Toyota's doing it again. Their innovative and all new car, called the iQ, may perhaps outwit the Smart Fortwo. The Toyota iQ for 2009, is a kind of a four-passenger Smart For Four. But again government hurdles will lengthen the cars arrival. The iQ needs to be significantly modified, just like the Smart was for American safety standards. Even though it has been confirmed the Toyota iQ minicar will go on sale in Japan and Europe. The Toyota iQ requires improved rear end strengthening. Some suggest eliminating the cars rear seat, making it a two-seater like the Smart ForTwo. We believe keeping the four-seat design will give those who are not fond of the Smart ForTwo's limited seating.
Another self serving motive why the iQ may never be launched here is its low price tag and fuel consumption rating. This may detract from sales of Toyota's more costly third-generation Toyota Prius. The Toyota iQ has nine air-bags, including the first car ever to have a rear-window curtain air-bag and Toyota's reports that it could be badged as a Scion and may be at next month's Los Angeles Auto Show.
We believe that Toyota's new iQ minicar will be sold in the U.S. and hopefully sooner than later and many are saying the cars pioneering design and ground-breaking concept just may become the benchmark for small cars to come!
Outsmarting the Smart
Squeezing our 6-foot-3 frame behind the thick, sporty steering wheel of the 2009 Toyota iQ, we immediately notice just how spacious the cabin feels. Only when you're standing outside the Toyota iQ do you realize how short it is, less than 10 feet long from the tip of the front bumper to the end of the back bumper.
Due to be unveiled at the 2008 Paris Auto Show on October 2, the 2009 Toyota iQ is a kind of four-passenger Smart car. It's so innovative in its concept, packaging and design that it might just become the new yardstick for small cars.
When we drove this vision of the future here in Japan, we couldn't help but think that the massive influence of Toyota will tip the balance in favor of minimalist cars like the iQ and make them mainstream transportation instead of high-fashion indulgence.
When it goes on sale in Japan in mid-October and then Europe a couple months later, the 2009 Toyota iQ could become Japan's answer to the Fiat 500, the Smart Fortwo and Volkswagen up!
The Smart Answer ?
While we're looking at an array of iQs in every color, the car's chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima tells us, "Our aim was not to make a four-seater Smart. In order to ensure a sustainable future, there was a need for a radical change in vehicle packaging. We needed to create a breakthrough car, away from the traditional belief that small is basic."
Overlooked at its first appearance as a concept car at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, the Toyota iQ reflects Toyota's awareness of the way in which Europe is leading automotive trends these days. "All you ever hear these days in Europe is people talking about CO2. It's at the forefront of every discussion about motoring," says Nakajima.
The iQ is all about reducing the size of one's automotive carbon footprint. If you think the Toyota Yaris is small, wait until you get a load of this. Toyota says the all-new iQ microcar is the smallest four-passenger car in the world. That it may be, as long as the fourth passenger is knee high to a grasshopper. Thanks to some nifty packaging, the iQ will seat three adults comfortably, but the fourth space is basically reserved for one ankle-biter.
The 2009 Toyota iQ is considerably smaller than a Yaris but marginally bigger than a Smart, measuring just 117.5 inches in length, 66.1 inches in width and 59 inches in height. It has the face of a disgruntled puppy, although it surprisingly boasts greater on-road presence than initial pictures suggest thanks to slightly flared wheel arches and blistered bumpers, which give the contours some substance. The wheelbase stretches an amazing 79 inches to maximize interior volume, although it creates arguably the world's shortest front and rear overhangs in the process.
When we asked Koichi Suga, the head of the iQ's design team, to tell us about the most difficult challenge of creating a car less than 10 feet long, he responded, "That's got to be R&D. Because the more you try to develop a car, improve its handling and its safety, the longer it gets." As he notes, such a small package seems to sacrifice not only seating space (and comfort) but also crushable impact protection.
But it was here where Toyota's engineers really shone. The men in white coats came up with six packaging tricks.
The first is a newly developed compact differential for this front-wheel-drive car, which by itself adds more than 4 inches to the length of the interior cabin in comparison to the Toyota Yaris. In addition, radically angled rear suspension dampers and a flat fuel tank fit under the rear seats to further improve interior space. The steering column comes out of the center of the car and the dash is asymmetrical, while the seatbacks are especially slim. Even the air-conditioning unit packaged within the dash is 20 percent smaller.
Toyota's new microcar boasts no fewer than nine airbags, including a driver's knee bag, a passenger seat under-thigh bag (to prevent submarining under the seatbelt in a frontal impact), and the first-ever rear curtain airbag. Despite its small size, the 2009 Toyota iQ is expected to receive a five-star safety rating in the European NCAP testing.
Though the iQ is just 9.8 feet long and 5.5 feet wide, the cabin of this preproduction car feels remarkably spacious, even for our Australian-size frame. The generous distance from your eye across the top of the dash to the steeply angled windshield adds to the feeling of interior spaciousness, so the iQ feels at least one class bigger and one class more luxurious than it actually is. Interior quality and trim level are high, especially the center console, which has been artfully modeled in the shape of a manta ray.
The seats are comfortable and available with either cloth upholstery or partial leather. The asymmetrical dashboard helps move the front passenger forward enough to accommodate an adult in the rear seat. Of course, the space behind the driver is so small that it is relegated to shopping bags or a small child.
This minimalist car doesn't have a telescoping steering wheel or even a height adjustment for the driver seat, so the limit of comfort is exceeded by any driver taller than 5-foot-10. And you would not want to be any taller than 5-foot-10 in the backseat either. That said, you can travel short distances in relative comfort.
Let's Motor, Japanese-Style
The 2009 Toyota iQ is really meant to enhance Toyota's presence in Europe, and this market will get the choice of an iQ with either a 1.0-liter inline-3 with a five-speed manual transmission or a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 diesel with a six-speed manual. In mid-2009, a 1.3-liter inline-4 with variable valve timing will become available, and it'll feature either the six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Meanwhile, Japan will get the 1.0-liter inline-3 matched with a CVT.
Details about these drive trains are still being held back by the Toyota engineers, but we're told to expect "pretty much the same power and torque as now, while achieving better mileage and cleaner emissions." This means we can expect the 1.0-liter to produce around 70 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 69 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm. The 1.4-liter turbo diesel will generate approximately 89 hp.
Given that the iQ's main market is Europe, you'd expect perky performance and firm handling. Although we only got access to a preproduction version of the 1.0-liter gasoline-powered car fitted with a CVT, it was obvious that Toyota had worked hard to give the iQ plenty of straight-line stability as well as precise cornering traits. While the 1.0-liter will win no sprint tests, as it takes more than 14 seconds to get anywhere near 60 mph, the engine is smooth and the CVT responsive, although a little noisy.
Surprisingly, you're not aware of the Toyota iQ's short-coupled wheelbase when you're traveling at speed, as the car stays poised and firmly planted on the ground. With MacPherson struts in front and a simple torsion beam axle doing suspension duty in the rear, the handling of this 1,962-pound car seems predictable with the expected under steer. It could stand more communication from the steering, and while the 175/65R15 Bridgestone Ecopedia tires might offer low rolling resistance to maximize fuel economy, we feel that most people would give up 2 mpg for better handling and grip, even though the car's top speed is only 95 mph. There's talk in the Japanese press that the Euro-spec iQ turbo diesel might combine more torque, a more aggressive suspension and better tires, so this might be the right model to drive.
by Peter Lyon] [www.autospies.com]
The Sustainability Quotient
So is the 2009 Toyota iQ really ahead of the game? How fuel-efficient and squeaky clean is it compared to its competition in Europe?
According to one Toyota engineer, the 1.0-liter iQ should record 54.1 mpg on the European driving cycle while pumping out 99g/km of CO2. The 1.4 turbo diesel is expected to attain 52.3 mpg and generate about 106g/km of CO2.
But one look at the larger European-spec VW Polo Bluemotion 1.4 TDI and Seat Ibiza 1.4 TDI diesel variants, which Toyota says are its rivals, puts the tiny Toyota's achievements into perspective. The 80-hp Polo and Ibiza turbo diesels also deliver 99g/km of CO2 yet produce better fuel economy figures of more than 61 mpg. So it might be that the European reception for the 2009 Toyota iQ won't be very strong, especially if you remember that the Euro-spec Toyota Prius' 54.7 mpg and 104g/km were not impressive enough to generate the same kind of hybrid boom that we saw here in the U.S.
To conquer diesel dominance in Europe, Toyota will have to offer not only reliable, superbly packaged and well-conceived vehicles at the right price, but also will have to take a decisive lead in fuel economy and CO2 emissions. And though the iQ has given the tree a damn good shaking with its superb packaging, it remains to be seen whether it can dislodge the European compact diesels.
Will the expected $13,000 price of the 2009 Toyota iQ be cheap enough to steal buyers away from the segment leaders like the VW Polo?
Only time will tell if the iQ will be the breakthrough in the European market that Toyota is hoping for.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
by Peter Lyon] [www.autospies.com]