Road Tests

ROAD TEST: Toyota iQ

Time 13 years ago

With Toyota revealing it will make its first loss since 1941, the new iQ city car needs to be good. But is it too expensive? Richard Aucock finds out

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HERE is Toyota’s Smart-beater – or so the troubled carmaker hopes! The iQ may be tiny, but it has a huge weight on its shoulders.

With the Japanese giant recently announcing it will make its first loss since 1941, the iQ needs to be good!

Thankfully the iQ packs in a load of technology, big-car crash safety – oh, and the potential to seat four people. Toyota calls it ‘techno organic’ design. We just call it, well, smart.

It’s a squat three-door city car, that is, purportedly, the shortest four-seat car you can buy. It’s shorter than the original Mini, never mind the relatively gargantuan new one.

A great deal of clever engineering is behind all this, which leads to some decidedly premium pricing. Forget the Aygo – the iQ is priced alongside the larger Yaris supermini.

Toyota dealers will be helped in justification by funky styling and a high-line, quality feel. The iQ simply feels special, with classy trims that set it apart from other cars in this price band.

Thin seats and a cutaway dashboard on the passenger side means two 6’3” people can sit one behind the other too.

For such a small car, that’s incredible. Although to do the same on the other side, the driver has to sit with the seat set well forward – therefore, consider it a ‘3+1’.

The boot is also microscopic. All you can get in is a laptop bag. And, so close are rear passengers to the back screen, Toyota’s had to design a special rear window airbag, to protect them. This takes the airbag count up, remarkably, to nine.

There is a hi-tech heater system, with climate control. Buyers also get a stereo with superb sound; Toyota really is pitching this little car upmarket, with an executive level of equipment, including optional built-in colour-screen sat nav and Bluetooth.

A tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine powers it. There will soon be a 1.3-litre, but the brand’s keeping it simple for now. And while it produces only 67bhp, the iQ also weighs only 850kg. This means performance on the motorway is amazingly refined. Noise levels are unbelievably low and 80mph cruises are a breeze.

The flipside of that small capacity comes around town. You really have to work the iQ hard, and performance is pedestrian if you don’t.

Fail to work it, and it lacks the expected gusto of a city car. In contrast, all the controls are very light and easy. With its wheel at each corner feel, it’s great for the city – although visibility is restricted by the low windscreen and thick back pillars.

It’s also a fair bit lower than the Smart, which means you don’t get as good a view out.

A very reassuring attitude through corners again shows how Toyota’s tried to make the iQ feel grown up. It’s very stable, has a comfortable ride and inspires confidence when taking corners quickly.

Toyota’s backed this up with ESP stability and traction control. Only its width hinders city progress. It’s almost as broad as a Yaris.

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It’s super-economical, though – 65.7mpg is the claimed combined figure and that’s better than an Aygo. Add in 99g/km of CO2 and you’ve got free road tax too – without the fuel cost penalty of a diesel engine.

Toyota’s launching it in just three colours, there are two trim lines and both are very well equipped. Plus it’s priced accordingly; £9,295 for the base, £10,275 for the iQ2. The five-speed manual can be supplanted by a £1,000 semi-auto, for two-pedal city centre motoring.

So, impressive, interesting, but expensive. Will it become a cult car like the Smart? Only time will tell. That’s the challenge for Toyota dealers; but the car itself is fascinating enough to give them a fighting chance…


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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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