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Bigger Than a Breadbox

The 2012 Scion iQ

Scion bills this car as “the world’s smallest four-seater.” It’s only 10 feet long and, yes, has seating for four. But if I’m driving, the person sitting behind me won’t be too happy with their legs thrown up and over their shoulders, because that’s where they’ll have to go with the driver’s seat right up against the back seat. True, I’m six feet tall and need the seat that far back; other, shorter drivers will leave a bit of leg room back there for other, even shorter passengers. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.

I suppose looking at the iQ brings up the inevitable comparison questions between it and the smart fortwo. In the interest of saving space, I’ll steer you to Scion’s web page, which compares size and equipment of the iQ, fortwo, and for good measure, the Fiat 500:

I’ll quickly summarize my own impressions here, as I’ve driven all three. I like the looks of the Fiat (including the interior) the best, and the fortwo the least. The iQ drove the best, but the Fiat may have been more fun, while the quirky powertrain of the fortwo turned me off. The iQ, being wider, seemed to offer more space inside (true in the front, but the rear seat of the Fiat was actually wider), although head and front-seat leg room are within an inch on all three cars. If you’re planning on taking a trip, it will have to be two people with their luggage behind the front seat, or send your stuff ahead by UPS, because with four passengers — your luggage? Fuggedaboutit.

If you’ve been out of the automotive market for a while, and are wondering “What’s a Scion?” it’s a sub-brand of Toyota. They also make the xB, tC, and xD. Their naming system is quite catchy. I’m thinking of renaming this column yAK, or maybe yaK. i’M not sure. The iQ is sold in most of the rest of the world as the Toyota iQ—and it’s also sold in some parts of the world as a badge-engineered Aston Martin. Yep, that’s right, an Aston Martin, where it’s called a Cygnet. I imagine most buyers are Aston Martin owners who maybe need a grocery runner—a grocery runner which sells for just south of $50,000! Compare that to the iQ’s starting price of $15,995 and you have to wonder who’d ever buy such a thing. But there you have it.

Driving the iQ isn’t much different from driving any other small car. Of course, looking behind you and seeing next-to-nothing, car-wise, is a new experience for most. Parallel parking? A snap. You may not even have to parallel park the iQ—it’s so short you can just pull into many curbside spaces. The only available powertrain is a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine connected to a CVT automatic transmission. It’s no powerhouse, but moves the iQ along at a speed most likely to satisfy the type of person who’d drive one (although I’m not sure how the Aston Martin owners feel about this). My drive around Grand Island was pretty uneventful; that is, if I hadn’t looked back when pulling out of Fucillo Toyota/Scion, I wouldn’t have realized there was hardly any bit of car behind me. It’s not Camry-smooth, to be sure, but for a small car it wasn’t a bad ride. Salesman Ryan Myles told me they often take an iQ when making a food run from the dealership, and, why not? It’s fun to pull it into those impossibly small spaces at the pizzeria that you usually find at lunch-time. It’s cheap to operate (EPA estimated at 36/37 miles per gallon city/highway). And for now at least, driving one gets you a lot of “What is that?” looks.

Now if they could make that back seat just a little bigger…

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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