Car Reviews

Never mind the length, check out the iQ

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

The innovativeToyota iQ city car really does prove that good things come in small packages, says Guy Bird

In times of economic hardship it’s little wonder fuel-efficient small cars appeal. But up until recently they have tended to be pretty dull fish; more about getting from A to B than driving fun or innovation. Luckily the Toyota iQ is anything but. Making the new Mini look big and the old Mini seem basic the iQ is brimming with luxury appointments but at half a metre shorter than the Fiat 500 (see rivals panel), is still able to fit four people inside.

The iQ’s secret is the clever packaging of its mechanical and electrical innards. At the front a more compact compartment means the front wheels can be placed further towards the corners of the car for a shorter front overhang as well as creating more passenger cabin length, while inside the air-conditioning system has been drastically reduced in size. It now fits just behind the centre of the dashboard-previous systems spilled across the back of the passenger side of the dash board too. Crucially, this means the dashboard can be set back much further towards the windscreen on the passenger side to enable the iQ’s breakthrough ‘3+1’seating configuration.

As the iQ’s cabin is longer on the passenger side it allows two adults to sit one behind the other, while the other side still allows for a steering wheel and driver, and either a child seat or luggage space behind. In a week’s test with my family I can report it really does work, although being of 6ft I needed to be on the longer passenger side of the cabin when all four family members were inside. My wife being shorter, had her seat pushed further towards the steering wheel and thus allowed more space behind her on the smaller side of the cabin. It’s a genuinely neat solution.

Performance Value For Money Child-Friendliness
Not a perfomance car, but the iQ is sprightly and fun £11,495 is a lot for a city car but this is a great one Kids love it;access is fine from wide doors, small but safe

You couldn’t fit the holiday luggage in the iQ but you could manage much of day-to-day family life and a fair amount of short weekend jaunts too. Shorter than sister Toyota products –the Aygo city car and Yaris supermini –but measuring a similar width and height to the latter, the iQ still creates a wide-open interior feeling. In top trim iQ2, it’s amazingly well appointed with a sculpted leather seats, satnav and a decent stereo. Despite having boot space fit only for a slim laptop bag, Toyota says that the iQ makes no compromises on safety featuring nine airbags including curtain airbags behind the rear passengers’ heads.

Along with slimmer seats, space is created at the very back of the vehicle with a flat underfloor fuel tank plus rear-angled shock absorbers – meaning the car’s rear overhangs can be shorter too. Beware though, due to the tank’s small size, after a 250-mile round trip I was searching for a petrol station. Luckily fuel economy can hit 60mpg quite easily and CO2 emissions start again at 99g/km for the basic iQ, equalling zero road tax. The long haul just mentioned also proved the iQ can accelerate briskly on dual carriageways to overtake and cope happily at motorway speeds without too much noise from the engine.

Back in town, the car nips in and out of traffic brilliantly, has a London taxi-style turning circle, and parks almost anywhere due to its size. The iQ isn’t budget motoring though. Its neatly styled exterior and high quality interior aim to tempt buyers out of upmarket bigger ‘small cars’ like the Mini and Fiat 500 with prices from £9,495 for the iQ, to £11,495 for the iQ2 tested. That’s a lot of money for a city car but the iQ is genuinely one of the most innovative around –and cool with it. Families –especially urban ones-should definitely investigate further.

Dad Kudos Verdict
iQ is a cool unisex car. There’s nothing aggressive or cutesy about it Luxury, stylish but tiny; an incredible package

Car tested:
Toyota iQ2 Multidrive (auto), 
Price: £11,495, Engine: 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol, Top speed: 93mph, 0-60: 15.5secs, Economy 60.1 mpg, Co2: 110g/km (Band B road tax)