Toyota iQ

The race may now be set not to go to the swift, but the small. Toyota, evidently spurred by the positive reception to Daimler’s Smart car, is planning to bring the Toyota iQ model to America soon after it’s introduced in Japan this November, and Europe next January. Japan has already proven itself to be a receptive market for small cars, and Toyota says that the only thing standing between the iQ and similar success in the United States, is meeting American safety standards. If all goes as planned, the iQ has the potential to give the Smart —currently the littlest car sold in the U.S.—some serious competition in terms of fuel economy and versatility in the micro class.

For starters, the iQ is a four-passenger vehicle while the Smart only carries two. Some might quibble over the size of the iQ’s backseat, and question whether the car can comfortably carry four American adults—Toyota actually told journalists it was a “3 ½-seater,” as if to excuse a semi-functional rear seat.

The iQ is larger than the diminutive Smart, but not by much. Its wheelbase is a little more than five inches longer, and on the whole, the car is only about a foot longer than the Smart—11.4 inches to be exact. That said, its slightly larger size and some under-the-skin engineering wizardry will give the iQ better handling than its competitor, according to Hiroki Nakajima, the vehicle’s chief engineer.

Nakajima also told Automotive News that the iQ will have the best fuel economy of any Toyota other than the Prius. The Prius is currently rated at 48 City/ 45 Highway, while the Yaris gets 29/36—Daimler’s Smart gets 33/41. Chances are, the Toyota iQ will be very close to the Smart in terms of fuel economy, and if it does any better, it’s likely to be only a mile or two difference per gallon.

Although it’s 33 inches shorter than the Yaris, Toyota claims the iQ has more interior space due to engineering advances such as smaller heating and air-conditioning units and high-tensile steel frames that allow thinner passenger seats. The iQ will also be priced close to the Yaris, which could make it a sub-$10,000 vehicle in base trim. The Smart starts about $2,000 higher.

In Japan (and most likely the U.S.,) the Toyota iQ will come with either a 1.3 or 1-liter gasoline engine. The latter is the same size as the Mitsubishi powerplant that is found in the American Smart. In Europe, the iQ will offer a 1.4-liter diesel, which should turn in even better fuel economy. The European Smart diesel clocks in at more than 60 mpg on the highway.

The good news is that more choices in the mini car arena are just what consumers are asking for right now. If the U.S. version of the iQ can deliver breakthrough design features at an enticing price, it could be the first step toward turning micros from a mere curiosity to a mainstay on American roads.


  • Decent-sized seating in front
  • Should be priced to compete with entry-level sub-compacts
  • Hybrid-like fuel economy in 40s, at least
  • Very modest performance
  • Backseat can't comfortably hold two adults
  • Not available now, may not come to US

More Hybrid News...

  • Gary E Fassauer

    happy to see more breakthroughs, way pass due.

  • Black Ice

    Again, the Japanese 3 steps ahead…

  • sally

    All the SMART haters will get to move on to something else. I’m suprised this car doesn’t get better gas Mileage, I guess I’m still thinking about the good old days when a car called the Chevy SPRINT was getting over 50mpg.

  • Bryce

    I guess this would be good for city tooling around and commuting. I just don’t see this as something very practical anywhere else, especially when u could get a Yaris or an Aveo.

  • C Money

    I agree with sally. Why can’t these puny little cars get over 50mpg. Give us the diesel version already.

  • Jay

    Toyota I want my IQ to have a pink paint job please. I see this car as a niche car like the boxy Scion wc is ugly in my opinion but people like it. And for the price I agree with Bryce go with a plain Aveo or Yaris but just imagine if we could see full hybrid technology in those cars for 15,000-16,0000 I guess I’m just dreaming

    But I would say improving technology like advances in the IQ to increase space could go a long way in the industry so that people may not complain as much about the lack of size and comfort in compact cars

  • John Patterson

    Now why can’t a US company get on the same “bad-wagon”?

  • shane

    The reason that the 70s/80s very small cars got 50+ mpg, and these get ~ 40 mpg – is all the added weight.

    Volkswagon gave a comparison of their 70s Rabbit, and modern Golf. By size, they were very similar, but the 70s Rabbit had a ~1700 lb curb weight, and the modern Golf ~2800 lbs.

    Modern cars, and perhaps especially small ones, are alot nicer, safer (safety cage + airbags, etc), and have lots more creature comforts (a/c, stability comtrol, power windows, etc) – remember the inside of the 70s econo cars was often bare metal, not fabrics.

  • shane

    Oh – and I forgot that the extreme fuel mileage champs of the late 70s/early 80s weren’t speed demons. Adequate for the day, but expected acceleration performance has gone way up from then. A 12 second 0-60 time may have been understood and an accepted “trade” for fuel economy then, but until the last couple months, few American’s had any interest in considering slower acceleration to get a little more fuel eocomy.

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully in a year or two the one liter engine will drive a HSD and the mileage will exceed 50 MPG both in the city and on the highway.

  • Dom

    As usual, we get the gas engine, and the diesel engine gets sent to Europe only. Bring the little diesel engine for crying out loud!! Then this little car would get 50mpg easily! Same thing with the Smart!

    Shane – good point on the weight comparison of the VW Golf/Rabbit. But let me point out that the old diesel Rabbits got 50mpg. The modern diesel Golf (Rabbit) gets 45-50mpg. I know, I’ve got a 03 Golf TDI. If my 2800lb car can get 50mpg, this little iQ should too!

  • mdensch

    If one could afford to own a fleet of cars, each one to be used for a specific driving need, then micro-cars such as this might make more sense.

    Since most people are limited to one or two vehicles, they look for cars that meet most of their driving needs and then have to make some compromises. You trade-off a little fuel economy for a bit more cargo space or passenger capacity. Or you decide to give up some straight-line performance to achieve better economy.

    Cars such as this or the Smart ForTwo make the most sense in dense urban environments where their small size helps to overcome parking and maneuverability issues.

    But (and I’ve asked this before in here), is it in our best interest to solve some of these issues by making cars smaller so we can jam more of them into dense urban settings or should we be looking for other solutions instead such as mass transit, bicycles, scooters or even walking?

  • Walt

    It isn’t who will be first but who finishes first. I am not looking forward to driving one of the mico mini vehicles. You will have to avoid traveling too close to large vehicles such as trucks with the backwash they create. You will have to avoid driving over large bridges such as the Golden Gate, Tampa Bay Bridges or the Mackinaw on windy stormy days. You will never want to drive near flooded roadways with the risk of floating away. You will have to check the weather before starting out for the day. I am sure NOAA will have small car advisories posted as required by the government.

  • Giant

    Walt –
    With peak oil looming, that will be the least of your worries. Soon you will be longing for the days of driving micro cars as you ride your bicycle across the Golden Gate.

  • Ross Nicholson

    Micros have long deserved a place in the American market. Stodgy marketing and regulatory practices hamper sales.

  • Carl

    Shane, don’t forget that in the 70’s and 80’2, cars were not encombered with milage sucking emmision control equipment like they are today. The cost for cleaner air is lower milage. Ironic, but true.

  • carLover

    This is cool but I don’t like the looks of the model. Toyota really needs this for they can have something to level up with the Yaris, Fit and Swift. They are little rides that really contribute to their league.

  • interface

    Availebil in germany Jan 2009.

  • DJ

    Micro and city cars have interested me greatly here in the USA, ever since I lived in Germany in the 60’s. I’ve spent the last 15 years as a car salesman, which has given me a first-hand look at the vehicle buying habits and desires of the American vehicle owner.

    Many American consumers’ needs (not desires) could be met by a city car, but for a variety of reasons they would never even consider one. Many Americans buy vehicles based on desire, not needs.

    “It’s too small” and “It’s not safe” are too of the most common objections I hear to city cars.

    When gas was approaching $4 in the US, my customers with gas hog trucks and SUVs were freaking out, trying to switch to something more fuel efficient. As gas prices have drifted closer to $3 US, once again customers have little interest in fuel economy. (Oh, the fickle short-term memory of the American consumer.)

    Customers use the process of justification, to justify whatever vehicle they want to buy, fuel efficient or not. They rarely use reason or critical thinking.

    Here in the Northeast US, I hear a lot of “I must have 4WD to get me thru the winter.” When surveyed, most of my 4WD customers tell me that they NEVER use their 4WD (even in winter), and if winter driving conditions are really treacherous (about 4 days per winter here), they tell me that they do not drive at all.

    Except for off-roading, mounting four agressive snow tires on a front wheel drive car, will give it nearly as much bad weather capability as any 4WD vehicle*. And these four tires are much cheaper than owning a 4WD vehicle. Much cheaper by thousands of dollars.

    My customers who have to have big vehicles, for carrying people and stuff, tell me that 90+% of the time they are the only one in the vehicle, and they are hauling no stuff, except for a couple of grocery bags.

    As a professional automotive salesperson, I love the process of justification; because if consumers actually thought about what they need vehicle-wise, instead of what they want (via justification) – (a) I’d sell a lot less cars, and (b) there would be a lot more micro and city cars on US streets.

    And by the way, for the last 13 years I drove a Chevy Metro hatchback city car (the Suzuki Swift rebadged), and averaged 45 mpg. Since very few cars like this are sold currently in the US (city-sized, low priced, and great fuel mileage), and I recently needed a new car, I bought a Toyota Yaris hatchback. It has an EPA rating of 29/35, and for the last 14,000 miles I have consistently averaged 36/42 without hypermiling.

    * Visit for more info on 4WD and its benefits.

  • Bob bobby

    But wait a minute, I just bought a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid…no not really!
    A good thing we are seeing more and more of those little suckers like the IQ on the road!

  • Bryce

    GM actually sold over 800 of those hybrid Tahoe’s in the month of December and over 400 GMC versions. I think there were a couple hundred Cadillac Escalades as well.

  • Henry the 8th

    I’m glad to see the SmartCar get some competition – I like the SmartCar but for it’s size and engine (1.0 litre) I expected much better fuel economy.

  • Chris Wyatt

    The iQ is not selling well in the UK and probably not in Europe because it is in competition with the Toyota-PSA B-Zero car sold in the EU as the Toyota Aygo,Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107.

  • Eunice

    I want a Toyota IQ hybrid or manual colored PINK PINK PINK. But it seems it is still in my wildest dreams.

  • ranaakl

    cool car, only i wish it have 4 doors…

  • Roger

    It has a totally different style and design then other cars.It’s comparatively small is size but attractive in looks. It is a good nice car to dive.

  • Jennifer

    It has a totally different style and design then other cars.It’s comparatively small is size but attractive in looks. It is a good nice car to dive.

  • Darryl Meyer

    I saw several iQ’s in Switzerland and France during the past couple weeks. Like the smart (I have a european model) they are referred to as city cars; however, they make a reasonable car on the highways. I’ve had my smart for 5+ years with nearly 90k on it – live in the midwest and have driven to the east coast and Canada several times.

    The iQ’s rear seat works in a pinch for short distances. Usually european roads offer a better ride – better construction (I think) and milder climates. Some of the EPA and DOT regs in the US lead to lower mileage and are a real hindrance to bringing in diesels. I tried to get a Canadian smart as several people I knew there were getting in the 70’s with their diesel – which was stopped when the US gas model was introduced and also sent to Canada.

    The prototype of the US iQ does not have the smooth lines of the european model. It’ll be interesting to see if the US one gets comparable mileage to europe.

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