5 Surprising Facts about the 2012 Scion iQ

Side view of 2012 Scion iQThe 2012 Scion iQ is one of the smallest cars you can buy in America today. It’s 20-inches shorter than a Fiat 500 yet, amazingly, it’s still 14 inches longer than a Smartfortwo. It’s a city car, first and foremost, and no matter how you approach the iQ, it’s surprising in many ways. Here are 5 surprising facts about the Scion iQ.

Fact #1: 2 + 1 Seating

Given the tiny size, the iQ looks like a two-seater. But the car actually features what Scion calls “2+1 seating.” That means that while there are actually four seats and four seat belts, there’s really only space for the driver and front passenger, plus a single passenger behind the front passenger. Okay, if you’re really, really, teensy-weensy, you can squeeze a fourth passenger behind the driver. But I don’t recommend it. Even kids under the age of five will feel cramped back there.

The iQ is a tiny car. If you have more than a few friends and enjoy traveling in a group, any compact sedan will offer more commodious accommodations.

Booster seat in 2012 Scion iQ
There is virtually no legroom behind the driver’s seat in the 2012 Scion iQ–even for small kids

Fact #2: 4-Star Crash Test Rating and 11 Airbags

To many readers, the four-star (out of five) crash test rating by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has to come as a surprise. This tiny car looks so small you might be afraid to drive it on the freeway. But fear not; the iQ will actually protect you quite well in a collision. Credit the 11 airbags, including exclusive rear air bags that are mounted just inside the rear window. Don’t get me wrong, here. Tangle with a Suburban or F-250 and you’ll feel it.

Watch a Scion iQ Crash Test Video

Fact #3: Mediocre Fuel Efficiency

The most surprising fact about the Scion iQ is that it returns completely mediocre fuel economy. Check these numbers: the iQ is expected to return 36 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway for a combined average of 37 mpg.

Thirty-seven mpg. Are you kidding me?

The standard Prius Liftback averages 50 mpg in combined driving. And the smaller Prius c (yet wildly spacious compared to the iQ) also averages 50 mpg. I’ve personally achieved 56 mpg driving the Prius c in the same conditions as the iQ.

One would assume that a car this small would average 40, 50 or even 60 miles per gallon. One would be wrong. Dead wrong.

During the past week I drove just over 200 miles, drained the tank in the process, and averaged a measly 34 mpg. That’s just not acceptable in a car this small. The Hyundai Elantra, Dodge Dart and 2013 Nissan Sentra all get between 39 and 41 mpg on the highway. Plus, you can still fit you your passenger and two or three other friends in the car. For most buyers, that’s the better and more convenient choice.

Fact #4: Delightfully Tight Turning Radius

The Scion iQ has a delightfully tight turning radius. Since the iQ is built for the city, this is where the car shines brightest. Watch the video below for an example of making a three-point turn in a small driveway. Parallel parking in the iQ is actually fun. Seriously. Since you can fit two Scion iQs in one standard city parking space (not legally, of course), it’s nearly impossible to screw up a parallel parking job.

Watch the TFL Car 2012 Scion iQ Review

Fact #5: The iQ is Surprisingly Easy to Live With

This is probably the biggest surprise of all—the iQ is easy to drive on a daily basis. Sure it only has 94 horsepower. Sure it has a continuously variable transmission that screams and howls when you push it to its limits, which is about anything above 70 miles per hour. But it’s actually easy to drive and mildly fun to pilot a a car this small around town. I was frankly surprised I never felt nervous even on the highway, though I stayed well away from big cars. I also avoided two-lane highways just to reduce any possible fear factor.

Most American drivers commute to and from work by themselves. In a commuting setting, the iQ feels like just about any other car. It gets you from here to there and when it comes time to park, it fits just about anywhere. While you can comfortably drive the iQ on the freeway at prevailing speeds, it’s always at its best on tight city streets.

Front 3/4 view of 2012 Scion iQ
The tiny iQ leaves a tiny footprint on the road

On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:

– Buy it

– Lease it

– Rent it or

– Forget it

I say forget it—unless you live in the city where parking space is at such a premium that you absolutely have to own one of the smallest cars you can buy in America.

The Scion iQ makes little sense for most drivers. It’s fun to drive in a limited way. It is delightfully maneuverable in tight settings. But the fuel economy and the lack of passenger space just doesn’t make this a viable car for many people outside of Manhattan, Boston or San Francisco. If you live in one of America’s biggest cities, take a look. Otherwise, look at the Scion’s corporate cousins the Toyota Prius c or Toyota Prius hatchback/sedan instead.

rear view of 2012 Scion iQ
The Scion iQ features rear airbags just above the rear window

2012 Scion iQ Photos Copyright 2012 Waterdog Media, Inc.

MSRP: $15,265

As tested: $19,355

Michael-waterman-photoMichael Waterman’s first car was a 1978 Ford Fiesta. Not particularly prestigious, but awfully fuel-efficient. He’s still a fan of efficient, practical vehicles, especially those that can hold their own in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains where Michael lives and writes about cars. He’s the former Executive Editor of Vehix.com and also writes about cars at SpeedyDaddy.com. When he’s not covering cars, he writes about music at toponehitwonders.com.