MOST motorists can appreciate that there’s something outrageous about one person commuting to the City in a car designed to carry at least four grown ups in it. Whichever way you look at it, it’s inefficient, even wasteful. Yet so-called City cars can be disappointing. They either don’t have any flexibility so they are just too damned small, or they are actually barely any smaller and economical than the bigger cars they are supposed to replace.
Toyota’s iQ has been around for a while and has attracted something of a cult following. A week into living with the car and I was shocked by the fondness I developed for it. We live in the centre of town so we are used to compromising in terms of the manner in which we move from place to place. We’re the kind of people that actually find travelling with as little stuff as possible thrilling – no small challenge with a baby – rather than packing everything just in case, so in a sense iQ was created for City dwellers like us. My 1.0 litre VVTi three-cylinder engine iQ was never going to set the road alight with its acceleration, and was never going to be a first choice for a two week family holiday, but for what it is, I found the iQ to be a remarkably comfortable companion.
Inside, the iQ has been cleverly maximised for space. It feels bigger and, essentially, is bigger than expected. Despite being less than 3m long and only 1.7m wide, the interior feels similar in size to a car in the segment above. This means you genuinely don’t feel cramped and on the road – particularly the motorway – the effect is that the iQ feels like a far bigger car.
Sure, with this engine it’s not particularly powerful, but the car was easily able to cruise along at 80mph or so on the M2 without making me feel worried that I was going to be blown into the central reservation by a lorry. This wasn’t how I felt the first time I drove a smart car. Somehow you do not feel vulnerable in the iQ, despite it being so small. I lost count of the number of times I looked over my shoulder, and was surprised to see the rear screen less than a metre away.
Clever attention to detail has maximised space in the iQ. Everything from the engine and the slim seats to the flat under-floor fuel tank has been artfully crafted to shear centimetres off the size. It’s designed so that there’s never three dials when one will do. Hence there’s just one dial for the temperature, air con and mode in the centre of the dash.
The seating arrangement is pure logic – two adults can sit comfortably with a cavernous 238 litres-worth of boot space behind them – to you and me that’s more or less room for a buggy, some bedding plants, two overnight bags and a three-quarter length mirror. Pick up your pals and they can just flip down one or two of the ultra-slim rear seats. You wouldn’t want to drive your three best mates to Le Mans in it – and anyway you wouldn’t fit your tent into the 30-odd litres of boot space that would leave you – but for an across-town trip it’s just perfect. If one of them is a six-foot rugby player then just slide the front passenger seat forward as there’s space in the footwell to allow for just this scenario.
Toyota may have set out to create the perfect city car in the iQ. It didn’t. The main problem is expense, it is more than £10,000 for a basic model. But Toyota will keep a lot of people happy with its new tot. It’s more fuel-efficient than the four-seater eco Fiat Panda and its cooler, but not as fuel-efficient, as the Smart ForTwo CDI. As a primary car it may be too much to compromise but as a secondary car it’s compelling. Oh, and a surprising amount of fun too.
TOYOTA IQ2, 1.0 LITRE
price: £10,995 (not including options)
Top speed: 93mph
CO2 g/km: 99g/km
MPG Combined: 65.9mpg