What is it?
Toyota’s entirely logical idea to offer big-car luxury in a small-car package, the iQ makes an awful lot more sense on paper than it does in reality. We all got very excited about the iQ’s arrival and then a bit glum when it wasn’t quite the car we’d expected. It’s not as posh as it promised to be, and it’s not as much fun to drive as various rather more regulation city cars. Still, it is unusual and in parts very clever, and is one of the few genuinely tiny cars that can properly hold its own on the motorway. A mixed bag, then, but an interesting one.
Toyota’s assertion that this is a grown-up car miniaturised does stack up when you take the iQ out onto proper open roads. It has an unprecedented level of refinement for this class of car, and although the ride is firm and that wheelbase precariously short, the iQ remains composed on all but the worst surfaces.
Most will opt for the 998cc three-cylinder engine, putting 67bhp through the front wheels. This will see off 60mph in 14.7 seconds and give up 7mph short of the ton. So the big-car pretensions have died a bit of a death here – at least in performance terms.
The driving characteristics, in fact, are a bit lost. It’s neither convincingly grown up nor is it the hoot that little hatches can so often be. The gearchange is a bit woolly and the lack of grunt all too apparent when overtaking. But as a city car the iQ shines, with its sub-three metre length creating a tiny turning circle.
On the inside
Toyota has created a game-shifter in the iQ’s interior, with a radical ‘3 + 1’ seating configuration that offers two big hatch seats up front, one similar behind the movable passenger seat and an occasional seat behind the driver. It’s clever for sure, but whether or not any of us is better off for this is debateable. Up front, it’s spacious, thanks to the iQ’s family car width, and having a single proper back seat could be useful, although it seems like the solution to a problem that never really existed. A small but whole rear row, like you get on a Fiat Panda, is a lot more useful.
One other word on the interior: it’s cheap for a mini-premium motor, especially one with a near-£11,000 price tag.
Like all city cars, running costs are going to be low, because wee little engines are cheap to insure and tend to be abstemious. But the iQ costs a lot to buy in the first place – up to £13,100 for the top-spec version – which rather negates the idea of counting the pennies in the first place. And it no longer has the Aston Martin Cygnet to make it look cheap...