The smart fortwo has no peers when it comes to showing that minimalist cars do not have to possess minimal performance, comfort, and convenience. Even as the smart remains the poster child for eco-efficiency, though, its exclusivity in this arena is slipping away. Now, the smart has a competitor that is as innovative as the smart was when it debuted in Europe over a decade ago. This car – Toyota’s iQ – will go on sale in Europe in January 2009. Rumor has it that Toyota could market the iQ under the Scion brand name in the U.S.The iQ’s styling is quite like the Smart. But the challenge remains: What can you do with of an overall length of under 117.7 inches (three meters) without looking funky? Unlike the two-seat Smart fortwo, Toyota calls the iQ the world’s smallest four-seater, although it is really a 3+1 since the position behind the driver is best suited for a child or luggage. The iQ’s 0.299 drag coefficient is quite good.
This packaging took some innovation. First, the front-mounted differential is integrated with the transmission to create a very short front overhang. This allows large diameter 15-inch wheels to be placed at the corners, resulting in a 78.7 inch wheelbase for maximum interior space as well as enhanced stability. Rather than placing the fuel tank under the rear seats, flat tanks are located beneath the floor. Additional space in the rear is achieved by angling the rear shock absorbers backward.
A center take-off steering gear, placed higher in the engine bay, allows better positioning of the transmission, engine, and differential so engine compartment length could be traded for more passenger space. As is the case with many tiny cars, slim back and lightweight seats are used. By using extruded pipe materials rather than high tensile sheet steel, ride comfort or safety is not sacrificed. Also helping is a smaller, centrally located heater and air conditioning unit coupled with the iQ’s innovative asymmetric dashboard, which provide more passenger legroom and allow the 3+1 seating arrangement.
Two powerplants will be offered, a 1.0-liter VVT-i gasoline engine and a 1.4-liter D-4D diesel. The 3-cylinder, 12-valve DOHC gasoline engine is rated 67 horsepower, while the 4-cylinder, 8-valve OHC common rail turbocharged diesel produces 88 horsepower. A new 1.3-liter dual VVT-i gasoline engine with stop-and-start technology will be available later in 2009.
The 1.0-liter engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission with a Multidrive continuously variable transmission optional, while the diesel engine is mated to a 6-speed manual. The 1.0-liter VVT-i manual version gets an estimated 56 mpg fuel economy overall, while the diesel variant has an overall fuel economy of 57 mpg.
Toyota believes that small cars don’t have to sacrifice safety compared to larger ones, thus the iQ comes with many active and passive safety features as standard equipment. The iQ’s multi-load path construction effectively absorbs and disperses impact forces away from the cabin, plus the iQ has no less than nine airbags. These include front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, curtain shield airbags to guard the head and upper body of all four occupants, a driver’s knee airbag, and an airbag built into the front of the passenger seat cushion. The iQ also has the world’s first rear window airbag. This airbag is deployed from the roof lining behind the rear headrests to reduce impact to rear passengers.
Active safety features include ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC+) with Traction Control (TRC). The hood’s shape and height, plus the car’s collapsible cowl construction, are designed to deform in the event of an impact with a pedestrian.
The driver is also presented with information to allow driving more efficiently. A Gear Shift Indicator on manual transmission models indicates when to shift up or down for best fuel economy. Multidrive models have an ‘ECO’ driving indicator lamp on the multi-information display that encourages more economical driving by signaling when fuel is being saved. Current and average fuel consumption is also continuously shown.