I test drove a the new Scion iQ as a part of an intimate blogger gathering of 24 writers. A disclaimer in the second sentence: Are each of us writing something and it’s being tracked by big the disciples of Big Japanese Brother, Toyota? Perhaps. It’s no secret that Giant Robot has done projects with many branches of Toyota. From the Matrix, Yaris and yes the Scion, we’ve been patronized by the world’s largest car company many times. Naturally, reaching out to us makes sense.
The Scion iQ is part of a global movement to be efficient, fun and smarter. That’s what I got out of the half day symposium.
It’s nearly a shame that the Smart Car brought the word “smart” and car together in a strange marriage that eventually was revealed to be an unhealthy relationship. The two co-exist conceptually as a brilliant plan – the DNA of a small footprint and the magic of low price should have birthed something desirable. Maybe it was too early and maybe the needs of the adopters from the Smart orphanages weren’t met. You hardly see these on the road and I’ve heard nothing but complaints.
Other small and also smart tribes began to show. The Mini, an early contender isn’t in the same category. It’s larger, it’s more expensive and it was featured too much in the Italian Job. In comparison:
It’s Austin Powers to a Spud Webb. Both are great and both are different. Mike Meyers banked probably 10-20 million per movie and drove a Mini as well. The series had power, reach and a loud style. British flag roofs? Yet on the iQ side, it’s all about Spud winning a dunk contest, defying odds and playing for over a decade at 5’7″. His imprint was small yet opened the doors for every team to enlist a multi talented small guard.
The Fiat 500? It’s new, it’s cool and to be fair, the verdict isn’t in. Sometimes the car is perfectly fine, but the people aren’t. To be honest, has anyone ever bought Fiats? It’s like another Saab. The brand awareness is thin and that makes a difference too. Toyota is like Tide, what other brands are there? Each will clean your clothes but who buys All Temperature Cheer?
The Scion iQ is set for release in October on the west coast, and will have a periodic roll out across the states. The car is small, cunning and also smart hence it’s obvious name. At first glance at every color way in a dark parking lot in Manhattan Beach, it brought up question marks. How useful is this? Jammed in a space that would fit maybe one Tundra was three iQs in various positions. As the 24 of us descended into listening to the speeches and explanations of it’s reason for existence, marketplace shakeup and marketing.
It’s obvious. The need for small cars that don’t suck is the future. Bling? It’s now hidden. Big is no longer important. Many of us reverted to efficiency, some “green” and saving for the questionable long term. Smart wins. The iQ fits most of these categories with some fun and gets 37mpg highway and streets combined. They say it’s the best of all cars.
At ten feet long, you’d think 4 people couldn’t fit, but there are 4 seats. How’s this possible? It’s really not. Frankly, the car is a two seater that can fit 4. It’s classified as a “3+1″. When a third is stuffed in back, the front passenger needs to scoot way up. If a fourth is to fit, the driver needs to do the same. It’s a weak point that tries to make amends, but ultimately the extra seating doesn’t work. Yet for two, the detection that you’re in a tiny car is negligible. You can’t feel a thing. The windshield is far up and you have leg room. Aside from being in a pickup, I’ve never been in a car that has “4 seats” where from the drivers seat I could touch the back window.
Will is about 6′ 3″ tall and fit easily.
Our test drive of the prototype around Los Angeles was among the first for this car. It raised a few eyebrows and we saw a few cellphone photos being taken. Again it’s not out until later in the year, so a preview at the Giant Robot store was in order. Will from Protein magazine was my driving partner and we agreed on the shortcomings but also the benefits. He laughed about the vehicle since it’s been out in his home country of England for two years already!
Performance wise, the car drives smoothly. It could use more power. Driving down the freeway and hitting the gas, it didn’t have that zip you’d hope for with any car, but at 10 feet long and a 12’9″ turning radius, it makes up for the lack of speed. How fast do you really want to go in a car that size? If you’re needed that much power, for the sticker price of $15,900+, get a Ducati or Aprilia motorcycle and you’ll hit 170.
Last words: watch for the art cars and the typical different car roll outs by Scion.