Toyota iQ-ould do Better than smart...
After I first saw the Toyota iQ Concept being exhibited at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, I said to myself: "Hey, I think those Toyota dudes should build a production version of this, the smart fortwo might finally have a direct competitor." We all know how competition increases the quality of products in general, so this should only mean good things.
Well, the old saying that if you always think good things, then good things will happen isn't always true. Or at least partially. About six months later, the production version of the lilliputian iQ took center stage at the 2008 Geneva Auto Show, with deliveries in Japan starting at the end of 2008 and in Europe at the beginning of 2009.
So, what was kept from the original concept to the road-going version? Well, practically everything. Sure, the overall design was a little bit toned down and the size of the alloy wheels decreased to much more non-tuner-like dimensions. The 3+1 passenger seats were carried over though, as the overall dimensions of the vehicle.
What does this mean, exactly? Well, for one thing, the cleverly named Toyota iQ is just 30 centimeters (or roughly a foot) longer than the also cleverly named smart fortwo. Toyota people certainly have an imaginative marketing department, but the iQ's project coordinators don't seem to be so intelligent. For some reason, they think they can squeeze two more passengers in what appears to be just about the same sized cockpit as a fortwo. One of those two extra passengers can only be a very small child or a contortionist but that still makes the iQ a four seater.
Sure, their marketing department boasts about intelligently designed features, such as the 20% smaller-than-usual air conditioning unit made by Denso, a flat underfloor fuel tank, a rethinking of the differential, which allows the engine to sit exactly between the front wheels and an asymmetric dashboard. Well, guess what, Toyota? The smart also benefits from intelligent packaging.
Its engine is also tilted but instead of being put in the front, it ninja-like disappears under the trunk. Oddly, this makes the cargo space in the smart to be roughly 7 (seven) times bigger than in the iQ, in which you can park just a few water bottles at max. The wheels are also pushed at all four corners as far away from each other, creating the maximum interior space possible. Obviously, not enough space to squeeze two other passengers in there, but Toyota think they can get away with it just to steal some sales from the tiny fortwo.
Well, they only convinced me on one account, the iQ might be actually easier than the fortwo to park in town. In my opinion, other than the lower turning radius (7.8 meters for the iQ versus 8.7 meters for the smart) and that extra EuroNCAP star, the iQ has nothing on the French-built city cruiser.
Here's why. Only two of Toyota's four seats are actually usable by humans without circus acrobats genes. The 32 liter (about one cubic feet!) storage compartment is less than 15% than that of the smart fortwo. Apart from the base 61 horsepower version and the fuel-sipping CDI, any fortwo can wipe the floor with an iQ in a drag racing contest. Not that any customer would actually care about the actual acceleration times, but whatever, the iQ is slower. The iQ's prices are also excruciatingly high compared to any non-Brabus fortwo. Which begs the question: why?
The iQ would make sense if it really had four, or even three usable seats and a luggage compartment in which you can store more than your wallet. Sadly, I can only see a funky-looking Toyota for the more upscale city dwellers (read green Yuppies) who don't want to fork the extra cash for a Prius and are in serious need of parking spaces. If you are in the market for something like that you'd better head to a smart dealership, but if you really want four seats and a cute AND retro design you might as well skip the iQ and buy a Fiat 500.
comments written so far
Well, for a start, Toyota market the IQ as a 3+1, not a 4 seater and in my experience 3 adults will fit in relative comfort, something the smart can't even contemplate. With just 2 adults in the front they get the amount of space that Smart driver and passenger could only dream of. For a par 4 par comparison to the smart the IQ should be considered in its 2 seat guise, with the rear folded flat. The writer above fails to mention that like this the IQ actually has slightly more luggage space than the smart. The other thing he fails to mention is the standard spec of the IQ has more equipment than even the top spec passion 71bhp and a number of options are needed to bring it up to the IQ's spec making it actually the same price. It's also far more refined and better to drive.
So am I biased to the IQ, only after heading to the smart dealership and before signing on the dotted deciding I really should look at the competition.
This wasn't actually a review, as you call it, since I didn't yet have the chance to try the iQ using a hands on approach. It is simply an editorial and it only depicts my personal opinions about the Toyota newcomer, before I get the chance to actually drive it. When that day comes, a professional review will be posted on the Test Drive section of our website.
I will not comment much on my "biased opinion towards the smart" since you're probably half-right. I can only tell you what I also said in the piece above, I like lots of types of cars, bubble ones included.
One thing that i did find alarming whilst visiting my local Toyota dealership to look at the IQ was the ridiculously high charges for optional extras.
A decent sat/nav will cost you nearly ?1000 extra bumping the already high price to well over ?10,000 which unless you live in the wealthy brokers belt of Cheshire or Surrey where image counts and purchase price doesnot matter then the IQ is too expensive to compete on level terms with the Smart ForTwo.
If you shop around for a good deal a brand new Smart ForTwo Passion CDi can be yours for just under ?8400 and a TomTom One sat/nav easily fits on the Smarts dashboard for just under ?100.
The Smart Passion comes with everything the IQ offers and when you consider the IQs rear seats vertually removes the car of its all important shopping boot then the game is lost.
The Smart being a two seater and not a 2+2 like the IQ has genuine loading capacity more than enough for shopping and the CDi Smart offers find blowing economy.
Toyota have really missed a golden opportunity here.I have seen two new IQs on the road but the Smart is the better option as its far cheaper to buy and equip with extras.When you are paying well in excess of ?10,000 for a small city car you might as well buy the brilliant BMW Mini which is more expensive but not by much.
The Smart will prabably remain a unique vehicle on our roads with no manufacturer brave enogh to offer a realistically priced allternative.