Small iQ but great ideas

Toy­ota’s in­no­va­tive new­comer marks a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from the baby ba­sics, writes PETER LYON in Ja­pan

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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