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First Drive: 2012 Scion iQ


Inching along in shoulder-to-shoulder rush hour traffic in a roaring city with pedestrians swarming crosswalks -- all while desperately searching for a parking space -- is nobody's idea of a good time. Scion has a proposition for urban dwellers in the form of its new 2012 Scion iQ city car.

The Toyota Iq (the car the Scion is based upon) is not a new car. The Scion version is -- technically. Designed to blend into densely populated cityscapes, the iQ does everything small, but in a big way. Dimensionally, it's slightly bigger than a Smart Fortwo, but it's still a runt when placed next to a Camry. While its size is the iQ's most eye-catching asset, it presents inherent packaging dilemmas. It's not just the challenge of stuffing four seats for 3.5 people in between a wheelbase shorter than a Lotus Elise's (78.7 versus 90.6 inches). There's also the engine and associated running gear, suspension (front MacPherson strut, rear torsion beam), and interior amenities to cram in, and some empty space for cargo. It demands expert engineering.

 We're pleased to report the latest addition to the Scion family fulfills its city duties to a tee, though we're certain our first drive was helped immensely by the venue. San Francisco is a very romantic city -- after all, Tony Bennett left his heart there. The rolling hills are steeped in history and cable car tracks, and it's one of the most culturally diverse locations on Earth. The City by the Bay is also home to a criss-cross set of roadworks that makes more logical sense in some neighborhoods (mostly in the west side) than others. Plenty of one-way streets, pedestrian crowds, interconnected residential and commercial communities, aggressive public bus drivers, and never-ending construction stand ready to confound out-of-towners. With the iQ at our disposal, we dived straight in.

The sheetmetal blends into the import car-friendly locale beautifully, quickly finding its place among the Japanese and European locals. Still, we noticed more than a few onlookers on the sidewalks pointing and giving the stubby Scion double takes. Publicity acquired.

There's a special engine stowed below the pint-sized hood. The iQ receives Toyota's first North American application of the 1NR-FE, a port-injected 1.3-liter inline-four offering 94 horsepower and 89 lb-ft of torque. It's recessed neatly toward the firewall and takes up barely any room in the engine bay. The tiny Scion is just one of three cars on sale today in the U.S. with fewer than 100 horsepower.

 In our modern world of 300-horsepower, 30-highway-mpg vehicles, it feels intuitive to dismiss the iQ as underpowered. But offsetting the low power figures is a Scion-claimed 2150-pound curb weight, made possible in part by a front differential matched to a lightweight continuously variable transmission -- there will be no manual shifting option for the U.S. The diff is essentially flipped over ahead of the engine for the sake of packaging, and the half-shafts are moved forward from their conventional locations. The air-conditioning unit is installed directly behind the center stack to conserve precious space. The plastic, 8.5-gallon gas tank is a shallow 4.72 inches deep and mounted beneath the iQ's floor like a pancake, helping to contribute to the car's short 120.1-inch length. When fully fueled, the requisite 87-octane combustible liquid should contribute no more than around 52 pounds to the bottom line.

 Think the teensy tank will barely get you through the week? The estimated 36/37 mpg city/highway looks more appropriate for a hybrid, given the narrow ratings spread, and offers a maximum hypothetical range of 314.5 miles. Even when getting lost around San Fran, there was more than enough gas to play with, and we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice to venture north into Sausalito and the Muir Woods National Monument area. In the city proper, 94 horses and the smooth-operating CVT felt more than capable of jumping from stoplight to stoplight, even when hills entered the picture. On the 101 freeway heading in and out of Marin County, the 1.3-liter struggled for power at 55 mph and beyond, encouraging deep accelerator pedal depressions to hold constant speed. The alternative highway driving method is to slip the CVT into the S or B "gears," which tell the CVT to relentlessly vary its two pulleys to clutch engine speed to about 4000 or 6000 rpm, respectively.

The electric steering has quick reactions but doesn't offer much feedback from the car's 175/60-16 tires. Because of its compressed measurements, the iQ can be susceptible to pull and wander from road disturbances such as dips, grooves, and cable car tracks. The ride feels firm, yet there's obvious body movement in the corners. The fact that the rear shock absorbers are canted backwards (reducing damping efficiency but also freeing up more backseat hip room) may partially explain the road feel. However, it feels remarkably secure at highway speeds with no noticeable crosswinds to terrorize us.

 The iQ is pretty good in its element. Because the wheels are splayed as far out to the corners as possible, it has a 25.8-foot turning circle, so pouncing on a parking spot across the street is a cinch. There's no getting around the fact that the fourth Seat is for a child; luckily, the third Seat is actually usable. The front passenger Seat is located slightly ahead of the driver's Seat and is specially shaped to allow additional rear leg and knee room. But what about that front passenger, you ask? Due to the asymmetric dashboard and deep footwell, there's room to sit. And even with the Seat slid all the way forward, the driver's view of the side mirror always remains unobstructed.

The diminutive Scion will have 11 standard airbags: 2 front passenger, 2 front seat-mounted side, 2 Seat cushion, 2 front knee, 2 side curtain, and 1 rear window. Safety has become one of those intrinsic things we just expect from modern-day cars, especially small cars like the iQ, and if worth were measured in the number of airbags, the iQ would be much larger.

Production of the first all-new car for Scion at least since 2004 begins in August, and starting in October, the iQ will be available for $15,995. The base cost includes a mandatory $730 delivery, processing, and handling fee, and complimentary Scion Service Boost that covers factory-scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles. Only West Coast Scion patrons will have iQ access at first, and the delayed rollout will continue in waves into 2012. The eastern U.S. follows California and company before the Midwest and inner parts of the country will take stock by March 2012.

.hdr {color:#ffffff;font:bold 12px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#343434;} .hdr1 {color:#000000;font:bold 09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#aba9a9;} .hdr2 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#dddddd;} .hdr3 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#FFFFFF;} 2012 Scion iQ BASE PRICE $15,995 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door hatchback ENGINE 1.3L/94-hp/89-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION cont. variable auto CURB WEIGHT 2150 lb (mfr) WHEELBASE 78.7 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 120.1 x 66.1 x 59.1 in 0-60 MPH 11.8 sec (mfr est) EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 36 / 37 mpg (est) ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 94 / 91 kW-hrs/100 miles (est) CO2 EMISSIONS 0.53 lb/mile (est) ON SALE IN U.S. October 2011

(Source)


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