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2012 Scion iQ: Intelligence Quotient?

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For 2012, Scion is pushing the size envelope with the ultra diminutive iQ. At just a smidgen under 10 feet long, this four seater (yes, four seater) is tiny!

The question for me after driving the iQ is “why?” In reality, the four seat configuration is innovative, but hardly practical. Scion achieved the arrangement by eliminating the glove box from the passenger dashboard area (replaced with a tray under the front passenger seat), essentially moving the right front passenger forward, giving adequate space for a rear seat passenger on the right side of the car. The problem comes in with anyone who tries to sit behind the driver. If you are over 5’8” tall, you better have a Mini Me sized person behind you or they simple won’t fit. This pretty much renders the iQ as a three seater, and even then the competition betters it on almost every front.

At a base price of $15,995, it’s in a well occupied market shared by the likes of Ford Fiesta and Focus, Hyundai Accent, Kia Soul and Honda Fit and Chevy Sonic. Here are some interesting numbers:

  • Ford Fiesta: Base MSRP – $13,200; five seats; 29/40 city-highway mpg
  • Hyundai Accent: Base MSRP – $14,195; five seats; 30/40 city-highway mpg
  • Honda Fit: Base MSRP – $15,175; five seats; 27/33 city-highway mpg
  • Kia Soul: Base MSRP – $13,900; five seats; 27/35 city-highway mpg
  • Chevy Sonic: Base MSRP – $13,735; five seats; 26/35 city-highway mpg

Compare these to the Scion iQ:

  • Base MSRP-$15,995; four seats (3.5?); 36/37 city-highway mpg

And finally to Scion’s own excellent xD:

  • Base MSRP-$16,075, five seats; 27/33 city-highway mpg

Do you get the point?

It just does not seem to make any fiscal sense to buy a car that is smaller and less efficient than others on the market. Scion has outfitted the iQ with 11 airbags, including two rear seat, rear head airbags. They are certainly needed as rear passengers sit just inches from the rear hatch glass. Airbag or no airbag, there simply is not enough crash space in the rear to adequately protect you in a rear collision with an Escalade or a Vespa for that matter.

On the road, I found the iQ to be a mixed bag. It comes standard with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is simply not a good match for the 94 horsepower 1.3-liter four banger. It’s noisy and just as rubber-bandy as some of Nissan’s early CVT’s. Plan your highway moves carefully (remember that Escalade), as acceleration is not a strong point.

Due to its very short wheelbase, ride quality and straight line handling also suffer. This car is darty, and urban roads will punish both you and the car. Interior fit and finish and overall build quality is excellent though, except for the tacked on hands free Bluetooth microphone stuck to the base of the center gauge cluster.

So it’s not a 40-mpg club member, your overall safety is in question, it’s pretty expensive and small enough to be Toy Story’s Woody’s personal transportation.

Scion’s tagline for the iQ is “iQ, THERFORE i AM.” It should read “iQ, THEREFORE i CAN’T.” My recommendation is to pass on this one, and scroll up to the many alternative, better buying choices.


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