I understand that Toyota has made a lot of money selling cars to people who don’t like cars, or at least people who aren’t particularly enthusiastic about them. I also understand that there is a market for small, highly efficient cars that are easy to park and cost relatively little to operate.
Still, I don’t understand the Scion IQ.
Toyota introduced the production version of the IQ in 2008 and it hit the U.S. market as a Scion late last year. I gave it a thorough look last year in Detroit and again this year and the thing still mystifies me.
I don’t get the smart fortwo, either, but I am apparently not alone in that as buyers seem to be staying away in droves. Toyota appears to have grasped some of the shortcomings of the fortwo and tried to correct them when it designed the IQ. It is a bit larger and less awkward looking, has a more conventional drive train and, though I haven’t yet driven one, others say that it is more pleasant to drive than the fortwo.
Oh, and Toyota markets it as a four passenger car. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it.
To get the interior body count up to four, Toyota had to exercise a bit of legerdemain. There is a back seat in the IQ but there is essentially no room behind the front seats. To fit four people in it, first of all one of them has to be small enough to fit in a car seat behind the driver because no human taller than 24 inches would be able to squeeze back there. Next, the front seat passenger is expected to slide his or her seat forward to allow the rear passenger a few more inches of leg room. (I can get somebody in the back seat of my Mustang by doing that same thing.) Once the rear passenger is safely ensconced, the front seat passenger can assume his or her position, sitting on a plane a few inches ahead of the driver.
Why not just have the rear seat passenger sit on the front seat passenger’s lap? What happens to the driver’s view to the right when the passenger is sitting on a plane forward of him or her? How far will that passenger want to travel sitting that close to the dashboard?
Luggage space is nonexistent. With four passengers in place, there is about enough room behind the rear seats for a couple of lap tops or 4 or 5 iPads – as long as they aren’t in cases. Anything larger than that, say brief cases, book bags or knapsacks, will have to be stowed on the rear seat passenger’s lap. (“Alright you kids, no fighting over who gets to sit back there.”)
But there is a big pay off in fuel economy, right? Well, not really. Any number of small cars post numbers close to the IQ’s including Toyota’s own Yaris, and all of them have more useable rear seats.
Price? Again, hardly class-leading. The Yaris has an advertised base price nearly $2000 less than the IQ.
The one clear advantage that the IQ would have is maneuverability in a dense urban environment. It’s short length should make it very easy to find a parking place.
I’ve never quite “gotten” Scion and, apparently, buyers haven’t either as it just can’t seem to get much traction in the marketplace. As I see it, the IQ isn’t going to do much to change that.