Small iQ but great ideas
Toyota’s innovative newcomer marks a radical departure from the baby basics, writes PETER LYON in Japan
THE auto industry is about to get an iQ test from a car that threatens to shake the business to its roots. The Toyota iQ is so innovative in concept, packaging and design it could become the small-car yardstick.
‘‘In order to ensure a sustainable future, there was a need for a radical change in vehicle packaging, iQ chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima says at an exclusive preview drive in Japan.
‘‘We needed to create a breakthrough, away from the traditional belief that small is basic.’’
So, what is the iQ like? Well, if you thought Toyota’s Yaris was small, the iQ sets a new standard. It is claimed to be a four-seater but is really only suitable for three adults.
From a distance, the iQ looks more like a Dinky toy than a serious attempt to redefine compact motoring. But the more layers you peel back, the more the iQ proves itself.
Measuring 2985mm long, 1680mm wide and 1500mm high, the iQ is considerably smaller than the Yaris but marginally bigger than the Smart ForTwo. Designers pushed the limits with an amazing two-metre wheelbase to create arguably the world’s shortest front and rear overhangs.
To create their sub-3m microcar and yet deliver a spacious cabin for three adults while maintaining handling and safety levels, Toyota’s white coats came up with six innovations.
They include a compact differential, rear-angled shocks and a flat fuel tank under the rear seats, a 20 per cent smaller airconditioner, a centre take-off steering column, an asymmetrical dashboard and slimmer seat backs. Yet there are nine airbags, including a world-first rear curtain, and Toyota predicts a fivestar NCAP safety ranking.
The only car on the test is a 1.0-litre petrol iQ with a CVT transmission, promising 99g/km of CO2 and fuel consumption of 4.34 litres for 100km.
The iQ’s main market is Europe, so you’d expect perky performance and firm handling. The 1.0-litre will win no sprint contests, it takes more than 13 seconds to get anywhere near 100km/h, but the engine is smooth and the CVT responsive, if a little noisy.
Surprisingly you don’t feel the short wheelbase when travelling at speed. The iQ stays firm and planted. The Bridgestone 175/65R15 Ecope- dia rubber with low rolling resistance might maximise fuel economy and deliver a top speed of 155km/h, but most people would prefer better handling and grip.
Squeezing my 190cm frame in behind the thick, sporty steering wheel, I noticed just how spacious the cabin felt. The iQ feels at least one class bigger and one class more luxurious than it actually is.
Interior quality and trim levels are high, including the centre console layout, which has been artfully modelled on the shape of a manta ray.
Small wonder: from a distance, Toyota’s new and revolutionary iQ looks more like a child’s toy.