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Toyota iQ

Published: 11 September 2007

Toyota iQ: the lowdown

The Japanese scored one of the very few surprises of the Frankfurt show this year, with the titchy iQ concept car that previews Toyota’s new sub-Aygo city car. It’s one of our favourite cars at the show, bristling with intelligent new thinking and design flourishes to make small cars interesting again. And the best news is that Toyota has committed to building a production version, probably due in European showrooms by 2009.

So just how small is the iQ?

The diminutive white car at Frankfurt is a 3+1 seater that’s just 2980mm long – a touch longer than a Smart Fortwo but significantly shorter than a Mini. Check out our comparison with the Yaris (above). It is however, as tall and wide as an Aygo, creating a squat, bold shape. There are three full-time seats, with an occasional jump seat for a small fourth passenger or some luggage. And Toyota claims that the iQ will be as safe as full-sized superminis, despite those small dimensions.

Brilliant styling! It reminds me of something…

Yes, the iQ reminds us of exactly what a small Toyota should be. On the one hand it is redolent of the Yaris and Aygo – successful small cars with a distinctive Japanese flavour – while on the other it takes many of the styling cues from the radical FT-HS hybrid sports car concept from Detroit. In particular, that car’s ‘vibrant clarity’ design language has found a new expression on the tiny iQ city car. Just look at the complex surfacing, seemingly peppered with scoops lifted away from the metal. It creates interesting, contoured surfaces, hinting at mass removed in the name of lightweight. And there are plenty of triangular motifs too.

What’s it like inside?

Pretty radical. Toyota has gone back to the drawing board with this car, engineering in simplicity from the word go. So the dashboard and most of the interior package are formed from simple panels without the need for complicated, and expensive mouldings. Even the sat-nav and display screen is a simple pane standing proud from the dash onto which the info is beamed. Although no-one has sat in the iQ yet, the designers claim it will have generous space for adults. ‘People won’t accept 80 percent less cabin space just because the car is 80 percent smaller,’ said European R&D boss Kazuhiko Miyadera.

What engines will the iQ have?

There’s no word yet on the mechanical package that will underpin the production version of the iQ, but unlike VW’s Up! city car concept also shown at Frankfurt, it will be front-engined and front-drive. You can safely assume a choice of small petrol and diesel engines will be offered; no need for complex hybrids here, although an electric version hasn’t been ruled out. What is interesting is the packaging under the skin. Toyota has achieved the impossible – three/four seats in car under 3m long – by rearranging the chassis architecture. Everyday components have been radically redesigned and moved to new housings to free up space for bodies and bags, and there has been a lot of work on miniaturisation, making items like the heating and ventilation system much smaller than usual. Good for packaging, good for saving weight, better for the environment.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet