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This diminutive vehicle receives considerable interest simply due to its size. Even though the “smart” cars have been around for a while, they remain a great curiosity piece.

My boss at the day job is not a car guy and rarely remarks on the many vehicles that I test drive throughout the year. However, he immediately had a comment regarding my week with the Scion iQ. “I see you’re driving a golf cart this week,” he said with a hearty laugh.

Indeed, this is one miniscule vehicle, measuring just over 10-feet long and weighing a mere 2,127 pounds. Size alone will eliminate a large number of car buyers from even considering the iQ, which is produced by Scion, a vehicle brand of Toyota for the North American market.

2012 Scion iQ

  • Performance: 1.3-liter, four-cylinder, 94 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 36-37 mpg
  • Price: $15,265
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; corrosion 5 years/unlimited; roadside assistance 3years/unlimited

The Toyota folks built the new 2012 Scion iQ for a younger generation of car buyers who are primarily single with a modest lifestyle, live in an urban area, and are seeking a relatively affordable car ($15,265) that gets good gas mileage (36-37 mph).

The surprising aspect regarding this two-door, subcompact hatchback is it appears very small on the outside, yet is actually larger on the inside than meets the eye. My 6-foot friend was a passenger in the backseat and there was no squeeze on anyone’s part to accommodate him.

And even with its modest engine – 1.3-liter, four-cylinder with 94 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque – we actually cruised down the freeway rather effortlessly with three people onboard and nearly hit 80 mph before the driver (me) was satisfied that the iQ was not a “dog” in the performance department.

But don’t get the impression that the iQ is anywhere close to quick. It goes an estimated 0-60 mph in a sluggish 11.6 seconds and can labor while traveling up even modest hills. Yet it easily outperforms the similarly-sized Smart Fortwo car, which takes 14.1 seconds to reach 60 mph from a stationary position.

Note that the Smart Fortwo is much less expensive ($12,490) than the Scion iQ. Also note that the Smart Fortwo earned the unwanted distinction of being named the “Worst Car of 2000s” by

Although the iQ is far from sporty, after driving it a few days a fun factor began to emerge. The turning and maneuverability were extremely good and there’s absolutely no issues with any parking – parallel parking included. It’s amazing how many small parking spots are available for a vehicle this size.

There are at least two primarily drawbacks to owning the Scion iQ. It’s rather noisy in most driving situations, and other than a tiny slot that is suitable for something thin like a lab top, there is no trunk space. The backseat must be folded down to create any storage space.

Safety is a prime issue that most people would consider when purchasing a vehicle this tiny. To my great surprise, in government crash testing the Scion iQ got four stars (five is the highest) in frontal-impact protection and three stars for side-impact protection. I’m guessing that the 11 airbags (that’s no typo) are a big reason why the iQ is not considered a “death mobile” even though it looks like one.

Obviously, the Scion iQ is a niche buy. It’s a vehicle that many folks would feel embarrassed to drive purely based on looks. And the modest performance will chase away many car buyers as well. But if you don’t mind driving a pint-sized vehicle and gas mileage and price are two prime considerations, the iQ is definitely worth a look.

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