What is it?
This is ‘the world’s smallest premium four-seater’ according to Toyota. It is also one of the most innovative small cars to have entered production.
The Toyota iQ was also created as part of the company’s New Small Car strategy, which aimed to “revolutionize vehicle packaging”. Toyota engineers also sum up the iQ as a “car with A-segment dimension, performance surpassing a B-segment car and interior and exterior quality in line with a C-segment car or higher”.
The Toyota iQ measures 2985mm from nose to tail and sits on a unique front-engined platform. Underpinning the iQ concept was the repositioning of the front wheels so that they are located ahead of the engine, achieved using a differential mounted forward of the engine’s crankshaft.
Toyota says this allowed it to reduce the typical distance from the tip of the front bumper to the accelerator by 120mm – extra space, which has found its way into the cabin.
To keep the intrusion into the cabin at a minimum, the iQ gets a high-mounted steering rack, with centre take-off for the column and an ultra-compact climate control unit, which is powerful enough to meet Toyota’s standards for the Middle East.
The Toyota iQ also uses a very thin, flat fuel tank mounted under the floorpan. The front chassis members are closer together than normal, allowing improved wheel articulation and a very tight turning circle. Weight has been kept down to between 860 and 895kg.
The launch engine will be a 68bhp 1.0-litre, three-pot petrol unit driving a five-speed manual. A new six-speed CVT box is optional. Next year a 1.33-litre petrol engine with a start-stop system will be offered. The UK will not get the 1.4-litre diesel iQ.
What’s it like?
While the Toyota iQ’s engineering is highly unusual, the driving dynamics are not. Despite being very short, the iQ drives like a much larger machine. It might be more expensive, but is also undoubtedly superior to the Smart.
There are three reasons for this. Firstly, the shoulder room in the wide, spacey cabin almost matches that of Toyota Auris. Secondly, the Toyota iQ is impressively refined. But most importantly, the car is very stable even at higher motorway speeds.
It avoids the Smart’s rather tiptoe, understeery manner and is much more impressively planted on the road. On the French autoroutes, the Toyota iQ was unaffected by passing lorries and coaches and passenger voices hardly have to be raised at a 100kmh (60mph) cruise.
However, despite the huge windscreen and doors, the over-shoulder view is poor. The thick B-pillar and rear ‘porthole’ window make angled junctions a bit tricky.
We sampled both the manual 1.4-litre diesel and the 1.33-litre petrol with a CVT ‘box - the petrol version is due in the UK next year - and both engines gave the Toyota iQ decent big-car performance. The 1.33 and CVT was an impressive combination offering surprisingly muscular performance with two up and some heavy luggage, even when climbing hills.
The CVT box is very clean shifting and there’s none of the momentary lag and intrusive engine braking that still upsets the Smart’s forward progress. However, when in ‘eco’ mode, the box shifts into top gear very quickly, leaving the engine on the point of labouring at urban speeds.
The iQ steers with precision and has the most extraordinary turning circle. If anything needs attention it’s the rather dead-feeling and unprogressive brakes and the ride, which can get very choppy on broken surfaces.
The iQ will accommodate three full-size adults. The front passenger slides the front seat forward – while still having plenty of room – and another adult can get in behind.
The usefulness of the rear seat behind the driver depends on the length of the driver’s legs – but it has the head and shoulder room for a biggish child, if not another adult. The front seats are also wide, high-backed and comfortable. With the rear seats in use, there’s no boot space at all. Fold them, and there’s room for quite a decent amount of luggage.
Should I buy one?
That’s hard to say. You can steer it on a sixpence and park it nearly anywhere. It will take three adults (four at pinch) and is impressively refined and stable. But with prices kicking-off at £10k, and its Co2 emissions no more than competitive, it will make sense for most buyers to stick with a conventional supermini.
Toyota IQ 1.0 VVT CVT
Price NA; Engine 3 cyls, 996cc, petrol; Power 68bhp at 4800rpm; Torque 67lb ft at 4800rpm; 0-62mph 14.1sec; Top speed 93mph; Gearbox 6-spd CVT; Kerb weight NA; Economy NA; CO2 99g/km