Big Car Features In A Tiny Vehicle
Looks Like A Smart, But Width, Packaging Adds Utility
At first glance the new Toyota iQ appears to be a little Mercedes Smart city car lookalike. But when you get up close it is bigger and chunkier. Look inside and you will find the biggest difference it has four seats.
I’ve never been convinced by the Smart. Sure it’s cute and does a great job as a city car. But its size and expense always relegated it into an also ran. When you get right down to it, only fashionistas are going to spend upwards of £10,000 for a car with only 2 seats and no room for your golf clubs.
Despite its size, (it is less than 3 metres/10 feet long), Toyota said there is room for 4, as long as one is a child. The child’s spot can double as luggage space, which is just as well because the boot is tiny. Don’t think about putting the golf clubs in there; you might be able to fit in a putter, or perhaps two thin briefcases.
Toyota said the iQ may be small but it would protect its passengers well. It features nine airbags, including the world’s first rear-window curtain shield airbag. The body is engineered to maximise strength. Various computerised aids to driving safety including ABS and Traction Control are standard. Toyota expects it to qualify for the Euro NCAP maximum five-star rating for occupant protection.
Toyota said the iQ has introduced a breakthrough in the design of small cars by miniaturising key features which allow big-car qualities to be included in a tiny space. There were six key innovations
· The engine is more compact, freeing up space.
· Steering gear has been redesigned to take up less room.
· The flattened fuel tank is under the floor, not the rear seats.
· Seats are slimmer allowing more leg room.
· Heater-air conditioner is 20 per cent smaller.
· Dashboard design opens up space in the cabin area.
Toyota said that despite the car’s small size, it is not just a city car; it will provide comfort and safety at motorway speeds.
At launch, the iQ will be powered by a 1.0 litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine attaining 65.7 mpg-4.3 l-kms and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 99 g/km, exempting it from road tax in many European countries including Britain. This version has a 5-speed manual gearbox. The Multidrive Constantly Variable Automatic option produces slightly worse fuel economy of 60.1 mpg-4.7 l/kms and 110 g/km of CO2.
The manual gearbox version has a shift indicator showing the driver how to maximise economy, which can add between 0.5 per cent and three per cent to fuel efficiency. A 1.33 litre petrol engine with Stop Start technology will be available later in 2009. (This automatically cuts out the engine when the car stops in traffic and fires it up again when needed). A 1.4 litre diesel will be offered initially in most European markets, but not Britain.
European sales of the iQ begin in January, with prices starting at £9,495 in Britain. Alloy wheels and air conditioning are standard. The iQ2 adds automatic lights and wipers, and keyless entry
Small cars like the Smart have had limited success because only trend setters didn’t mind paying a high price for cars with only limited utility. The iQ, with its four-seats, all-round practicality and big-car features, offers much more value for money. As economies stumble, that is fast becoming the number one priority.
Neil Winton December 15, 2008
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