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Toyota iQ3 1.33

Click to view picture gallery“Toyotas iQ — Is it really ‘intelligent’
  city car motoring? And why four
  into three doesn
t go but why three’s
  not always a crowd...”

FIRST LAUNCHED INTO THE EUROPEAN new car market in 2009 with initially a 1.0-litre petrol engine and followed by a 1.33-litre petrol unit with Stop&Start, Toyota's 'intelligent' three-door iQ city car has just received its 2011 updates — as well as a recall notice.

Both engines are available with manual or semi-automatic gearboxes and the latest prices start at 10,228 and rise to 13,263 with three levels of specification: Standard through to '3' although only the larger engine comes with level 3 trim.

But first that recall: the iQ is subject to another Toyota voluntary recall campaign; this one to correct the electronic power steering sensors even though there have been no reports of problems with UK and European cars. However, following the recent recall campaigns, like all new Toyotas the iQ is now covered by a five-year/100,000-mile warranty with three years' paintwork cover and a 12-year anti-corrosion and perforation warranty and, for good measure, one year's full AA cover.

The initial design concept for the iQ started in 2003 way before the 'city car' segment became popular in Europe although Japan has produced these models (called K-Class mini cars in Japan) for many years. The aim was to bring to market a four-seater city car less than three metres in length.

Rear seat legroom
is almost nonexistent
so to call it a four-seater
is a giant
At 2,985mm long, the iQ is the world's shortest four-seater car and ideal for kerbside parking. But the overall width is 1,680mm — no different to a modern 'supermini' — so there is plenty of elbow room for the passengers. The height is 1,500mm so headroom is also good.

However, with a wheelbase of just 2,000mm, rear seat legroom is almost nonexistent so to call it a four-seater is a giant exaggeration. Bit if the passenger's front seat is pushed forward there is a little more legroom for the nearside rear occupant, so it's probably more realistically described as a three-person car.

Because the rear seat head restraints are so close to the rear tailgate window I have some concern about the safety for rear passengers should the iQ be hit from behind by another vehicle. But it does have nine airbags, including a rear window curtain shield, and it has been given a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Luggage space is also an issue. With all seats in use it is a mere 32 litres — enough for a briefcase or an umbrella but that's about it. Fold one of the rear seats away and the 32 litres increases to 168; fold both rear seats down and the 168 goes up to 242 litres — just about enough for two soft weekend bags.

For the 2011 model year, the iQ features a new premium grey interior introduced as an alternative to the original rich chocolate-plum colour, which remains available with Deep Amethyst, Chilli Red and Decuma Grey exterior paint finishes. A contrasting black upper dash and lower door trim was also introduced at the same time, together with new soft-touch materials around the cabin and, for the grey interior, new detailing in the form of red stitching for the black leather steering wheel and a black-and-red surround for the centre console.

The latest iQs retain the original distinctive interior concept. It replicates the unique exterior styling — upright, compact yet with looks that cannot be ignored. Then there is the 'floating' V-shaped centre console, which is actually a mathematical emulation of a manta ray fish! It forms the centrepiece of the asymmetrical dashboard, with a single dial controlling all the air conditioning functions at the base of the V. The audio unit is integrated into the console, so only the CD slot is visible; all the audio controls, along with a joystick selector, are located on the steering wheel.

“Thanks to the larger
1.33-litre engine, the iQ is
a city car that can cope
with longer journeys...
not as relaxing to drive
as a larger ‘supermini’
sized car, but it worked
for me
Cabin temperature controls, twin face-level air vents and an LCD display are situated inside the arms of the V. An optional satellite navigation colour display tops off the console.

Analogue meters are clear and functional, incorporating a multi-information display showing outside temperature and current and average fuel consumption figures.

Electrically-operated windows, mirrors and air conditioning all feature as standard as too is the very important vehicle stability control which includes traction control.

Handling and stability are always concerning issues for small city cars with very short wheelbases and narrow tracks. The iQ, because of its wider 'supermini' tracks, is more 'planted' on the road and less affected by body roll during cornering, side wind gusting and the buffeting draught of lorries. It rides flat and level, if perhaps a little harsh at times, due to its short wheelbase.

But now, thanks to the larger 1.33-litre engine, it is a city car that can cope with longer journeys. I have just completed a busy week's motoring with the very latest iQ3 1.33 and I covered lots of motorway miles as we'll as numerous congested city streets. I'm not saying it is as relaxing to drive as a larger 'supermini' sized car, but it worked for me without being tiring or annoying and above all it was easy to park.

The tight turning circle made it really agile to manoeuvre in and around other traffic and certainly helped squeezing into short parking spaces. The rear quarter visibility is limited, so care is needed in towns where traffic and two-wheeled riders creep up the nearside of the car.

The iQ's 1.33-litre, 97bhp petrol engine gives it sprightly acceleration and the 91lb ft of torque makes it responsive in the mid range. Stop&Start is a standard item and worked well — Toyota says that the fuel savings with this feature can be as much as 15%.

The short wheelbase and front-wheel drive configuration does cause significant understeer if the car is being driven enthusiastically, especially on wet roads or loose surfaces. That noted, the steering, although lacking in feel, is sharp and generally predictable. Electronic brakeforce distribution helps maintain stability during cornering and there is also electronic stability control as well as traction control making this small car big on technical features.

“The six-speed manual
transmission model
returned 48.3mpg which
included lots of
motorway cruising and
congested city streets
Top speed is 106mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is a respectable 11.8 seconds. Fuel economy in the official Combined Cycle is 57.6mpg and my test car, with the six-speed manual transmission, returned 48.3mpg which included lots of motorway cruising and congested city streets.

The emissions are 113g/km which, unlike its smaller 1.0-litre stablemate (99g/km), means it will not, unfortunately, be exempt from the London Congestion Charge from January 2011. Road tax is free in the First Year VED rating and then it is 30 a year from the second year onwards.

Reasons to buy an iQ include compact city car dimensions that make it easy to park, larger 1.33-litre engine that improves out of town performance, very well equipped and distinctive style. For commuting company car drivers, the Benefit-in-Kind tax liability is a low 10 per cent. Insurance is also a low Group 6, so running costs are about as minimal as you can get. There are several good reasons not to drive an iQ; it is expensive to buy, is compromised for rear passenger and load space and the 1.3-litre model incurs the 2011 London Congestion Charge.

Also, as just mentioned, at 12,255 the iQ's initial purchase price is relatively high. Especially when you consider that Toyota's roomier three- and five-door hatchback Aygo city cars (with 1.0-litre petrol engines) are roomier, more fuel efficient with less CO2 emissions and, with prices ranging from 8,220 to 9,145, considerably cheaper. It looks like it's the Aygo, not the iQ, that's the 'intelligent' buy. — David Miles

Toyota iQ3 1.33
| 12,225
Maximum speed: 106mph | 0-62mph: 11.8 seconds | Overall test MPG: 48.3mpg
Power: 97bhp | Torque: 91lb ft | CO2 113g/km