9.12.2008Toyota iQ review
Buyers are hardly falling over themselves in the rush to buy a smart car, which must make you wonder why Toyota wants a share of that city car sector, although Iain Robertson feels confident that 'intelligence' will win.
While I may like the Mercedes-Benz smart, for its chic cuteness and sheer agility as an urban runabout, its handling remains suspect and its two-only seating is cramped and its boot is a nonsense. 'Smart'? I do not think so. However, the new Toyota iQ, or 'intelligence Quotient', certainly has the smarts over the two-seater Merc and takes small car design in the right direction.
With its 360-degree airbag protection (nine in total), its assured stance on the road and the strong possibility that up to four people can gain access to its remarkably spacious interior, the Toyota iQ is almost where smart should have been, had it not gotten all over-excited about producing two-seater sports cars and non-descript five-door hatches. In fact, it could be said that the iQ is actually a smart seen through Toyota's eyes.
Naturally, to avoid all of the waywardness from which the smart has always suffered, the iQ is equipped with every stability device and traction control known to man. Yet, like the smart's exoskeletal 'protection', although not as obvious, the iQ creates energy absorption areas fore and aft and on its flanks but, when you slam the doors, at least the Toyota does not sound like you are closing a Barbie doll's handbag. It is very solid and detailed neatly, even though the plastics are cheap looking, which is mildly disappointing in a tiddler that is going to cost around £10k from its on-sale date in January 2009.
Powered by the familiar, to Toyota Aygo owners at least, 67bhp, 1.0-litre 'triple', there is a choice of five-speed manual or electronically-controlled, constantly variable transmissions (CVT), of which the latter would actually be the preference, were it not for its sluggishness. With a high peak torque figure and astronomical gear ratios, the iQ almost defeats its eco-car objective, because it needs to be worked so hard to get anywhere speedily, which could be its greatest failing. Its top speed is around 93mph and it will crack the 0-60 mph benchmark in 14.0 seconds. Yet, I somehow feel that few buyers will be disappointed by the test-cycle 99 g/km of CO2 (and zero road tax) or the Next Green Car environmental rating of 27, even if achieving the promised 60-67 mpg is likely to be a struggle.
There are two trim variants to select from, the better one (iQ2) incorporating climate control, auto-on lamps and wipers and 'keyless go', as well as glitzier alloy wheels, for which it carries a premium of £1,000.
How green is the iQ? Can it be considered a 'green' car? Well, it is small enough to be reckoned as such, and its size will surely assist in reducing its carbon footprint. Plus it is heaps better than the smart, be under no illusion. However, it should be noted that the larger VW Polo BlueMotion also achieves 99 gCO2/km (under test) with a WGC rating of 29, as will the future VW Golf in same BlueMotion range. The much larger new Ford C-Max MPV also manages 119 gCO2/km while easily accommodating 5 adults. So for the intelligent tiddler it is, perhaps we should really expect its emissions to be around the 60-80 gCO2/km mark.
While truly a step in the right direction, the iQ could also be considered too conventional. In the citycar class, my favour still lies with the original Honda Insight, hybrid or not, as it is still my belief that a ground-breaking green car needs to be distinctive to survive – the iQ is really just an original Mini dressed up to the nines, except more smart.
Model tested: Toyota iQ
Body-styles: 3-door city-car
Engines: 1.0 (P3)
Trim grades: standard and iQ2
Prices: from Â£9,495
In the showroom: Jan 2009
Review star rating: 4 STARS
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles
Next Green Car data: Toyota iQ
Website: www.toyota.co.uk/iq, Hypermiling the Toyota iQ
Iain Robertson © Next Green Car.com 2008