left-side rear seat, leaving it suited for mounting a child seat or stowing luggage.
Rear seatbacks split 50/50 and fold flat to expand the miniscule cargo compartment.
The iQ instrument panel adds a round binnacle housing orange-lettered analog gauges. Standard equipment includes a Scion Drive Monitor that displays such data as outside temperature, average mpg and economy-driving mode.
That leather-wrapped three-point steering wheel is thick and flat on the bottom to ease driver’s thigh room.
The speed-sensing steering system gets electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of iQ’s tiny engine. Because this vehicle has such a brief wheelbase length, the turning radius is also tiny — only 12.9 feet.
Brakes carry front discs and rear drums with computer-controlled anti-lock brake system (ABS) as well as electronic brake force distribution (EBD) — which measures differences in speed for front and rear wheels, then doles out proper braking force to all wheels — and a vehicle stability control (VSC) device and traction control (TRAC).
Scion maxes hardware for passive safety on the iQ, with dual frontal air bags and front seat-mounted side air bags plus curtain-style air bags in headliners above front and rear outboard seats, as well as knee air bags to shield the front riders, front seat cushion air bags and the industry’s first rear window air bag.
For motivation the iQ totes an efficient 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams (DOHC), direct ignition and intelligent variable valve timing (VVT-i).
The plant produces 94 hp at 6000 rpm and 89 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. With the standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), iQ earns fuel economy scores of 36 mpg City and 37 mpg Highway.
Standard cabin contents range from air conditioning and power controls for windows/locks/mirrors to front sport bucket seats with woven fabric upholstery, adjustable height for the driver’s seat, a tilting leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls, leather-bound shift knob, 50/50 split folding rear seats, a tachometer plus trip meter, Bluetooth connectivity and the 160-watt Pioneer audio with HD/AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA/USB and auxiliary audio ports.
Add-on gear includes alloy wheels, foglamps, a rear spoiler, floor mats, cargo mat, 7-color cabin light kit, navigation system with 7-inch touch-screen display and a 200-watt Pioneer premium audio package with Pandora live audio streaming and RCA outputs for external amplifiers.
Scion sets the MSRP for a 2012 iQ at only $15,265.
2012 SCION iQ HATCH SPECIFICATIONS
- Description: Micro compact 3-door hatch
- Model options: iQ
- Wheelbase: 78.7 inches
- Overall length: 120.1 inches
- Engine size: DOHC 1.3-L I4/VVT-i
- Transmissions/speeds: CVT-i
- Rear/front drive: Front
- Steering: EPS/rack and pinion
- Braking: Power disc/drum, ABS/EBD/EBA/VSC/TRAC
- Air bags: 2 (front), 2 (side), 4 (side curtain), 2 (knee), 2 (seat cushion), 1 (rear window)
- EPA mileage est. city/hwy.: 36/37 mpg
- MSRP, est.: $15,265