I’d seen a number of articles about Toyota’s little iQ city car (which is being marketed to US customers through the Scion brand) but generally focused on its Aston-Martin derivative, called it a generic-brand Smart, or ignored it altogether. On to more exciting cars, like the Volt, Leaf, and SLS Mercedes, you know?
When I walked up to the little iQ on display in Scion’s Chicago booth, then, imagine my surprise to discover that I was wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I am seriously considering getting in line for one of these instead of the CR-Z I’d been previously contemplating. Here’s why:
- Scion’s iQ doesn’t feel like a generic-brand Smart. It doesn’t even feel like a Smart, at least from its stationary position in McCormick Place. The doors close with a proper “chunk”. The knobs feel like they have some substance. The seats feel … car-like? The whole thing feels just like a car. Not a microcar or a citycar or a Swatch-watch, but a real car. The fact that the car has a tiny footprint didn’t enter my mind, but the roominess of the thing did.
- The projected price of the iQ, at around 15k USD, is totally in line with the Smart, which feels much more toy-like. It also undercuts the CR-Z by several thousand dollars without costing more at the pump.
- The iQ has rear seats. Not cavernous rear seats, mind you, but certainly there is enough room for a small family to scoot around town or head over to grandma’s for the afternoon (as long as it’s not too far away). That, right there, beats the CR-Z’s 2-passenger capacity without forcing potential buyers into “responsible car-buying / responsible adulthood” too quickly.
- Last, but not least, the iQ has a look to it. It’s not a timeless GTO Ferrari or slinky E-type Jag, but it’s got a wide track, aggressive rubber, and a general “shoulderyness” to it that seems to say “let’s go have fun!” I wouldn’t be surprised if the people who bought iQs were the same type of people who named inanimate objects – it’s that likable.
So, there it is. My very brief review of what was the unexpected hit of the 2011 Chicago Auto Show for me – I fully intend to follow up these initial (stationary) impressions with a full review as soon as these are available for road-tests.
Source: 2011 Chicago Auto Show.