The Toyota iQ may look like a silly city car that shrunk in the wash, but according to its makers, it's one of the smartest vehicles in its segment. Toyota claims it boasts no fewer than 6 major innovations in car design, which make it more practical and comfortable than other cars of a similar stature. We tested the iQ3 spec with the 1.33-litre petrol engine and Multidrive transmission, which retails for £13,985.
The iQ is significantly shorter than many of its peers, measuring less than 3 metres bumper to bumber. It's so short, in fact, that it's possible to reach back and touch the rear window or to rummage around in the boot while you're sat in the driver or passenger seat.
Toyota has attempted to get around the lack of physical size by building the iQ in a way that makes best use of its available space. The company's positioned the car's wheels as close to the edges of its four corners as possible, incorporated a flatter-than-normal fuel tank and air conditioning system, fitted slimmer seat backs and installed shock absorbers that are angled more horizontally than vertically.
The iQ feels surprisingly spacious if you're sat up front. It's just as roomy as any other super mini, with plenty of legroom for driver and front passenger. Sadly, once you've parked your bum and legs, there's not much room to put your stuff. There's a real shortage of cubby holes in the iQ -- it doesn't even have a glove compartment.
There's not a lot of space in the rear. We imagine it'd be possible to squeeze a well-lubed Russian gymnast into the seat directly behind the front passenger seat (with some difficulty) but trying to fit anything larger than a toddler into the seat behind the driver is a futile, and somewhat painful exercise.
Trying to put larger than a couple of bags of shopping into the boot is pointless, too. The car has a paltry 32 litres of space with the rear seats in place, which rises to a laughable 292 litres with the seats folded down. Other small cars, such as the Honda Jazz, provide 330-1,320 litres of space depending on seat configuration.
Performance & handling
The iQ is a real blast to drive. Its wide stance gives you the impression you're cruising in something far larger, it's composed at speed and is surprisingly agile. It's particularly handy around the city, as it has a very tight turning circle, though if you unwittingly find yourself on a sweeping b-road, it'll acquit itself pretty well there, too. It has plenty of grip and offers balanced go-kart-like handling for those that are willing to push it to its limits.
Sadly, it's not very fast in a straight line. The 1-litre version wheezes its way to 62mph in anything up to 15.1 seconds and will do 94mph if you've got the patience of a saint and a long enough stretch of road. Toyota also offer a 1.3-litre engine, which is marginally quicker. Both are available with a 5-speed gearbox or a Multidrive continuously variable transmission (CVT), which takes away the hassle of manually shifting, but makes the car sound like a large hairdryer. A six-speed shifter comes as standard with iQ3 models.
Economy & environment
The iQ may lack power, but it makes up for this with decent fuel economy and low emissions. The best configuration in this regard is the 1-litre engine with the 5-speed manual gearbox, as it returns 64.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km. The 'Multidrive' CVT gearbox ruins things slightly, dropping economy to 58.9mpg and increasing emissions to 110g/km, so we'd only recommend it if you're exceptionally lazy or you like the sound of hairdryers.
Equipment & value
The iQ comes in three grades - iQ, iQ2 and iQ3. The standard iQ includes 15-inch alloys, mirror-integrated turn signals, LED brake lights and stability control as standard. For £370 more, the iQ2 offers smoked high-gloss alloys, smoked headlight glass with bi-halogen lamps that switch on automatically, rain-sensing wipers and smart keyless entry. £1,040 more buys you the iQ3, which introduces a 1.33-litre engine with start-stop technology, a 6-speed manual gearbox, 16-inch alloy wheels and chrome-finished door mirrors.
All versions of the iQ come with a five star Euro NCAP safety rating, which is reassuring for a car so small. The rating is due to the fact the car has a whopping nine airbags, including a rear-window curtain shield airbag -- a world first, according to Toyota. That said, we never felt 100 per cent at ease inside this thing. If you're sideswiped by something massive, we're not sure how much protection a bag full of air will afford you.
The iQ is a compact city car that's efficient, cheap to run and good fun to drive. It has a great turning circle, is easy to park and is relatively attractive. Potential owners will no doubt be impressed by the surprising amount of space in the front of the cabin. However there's next to no room in the rear for humans or cargo.
If you want a small car that stands out from the crowd, don't mind the lack of space, and can ignore the fact it's actually quite pricey, the iQ is worth a gander.
Model tested: Toyota iQ3 1.33 Multidrive
Engine: 1.33-litre petrol
Acceleration: 0-62 in 13.1 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Emissions: 139g/km CO2