2012 Scion iQ Hatchback - FROM $15,265
The 2012 Scion iQ is a minimalist metropolitan runabout that gets great fuel economy. Style and utility are the messages here, not driving excitement.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Scion iQ is an all-new model.
The future has arrived and it's come in a pocket-size urban runabout designed for utility, not speed. The 2012 Scion iQ measures barely 10 feet long, can spin around in a turning circle about the size of two king-size mattresses and gets 37 mpg on the EPA combined cycle. Toyota reckons that this makes the Scion iQ the perfect expression of personal mobility as urban living becomes more popular among a younger generation in search of jobs and affordable housing.
You'll probably notice right away that there are less expensive cars that offer more interior room and power than the iQ. But this new Scion means to make smallness a virtue and fit in with the way that people really live in metropolitan areas. This means a car that is small on the outside and big on the inside. It's meant to feed on the leftover scraps of curbside parking found on the street, even as it offers a full-size experience when it comes to cabin comfort and electronic entertainment.
Though it looks like a grown-up Smart Fortwo, the Scion iQ actually performs like a downsize Toyota Corolla. It's usefully calm and composed, keeps pace with freeway traffic with confident stability and churns through city errands without protest. The combination of a 94-horsepower engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) gives it a kind of untroublesome performance that we might otherwise associate with an electric vehicle.
Of course, it is also slow -- probably slower than you expect, actually. To help make you feel safe in this very small egg among so many other large eggs in the traffic mix, this Scion has a full array of brake assist and stability control features, as well as no fewer than 11 airbags.
The Scion iQ lines up against the 2012 Honda Fit in price, which makes it actually more expensive than the base models of other compelling transportation modules, notably the subcompact 2012 Ford Fiesta and 2012 Hyundai Accent, as well as stripped-down models of compact cars like the Honda Civic and Mazda 3. Yet the 2012 Scion iQ holds its own because it comes only in one well-equipped trim level, plus it offers a sizable selection of Scion-style accessories that promise the opportunity of making an iQ as personal as a Mini Cooper.
At the end of the day, the 2012 Scion iQ suggests that it's time to uncouple size from price. This isn't a stripped-down car, only a small one. It gives you all that you want in terms of style and entertainment, yet no more than you need in size and speed. And the everyday reward comes in getting an EPA-rated 36 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined while you're driving around.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Scion iQ is a subcompact hatchback available in a single trim level. The Scion iQ is equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, a 50/50-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
There are no official factory options for the iQ, but Scion offers an extensive catalog of accessories including 16-inch alloy wheels, shorter springs and stiffer antiroll bars, foglamps, body-side molding, mud guards and a rear spoiler. Among the interior options are illuminated door sills and an interior light kit, each with seven colors. Electronic options include a premium sound system with satellite radio and a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive Scion iQ comes standard with a 1.3-liter inline-4 engine good for 94 hp and 89 pound-feet of torque. A CVT is standard. In Edmunds testing, the iQ accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 11.6 seconds. This is pretty slow, though other similar cars aren't much better. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 36 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined.
The 2012 Scion iQ comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes (front disc and rear drums), front side airbags, front side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and three more airbags not commonly found in other cars -- front seat-cushion airbags and a rear-window airbag that deploys around the rear seat headrests.
In Edmunds brake testing, the iQ stopped from 60 mph in 131 feet, which is about 10 feet longer than average for a subcompact car.
In government crash testing, the iQ received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and three stars for side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
As you'd expect, the Scion iQ is at its best with just two passengers. Nevertheless, the car has been engineered to maximize interior space sufficiently. Cleverness under the hood with component location and a compact air-conditioning unit integrated into the dash let the front passenger move the seat sufficiently forward to fit a full-size passenger into the narrow rear seat behind (we know; we tried it). Meanwhile, the remainder of the rear seat behind the driver can accommodate a child if need be. Think of it as a 3+1 seating configuration rather than a coupe's more common 2+2 designation.
If the mission of the day is to haul stuff instead of people, the 50/50-split rear seat folds flat to enlarge the cargo area from 3.5 cubic feet to 16.7 cubic feet. Other interior storage includes space for four 25-ounce containers in the doors, plus two rear cupholders in the rear and one in the center console. There is no glovebox, however, and the available space doesn't go far.
The Scion navigation is fairly basic as such systems go, but it's still far more effective than one that can be accessed by a mobile phone.
The 2012 Scion iQ is small, but there's nothing basic about it. Utility rather than fun is the message here, yet there's no regret as you walk up, open the door and set off into the city. It offers such terrific turn-on-a-dime maneuverability that you're tempted to drive like a maniac, wheeling into impulsive U-turns, crowding into the bicycle lane and diving into the leftovers in curbside parking. You feel a little invulnerable, so maybe it's best that the iQ always feels slower than you'd expect from a 2,127-pound car with a 94-hp engine.
The iQ's sleepy responses seem to be the responsibility of the CVT, which transforms every throttle input into a tedious drone from under the hood. Nevertheless, the reward comes at the gas station, where the Scion seems to hit its EPA standard fairly easily.
You might expect the iQ to have a choppy ride on the highway given its short wheelbase, yet it delivers acceptable stability at speed and you never feel vulnerable to the oversize SUV monsters in the next lane. Crosswinds affect it, but that's about it for the bad manners.