What's New for 2013
The Scion iQ gets a few minor additional features for 2013, including rear speakers.
You're driving down a busy city street desperately trying to find a parking space. The clock is ticking; an important meeting starts in minutes. Then, a miracle: an open space appears practically illuminated by a beam of light shining down from the heavens. You pull alongside the spot. It's going to be a tight fit, but channeling your inner Tim Gunn, you think you can make it work. First try, fail. Second try, even worse. Time is running out; trailing motorists are befriending their horns. Your car just isn't going to fit.
There's a very good chance the 2013 Scion iQ won't be a part of this scenario that urban dwellers know only too well. Of all the cars on American roads, only the Smart Fortwo has a smaller footprint, yet this tiny Toyota-sourced city car outdoes its better-known rival in just about every appreciable way ? including parking in tiny spaces.
First and foremost, the Scion boasts superior interior space. Whereas the Smart has only two seats, the iQ gets an extra set in the back. Now, you're probably thinking that such rear occupants would have to be masochists or Peking Opera contortionists, but in fact, ingenious interior and engine-bay packaging has resulted in two full-size adults being able to sit one behind the other on the passenger side. An adult is still unlikely to fit behind the driver, hence the "3+1" passenger designation you may see used to describe the car.
Another advantage to the iQ is its efficient, more conventional powertrain setup that makes it feel more like a normal car to drive than the Smart. It's equally slow, though, meaning this city car is best kept in, well, the city. On the highway it gets blown about in crosswinds and feels more vulnerable and insubstantial compared to larger subcompacts like the Chevy Sonic, Fiat 500, Kia Rio and Toyota's Yaris.
It should also be pointed out that because such cars are indeed larger, they boast more passenger and cargo space (the Fiat less so) while costing about the same when optioned up to equal the generously equipped Scion. As such, you'd have to face the aforementioned parallel parking dilemma pretty frequently for the 2013 Scion iQ to make more sense than a bigger, more conventional subcompact car. If you do, though, the iQ is likely your best choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Scion iQ is a two-door, four-passenger city car available in a single trim level. Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, a choice of two different plastic wheel covers, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker Pioneer sound system with HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
There are no factory options. However, there are a number of dealer-installed items. Besides typical add-ons like a rear spoiler and various cargo-area items, the dealer can install alloy wheels, foglamps, interior ambient lighting, satellite radio and an upgraded audio interface system with a touchscreen, voice controls, Internet radio and Facebook/Twitter services.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Scion iQ comes with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 94 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard. In Edmunds testing, the iQ accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 11.6 seconds, which is a second slower than the average subcompact car. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 36 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined. While the highway number isn't the flashy 40 mpg you'll see from some larger vehicles, the combined number is excellent.
The 2013 Scion iQ comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes (front disc and rear drums), front side airbags, front side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and three more airbags not commonly found in other cars ? front seat-cushion airbags and a rear-window airbag that deploys around the rear-seat headrests.
In Edmunds brake testing, the iQ stopped from 60 mph in 131 feet, which is about 10 feet longer than average for a subcompact car.
In government crash testing, the iQ received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and three stars for side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
As you'd expect, the Scion iQ is at its best with just two occupants. Nevertheless, the car has been engineered to maximize interior space. Clever packaging under the hood allows the passenger side of the dash to be placed farther forward. This, in turn, allows the front passenger seat to be placed sufficiently forward to fit a full-size passenger in the rear seat behind. Meanwhile, the remainder of the rear seat behind the driver can accommodate a child if need be. Either rear seat is best used in a pinch, so having them certainly is better than nothing.
If the mission of the day is to haul stuff instead of people, the 50/50-split rear seat folds flat to enlarge the cargo area from a meager 3.5 cubic feet to 16.7 cubic feet. Other interior storage includes space for four 25-ounce containers in the doors, plus two rear cupholders and one in the center console. There is no glovebox, however, and the available space doesn't go far.
Like all Scions, the iQ benefits from a strong Pioneer audio system with a clever interface and abundant media connections. There is an optional touchscreen interface that comes with a few extra features, but you'll be fine without it. The high-tech audio system contrasts with the rest of the cabin, which features simple, low-tech controls like the three-knob climate system. Overall materials quality is of the rock-hard plastic variety, which isn't entirely surprising at this price point.
The 2013 Scion iQ is small, but there's nothing basic about it. Utility rather than fun is the message here, yet there's no regret as you walk up, open the door and set off into the city. It offers such terrific turn-on-a-dime maneuverability that you're tempted to drive like a maniac, wheeling into impulsive U-turns, crowding into the bicycle lane and diving into the leftovers in curbside parking. You'll be hard-pressed to do so with excessive speed, though, since the 94-hp iQ feels suitably slow.
This sleepy response seems to be the responsibility of the CVT, which transforms every throttle input into a tedious drone from under the hood. Nevertheless, the reward comes at the gas station, where the Scion seems to hit its EPA numbers fairly easily. The CVT is also superior to the Smart Fortwo's clunky-shifting automated manual transmission.
Given its short wheelbase, you might expect the iQ to have a choppy ride on the highway, yet it delivers acceptable stability at speed. Crosswinds affect it, though, and you feel a little more vulnerable in the iQ than you do in larger subcompact cars like the Chevy Sonic or Fiat 500.