If this is where small cars are headed, consider me a convert.
By Matt Brogan. Tokyo, Japan.
This may be the shortest first steer of the smallest car I’ve yet driven, but my 20 minutes behind the wheel was enough to tell me that if this is where light cars are headed, then consider me a convert.
Visiting Toyota’s MegaWeb complex in Tokyo, I was treated to a short steer of the upper-spec iQ3 around the facility’s in-house test track.
The 2km track (which I circled a number of times) is designed to be closely representative of Tokyo’s city streets featuring a number of scenarios which closely simulate a city street-scape and, as such, is a small series of short straights, tight turns and varied surfaces aimed to give prospective local buyers a feel for the car’s abilities in its intended environment.
The iQ name, hinting at the car’s clever design, has an “i” to represent individuality, innovation and intelligence, while the “Q” stands for quality – a hallmark of the Toyota name. It seems Japanese media were equally convinced of the iQ when naming the Car of the Year for 2008.
A compact yet remarkably well utilised design, iQ draws an uncanny amount of space from its minimal proportions. At just 2985mm long by 1680mm wide and 1500mm high, the iQ can still house three adults and a couple of items of luggage or, alternatively, two adults and two small children.
Admittedly the rear seat is a bit tight with an adult up back (the passenger seat slides forward to accommodate) but for short distances or temporary use it’s ideal, especially if the iQ’s primary role was as a two-seater.
Entry and egress is easy enough, and for its seemingly small proportions, leg and headroom are both suitably – and surprisingly – ample.
iQ’s design is said to emphasise four key traits: low fuel consumption, maneuverability, environmental friendliness, and maximised interior space.
Toyota’s design team have achieved these traits by giving the iQ minimal overhangs (wheelbase is only 2000mm), a windscreen that is pushed well forward on the body, a asymmetric dashboard (sans glovebox), a flat fuel tank (mounted beneath the floor), slimmer seat design, smaller heater and air conditioning unit and finally, rear-angled shock absorbers.
Powered by a choice of 1.0-litre or 1.3-litre petrol engines, or, in European markets a 1.4-litre diesel, the iQ caters well for a mix of markets chasing differing blends of performance and economy.
With the Australian market fitting the former category, performance, I thought it best to take the reigns of the Toyota Yaris powered 1.3-litre, four-cylinder petrol iQ to see just what’s on offer.
As you’d no doubt expect of a car weighing 955 kilograms, but with 72kW on board, performance is rather sprightly, even if we were meant to be limited to 40km/h on our test.
Acceleration is brisk, and very smooth thanks to a CVT transmission, with iQ feeling a lot faster underfoot than its claimed 0-100km/h time of 11.8 seconds.
The car is stable thanks to it’s wide track and, comparatively speaking, long wheelbase further enhancing cornering feel as well as the absorption of lumps and bumps.
The electric power steering is blissfully light, but not bereft of feel, and, at the risk of being crucified here, feels almost sporty in tackling the mid-course slalom.
Stopping power is confident with iQ’s disc/drum combination (available in four-wheel disc in some markets) offering ABS with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution as standard.
The safety theme is continued throughout iQ with nine airbags (dual front, dual side, dual curtain, front passenger seat cushion, driver’s knee and rear window curtain) offered as standard as well as optional ESC with Traction Control.
Like I said, it was a really short drive over a relatively unchallenging and slow course but the sure-footed feel and impressive performance of this sub-light hatch matched with good looks and clever versatility emphasises the fact that micro-motoring need not be all bad.
Toyota currently have no plans to bring the current generation iQ to Australia.
*Pricing is an estimate as converted from Yen to AUD based on the recommended retail price of a Toyota iQ3 1.3-litre CVT (as tested).