2012 Scion iQ – Behind the Wheel

The highly anticipated Scion iQ finally went on sale in late October 2011 after many curious buyers saw the hype that surrounded it. For months, several modified iQ’s have been paraded around the show circuit displaying the micro-commuter’s potential. From, wide-bodies – to slammed to the ground head turners, the iQ didn’t disappoint.

When we had the opportunity to evaluate the Scion iQ, we couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough. The micro 4-seater, yes 4-seater, has a 1.3L engine pumping out 94 horsepower – not so much? But, it only weighs a snippet over twenty-one hundred pounds.

We had the iQ for 5 days, in those days we drove it to run daily errands, took it to photo shoots, and to an event. We put roughly 500 miles on it. In almost every location we had questions with bystanders. People were curious of the car – What it is? Who makes it? How much is it? In every reaction, they were positive.

The styling and the 4-seat configuration took top honors, while the equally impressive  eleven air-bags raised a few “OO’s!”

In stock form, my first impression was it was high. Having seen modified iQ’s I couldn’t get around the wheel gap I was presented with, but the overall look was what a micro-car should look like.

The blunt nose and wide headlights exemplifies a beefier exterior than the Smart or the 500, though the rear left me wanting more.

Perhaps a slight bump on the lift-gate under the rear-window would help carry the design element from the front to the rear.

The interior was quite simple. Color-matched accent pieces along with ergonomic  large dials, and well placed instrumentation made driving un-daunting. The driver’s cabin had enough leg and knee room for my average 5′-11″ height. As the taper of the center-console left room for my knees. P.Dabao also had his comments,” The front seats are comfortable though an armrest would be a great add-on. Our car was equipped with the top of the line head unit with navigation. Simple and easy to use and comes in handy especially when you’re not familiar with the area. It is Bluetooth capable and can stream music like Pandora or the music player on a portable device. A nice speaker system like the OEM Audio Plus (available under scion optomize program) will compliment this head unit nicely.

The rear seat behind the driver is up for debate. Not quite enough room for an adult but good enough for storage, which will most likely be the case since the hatch/trunk area is large enough to fit a few K-Cup boxes or a laptop bag with books. The iQ doesn’t come equip with a spare tire, but it does have a fix it kit.

During a trip, I sat in the back seat for about 30 miles and it wasn’t any worse than sitting in any compact coupe, in fact there was more foot room.

The trunk space is almost non-existent when the rear seats are up. When folded down, it measures 5.93 cu.ft. and can handle enough remote control car gear. The iQ is equipped with 11 air bags, including the world’s first rear window airbag.  What impresses me the most is the “fun” factor of driving this vehicle. It brings back memories when I first got my 1st Gen Scion xB. It was hip, different, unique, people come up and ask questions, it is a conversational piece. – P. Dabao.

Driving the iQ was fun. The short wheel base gave the iQ a small turning radius and quick steering response. I had the most fun making U-Turns in it because it responds so quickly and sharp. The iQ would literally finish its U-turn in the inside lane, causing a mockery of all left-only signs due to the width of some roads. The acceleration was good for me. Having driven a Scion xB daily since the car’s inception, I felt the iQ had more “get out of the way” power than my 1st Gen xB – It was responsive enough for freeway mergers and lane changes at cruising speeds. During hard acceleration, the iQ engine can be a bit on the vocal side, but at least it moves.

On the highway, the iQ felt a little twitchy in the rear. Perhaps it was the grooved Southern California roads mated with the 175/60/16 wheel and tire combination. Not scary, but  a reminder of the iQ’s size. I wonder how a little inward toe or wider tire and wheel combination would help.

Overall, it’s a fun car. I think it would be perfect for a young couple or anyone with an economic conscious mind. The 8 or so gallons doesn’t cost much to fill, but hauling larger items from home improvement stores can be a little challenge.

I was disappointed in passing the keys off because I had a lot of fun with it, but here are what a few others had to say.

Jayce, DaYUUM Editor

As Denny started to get emotionally attached to the iQ after driving it around and running errands with it, I had to pry the keys out of his hand to get my turn to evaluate the iQ for a day.  I wasn’t really expecting much from the car; as it was rather a really small car for my taste.   Just as I started driving the iQ, I noticed what seems to be blinking lights from my peripheral vision. No… it wasn’t the cops pulling me over for going 36 on a 35 mph zone but the fuel gauge warning light.  Of course my buddy – ol’ pal (Paul) passed it over with an empty tank…  I had 20 bucks in my pocket – and well, I’m feeling cheap and hoping that when I give it back the next guy driving the iQ will fill it up too.  Whoollaa!!!  $20 of regular gas filled up the tank more than three quarters.   On my cars, you will hardly notice the gauge move with a 20 dollar fill.


Knowing that my Dad dislikes small cars as he had labeled them “Deathtrap,” I wanted to get his reaction when we take the iQ for a spin.  Early morning, we hopped in the iQ and took it to church at a Basilica in San Juan Capistrano, CA.  As I noticed him scoping out the interior, he mentioned “It is easy to get in and out of this Scion compared to your tC before” and continues “This Scion looks very roomy for its size and you forget that you’re in a micro car when you’re in it.”  We agreed that it needed a little more insulation as it was a little loud as I stepped on the pedal doing my passes on freeway 5.  It had an impressive pep and sturdiness to it, even with the AC on, as we drove at usual 75-80 mph freeway speeds.   My dad immediately sighted onlookers on the freeway and when we parked and left church – I told him that it was our irresistible good looks that mesmerized these bystanders; so he better get used to it =) Lol!!!


At the end of the day, my dad and I had smiles and loved our short stint with the Scion iQ.  It definitely looks better than the competition – Smart Fortwo and Fiat 500.  A few add-ons such as the FiveAxis kit and slightly lower stance, a little wider wheels – and it’s on!!! This baby will eat its competition for breakfast not for its 0 to 60 time runs but for its good overall ride and features.  I believe that the 1.3liter four is adequate and peppy for short cruises – or daily work drives.  It certainly changed my Dad’s perception on a micro class vehicle and tagged the Scion iQ as the “The Hipster”.  As I returned the iQ and hand over the keys after driving it close to a 100 miles, it then hit me; composed, fun, forget three point turns and still have half tank of gas.  I now know why Denny had a hard time letting it go… until the next one…  Peace!   -jayson (jp).


P.Dabao, DaYUUM Contributor:

Don’t be fooled by the size of this car. It is amazingly roomy inside and seats 3 comfortably. The Scion iQ measures 10 feet long and weighing 2127 lbs. This micro subcompact city car drives like a go-cart with a turning radius that is ridiculously tight at 12.9 ft.; it can make a u-turn in just about any alley or street with ease. The 94hp/89 ft/lbs torque is peppy but won’t get you to your destination as fast as a Lexus LFA but will get you there in style. The iQ is a perfect transportation for urban city dwellers where you always battle for parking spaces. In one of our outings, the iQ braved the howling winds of the 15 Freeway and I was amazed at how stable it was driving thru 50 MPH wind gusts.


Overall the Scion iQ offers an array of standard equipment that is normally not available in some micro cars. A driver who appreciates compact space, fuel economy, full array of customization products will love this car. I think the most important upgrade for this car is a set of Lowering springs and a bigger wheels and wider set of tires. It won’t be long to see all these customized iQ in the streets. The Scion iQ is now available in the West Coast will soon will be available Nationwide.


Mikey Dang, PVR Motorsports, Media Relations

I remember back in October of last year that I had test driven the iQ on the course at Scion Night at Knott’s Scary Farm. It was a quick little zippy car. At the time we only had that limited time to take it out and not discover the car as a whole. Fortunately enough, we got our hands on one to thoroughly review the car without time restraints. Although we did not get to take it out to a track (hehe), we did get to daily the car through rigorous tests of everyday use of transportation and practicality.


When first seeing the car in public, I thought that it was way too small but yet with a little bit wider stance than the SmartTM car. We had our fun and laughs with the vehicle by going to photo shoots with high end exotic cars and must say it’s not the best in carrying equipment and a full load of people at the same time but does get great gas mileage compared to the Ferraris and Lambos. When comparing tight turns, the iQ wins as well when doing a U-Turn within a small apartment complex. It is one of the only cars that a U-Turn can be made in nearly the same lane you’re in.


Going back to comparing to the SmartTM, it is more practical by seating more people and can also fold the seats down to transporting equipment or whatnot. When seated on a long drive, it is actually really comfortable and does not feel like a small car at all. It actually feels like a lowered SUV in a sense that there is quite a good amount of headroom for an average height and seating 4 people without the cramped feeling of shoulder to shoulder.


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