Toyota’s 56-MPG iQ

12 10 2008

Looks like Toyota is bringing the 56-mpg iQ microcar to America after all, but it’s slapping a Scion badge on it first.

We first saw a production version of the lilliputian runabout at the Geneva Auto Show in March, at which point Toyota told us the car was designed for the Japanese and European markets and would not be coming to the states. But Motor Trend, citing unidentified sources, says the iQ is coming to America, albeit as a Scion, and we’ll see it next month at the Los Angeles auto show.

It’s a smart move, and putting the world’s smallest four-seater in the Scion lineup makes a lot of sense.

Car magazine called the iQ the best concept of 2007 (.pdf) and “the most significant small car since the original Smart City Coupe back in 1997.” Everything about it, from the shape of the dashboard to the placement of the gas tank, was designed to maximize interior room, and the iQ, like the Fiat 500 seems much bigger than it is.

As Motor Trend notes, Toyota is more than a bit busy developing the next-gen Prius and doesn’t need it — or the fuel-efficient Yaris — upstaged by a new car. But more than that, Toyota needs to reinvigorate Scion, which once was hip but has seen that rep dinged by the conservative second-gen xB and xD. The tiny iQ suits Scion’s young, urban demographic and, at less than 15 grand, would provide the marque with an entry-level model.

The iQ also would give Toyota/Scion a strong competitor against the Smart ForTwo, which despite mixed reviews has been a hit. More than 18,000 have sold since the car was introduced to America eight months ago. The iQ also would help Toyota/Scion meet tightening fuel economy standards.

There’s no word on what we’d see under the hood of an American iQ, but it’s a safe bet it won’t be the 55.9-mpg 1.0-liter three-cylinder gas or the 1.4-liter turbodiesel engines available in Europe. More likely is the 1.5-liter gasoline four-banger found in the Yaris.

Conclusion: 56mpg = Good

Style = Ick.

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