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Scion in US iQ test

Four-play: Japanese giant Toyota is introducing the world’s smallest four-seat car to the traditionally large car and SUV-dominated US market.

Toyota’s tiny iQ introduced to US under youth-oriented Scion brand

21 Jul 2011

TOYOTA’S diminutive iQ micro-car will go on sale on the United States’ west coast from October, wearing the Japanese giant’s youth-oriented Scion branding as previewed at last year’s New York motor show.

Pitched as a “premium micro-subcompact”, the vehicle has touches consistent with the Scion brand’s intended Gen-Y (or even Z) audience, including racy-looking options including 16-inch alloys, lowered suspension, front fog lights, a rear spoiler and silver exterior trim mouldings.

Pioneer-branded audio systems with outputs for external amplifiers and subwoofers add further doof-doof street-cred.

Scion, which encourages customers to customise their vehicles, also issued photos of a body-kitted iQ, hinting at the possibilities available through the application of aftermarket accessories.

The iQ remains off the agenda for Australia, with Toyota consistently maintaining that no business case could be made for the car, at least while it is made only in high-cost manufacturing countries such as Japan.

The 2985mm long iQ – claimed to be the world’s smallest four-seater – will be priced from $US15,265 ($A14,207), making it the brand’s least expensive model by $US565 in a range where no model has a starting price above $US19,000.

8 center imageIt will be rolled out across the rest of the US from early next year, offered exclusively with a 69kW 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and continuously variable transmission.

Compared with the five-star Euro NCAP safety rated European market iQ, which has nine airbags including one to protect the rear occupants who sit close to the rear windscreen, the US model gains a passenger knee-bag and driver seat cushion airbag – bringing the airbag count to 11.

The standard audio system, unlike Europe’s sleek dash-top integrated CD player, is a retro-looking, Pioneer-branded 160-watt CD-radio with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, four standard speakers and RCA output jacks for customers who want to install their own subwoofer.

The unit is upgradable to a 200-watt version with 5.8-inch touch-screen, internet radio (when connected to an iPhone through Bluetooth) and six RCA outputs for additional amplifiers and subwoofers.

The top-line infotainment system has a seven-inch touch screen, satellite navigation and a DVD player.

All three audio devices have steering wheel controls, three pre-set equaliser settings and can automatically vary the sound volume according to road speed.

Toyota is hoping to target trendy city-dwelling young drivers with the iQ, its 11 airbags as much a sales device as a safety device.

Scion vice president Jack Hollis said: “The iQ is the fourth vehicle in the (Scion) family, and it will define the premium micro-subcompact segment as the choice for new urbanites who want clever transportation without a sacrifice in style or new features.” In other markets such as Europe, the iQ is available with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and manual transmissions.

The Scion iQ lacks idle-stop, partially explaining its combined fuel consumption figure of 6.36 litres per 100km – inferior to the European Toyota-branded model’s 5.2L/100km.

The Scion’s engine output figures are also slightly down on the Euro-spec car, probably due to the lower-standard American fuel.

On the other hand, the all-electric iQ EV prototype that debuted at Geneva in March is being tested on European roads with a view to offering the car to customers on a lease basis from next year.

Toyota says the iQ EV, which has a claimed 105km range from its battery pack stored in a flat layer beneath the floor to preserve interior and luggage space, is also planned for introduction to the US and that it is also “investigating its viability of other regions”.

The iQ fits neatly into Scion’s nomenclature, its range comprising the Yaris-based xD hatch, tC coupe and boxy xB, which is sold in Australia as the Toyota Rukus.

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