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Just in: 2012 Scion iQ - Is it a smart commuter choice?

Consumer Reports News: March 15, 2012 11:23 AM

With the introduction of the iQ, Scion is offering fashion-conscious microcar buyers an alternative to the oh-so-three-years-ago Smart ForTwo.

Although it’s about 14 inches longer than the Smart, the iQ is still tiny. An overall length of 120 inches makes it more than two feet shorter than a Mini Cooper. (Pause and let that sink in. Two feet shorter than a Mini!) The extra length allows for the cutest little backseat you ever did see, although it’s not likely to be popular even with small passengers. And getting anybody back there requires moving the front seats quite a ways forward and tapping some athletic ability.

Without anyone in back, there’s plenty of room for two six-footers to sit up front without rubbing elbows, and ample leg, foot, and head room. Most interior controls are simple in the basic-trimmed cabin, with the exception of the usual Scion radio that looks like something from a discount store.

On the road, things aren’t so much fun. Acceleration is slow from the four-cylinder engine and CVT automatic, and the iQ is noisy enough to make it difficult to hear yourself think no matter your IQ. Thanks to a wheelbase barely longer than a shopping cart, the ride is choppy and yet the iQ has less room for groceries.

On the plus side, the tiny turning circle and small footprint make the iQ a snap to park, something city dwellers will appreciate. And they may be the only buyers for whom the iQ makes sense. At $16,205, our iQ is priced higher than several well-equipped subcompacts, including the well-executed Hyundai Accent GLS. And the Accent offers better EPA-rated fuel mileage, along with real seating for four passengers, each of whom gets their own door.

Maybe that’s why the iQ was initially only sold in a few select urban markets. (It is now available nationwide.) To accelerate our testing process, we imported ours all the way from San Francisco, shipping it here along with our Mitsubishi i electric car.

Unless a small footprint is your biggest concern, the iQ may not be the wisest choice. As Smart learned with the ForTwo as soon as the initial buzz wore off, the iQ may be the answer to a question very few drivers are asking.

We’ll know more once we’ve run it through our full test program and determine if it is a smart choice for consumers.

Jim Travers

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