"The Toyota iQ city car is a great example of clever design. With its tiny dimensions and four-seat practicality, it's a classy and versatile choice."
The Toyota iQ city car isn’t quite as clever as it used to be. That's mainly down to price, with the larger Toyota Aygo and new budget cars like the Dacia Sandero coming in well under the iQ's £10,000 price point. But there's still nothing else on the UK market quite like it. At only three metres long – a smidge longer than a smart car – its compact dimensions make it easy to park and zip around town. But its party trick is being able to fit four occupants inside its tiny body. This is thanks to a dashboard design that positions the front passenger slightly forward of the driver. That means in reality we’re talking about two adults, a teenager and a car seat rather than four grown-ups – but that's still impressive. If the iQ is your only car, planning will be key – will you need all your passenger space or do you need to use the boot? You can’t do both, alas. It's a little scary on the motorway, too, but very few cars beat it in the city environment it's designed for.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
With CO2 emissions of 99g/km, the entry-level 1.0-litre is free from road tax while also returning 64.2mpg. By comparison, go up to the 1.33-litre model and emissions increase to 113g/km, retuning 57.6mpg in fuel economy – which is still cheap. So, while you pay a bit upfront, you may save in the long run, especially as the iQ holds it value pretty well in the used car market. As a result, you should be able to get some good deals when the time comes to sell it on. Insurance premiums are very low across the whole range, too.
Interior & comfort
Something this small was never going to be the most comfortable car out there, but Toyota's clever design makes the iQ feel somewhat TARDIS-like inside. You can’t adjust the steering wheel for reach or alter the height of the driver's seat (you’d bump your head almost immediately if you could), but the driving position is surprisingly good. There's plenty of shoulder and elbow room in the front, with decent headroom all round. There is nearly zero legroom behind the driver, so the fourth seat is a kids-only option really, but with the passenger seat sitting forward of the driver thanks to the asymmetric dashboard, an adult can comfortably fit behind the passenger seat. Anyone inside will be bounded about if the car drives over any bumps, mind you. The large windscreen gives great visibility, but some of the buttons around the interior are a bit fiddly – particularly the single steering wheel-mounted control for the stereo.
Practicality & boot space
The cleverness behind the iQ gives with one hand, but cannot help but take away with the other. Yes, it's ingenious how the engineers have packaged the interior so that four passengers can fit, but in reality getting four adults inside just isn’t possible. By moving the dashboard further towards the windscreen on the passenger's side, the front passenger can sit farther forward than the driver, which means there's genuinely enough space behind for an adult. But only a small child will be able to sit behind the driver. And you sacrifice any kind of boot space for that extra volume in the main cabin, there's barely enough room for a laptop bag. It does expand to 242 litres with the seats folded, but that is only a little bigger than the seats-up capacity of the Smart ForTwo.
Reliability & safety
Toyota ranked ninth in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, confirming Toyota's reputation for producing very reliable cars. The iQ itself actually dropped a whopping 42 places from the 2012 survey, ranking 65th in the top 100 cars for 2013. It did come second for running costs, and scored high for reliability and build quality, though, so there's no reason to think it won’t be anything other than reliable. The plastics used inside could be better quality – given the iQ's high list price there's no real excuse for cheap materials. However, it's pretty safe for such a small package, scoring the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, thanks to nine airbags – count them, nine, including the first rear windscreen airbag. What's more, it also comes with Toyota's five-year warranty, too.
Engines, drive & performance
You can do a u-turn almost anywhere you like in the iQ – checking it's safe to do so, of course – thanks to its truly tiny turning circle. It has light steering and responsive handling, and both the 67bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and 98bhp 1.33-litre four-cylinder petrol engines are great. Unusually, the smaller engine that the iQ shares with the Aygo is actually the better choice, feeling spritely, being cheaper to run and even sounding nice. It does go from 0-60mph in a slow 14 seconds, but the iQ is small enough that it still feels nippy! We’d avoid the noisy CVT automatic gearbox, too, and stick with the standard five-speed manual, which gives you more control to really show off its turn of speed around town. The tiny body can get blown about by crosswinds on the motorway, however, while the car's tiny size makes it feel out of its depth in fast moving traffic.
Price, value for money & options
The base model iQ costs just over £1,700 more than an entry-level smart fourtwo. So what does that money get you? Alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a six-speaker stereo with MP3 player connectivity are all fitted as standard. Go for the iQ2 and you also get front foglamps, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, climate control and keyless entry. The 1.33-litre model costs from £12,515 and get its own iQ3 model, adding 16-inch alloy wheels, a six-speed gearbox, chromed door mirrors and stop-start system. What's more, in order to compete with the likes of the Fiat 500 and MINI, there's also a range of optional accessories for you to personalise your iQ.