MM Retro-Write-Up: 2012-2015 Scion IQ.


MM Retro-Write-Up: 2012-2015 Scion IQ.






^^^^^^^^Scion IQ





^^^^^^^^^ Aston Martin Cygnet

IN A NUTSHELL: What the Smart-for-Two should have been, and wasn’t.

Micro-cars, which are those that in auto-terminology are known as the A-Class (with B- Class being subcompact, and C-Class compact), have never sold well in the United States, for a number of reasons. First, most Americans traditionally tend to like size and comfort, although there are some signs that this is now changing with the rise of A and B-Class crossovers. Second, we have always had relatively cheap fuel compared to most other countries (Venezuela and Saudi Arabia excepted), notwithstanding the truly serious inflation of gas prices in the last year or so. Third, driving-distances across America can be vast, and equalled or exceeded only by Russia, China, Brazil, and Australia in sheer size, so most Americans don’t want be out on the roads in what are essentially four-wheeled motor scooters, although millions of Americans also seem to love their two-wheeled (sometimes three-wheeled) Harley motorcycles and their wake-up-the-dead-loud exhaust pipes. Forth, our enormous economy and vast driving distances across the nation, together with the demise of the railroads, demands a huge number of big cargo trucks that, well, just don’t mix well with little puddle-jumper autos, particularly in a crash. Fifth, many Americans live in large single-family homes, with good-sized driveways, and don’t necessarily need a vehicle that can be snap-maneuvered and parked anywhere. although some crowded malls and parking-areas for businesses and office-buildings do often invite the convenience of small size.

Nevertheless, although some B-Class subcompacts have done relatively well in the U.S., particularly from VW, Mini, Toyota, and a few other Japanese manufacturers, true A-Class mini-cars have not….for reasons which I have just described. Smart, a division of Daimler (Mercedes), marketed gas and electric versions of the Smart-for-Two here in the U.S. from 2008 until 2019, when Smart left the U.S. market. (a slightly larger version, the Smart-for-Four), was sold in Europe and other places).

When I reviewed and test-drove an early First-Generation Smart for Two, it was clear that this vehicle was not suited for (most) American driving conditions outside of maybe some very low-speed dense urban conditions where you needed to park almost literally anywhere, sideways in an alley maybe, or if you wanted to load it in the back of a moving van LOL. Driving it, compared to just about any other modern vehicle I had sampled, bordered on the pathetic. First, its ultra-diminutive size meant avoid an accident at all costs… are probably going to come out Second-Best, particularly with a truck, although, to its credit, since it was a Mercedes product, it did have the famous Mercedes Safety-Engineered roll cage which would give you whatever protection that ultra-small size could give. Mercedes, of course, along with Volvo, is a company well-known for safety-engineering. But driving it, like I said, bordered on the pathetic…..particularly by modern standards. The short, Bobby-stance, tall roofline (while good for head room), narrow track, and feather-weight mass made the vehicle lean and sway like a drunken mule with the slightest steering input or reaction to road bumps, the lack of sound insulation was little more than a motorcycle, the tiny but infamous Getrag DSG (automated manual) transmission made the car bob back and forth on low-speed shifts like Junior’s Rocking-Horse under the Christmas tree. Inside, there was a mix of some durable and some very tinny hardware, but, overall, as dull and basic an interior as you can get. And the fuel economy, though indeed frugal, was not quite what one would expect of a modern vehicle that small, either.

So, in 2012, when Toyota’s Scion Division decided to bring the overseas-market Toyota IQ here to the U.S. as the Scion IQ, and I saw it and looked at it at the D.C. Auto Show, although it was clearly something too small for my tastes, I was still quite a bit more impressed with it than I was with the Smart. Though lacking the famous Mercedes built-in-roll-perimeter cage, it otherwise clearly had up-to-date safety engineering for its size, had the equally-famous Toyota build-quality, had an interior that (again, for its size) offered at least some comfort and sound insulation, and appeared, at least IMO, to be an all-around better product than the Smart for our driving conditions here while still maintaining the ultra-small size for maneuverability and parking.

Just an aside note on the Scion displays at the D.C. Auto Show……I always liked them, because, even though I was way too old for their youth-oriented displays and marketing, I liked their auto-trivia games (Toyota had some similar contests) where you answered auto-industry questions and were awarded prizes. I, of course, would ace a number of the questions, win the give-away prizes (caps, keychains, phone-chargers, coffee-mugs, etc…..and I only kept one or two of them. I would love to turn around and hand the rest to the little children and some older kids next to me and hand them the gifts….it was so touching for me to see the glee and happiness in the eyes of the little children, and their parents usually had no problem with that. I also liked Scion’s marketing-practice of the no-dicker/list-price deals, which made negotiation and deals on their products much earlier for young and inexperienced buyers. They obviously took that practice from Saturn, although they did not also include some of Saturn’s other features, like the 30-day moly-back guarantee on the products and no-haggle pricing on used vehicles.

Anyhow, back to the IQ. A few days after the show, I popped into one of the local Toyota/Scion shops, a very large dealership at Tyson’s Corner, VA (the same place I had bought my earlier Celica and my Mom’s Corolla Wagon), and took an IQ out for a little spin. What a difference from the Smart….absolutely no comparison. It clearly bested the Smart in almost every way. Despite the many similarities in size and intent between the two cars, the IQ, although clearly no luxury vehicle, actually treated you like a human being when you drive it. It had enough power to get out of its own way, the transmission shifted with typical Toyota smoothness and clockwork instead of like Junior’s rocking-horse, and, considering its size, there was reasonable insulation from road, wind, and engine noise. The ride was, yes, a little on the stiff and choppy side from the light weight and very short wheelbase, but clearly tolerable for moderate lengths of time. The IQ, unlike the Smart-for-Two, had a small split-fold-down seat in back that was actually more of a package shelf than a true seat for anything but very small children. And……(here’s something interesting)……..right across the street from the Toyota shop was an Aston-Martin dealership, one of the most expensive and prestigious British luxury/sport-nameplates, selling vehicles in the six-figure range. (Tyson’s has always been a big-money buisness-area). Aston had a rebadged, more refined, and considerably upgraded version of the IQ, called the Cygnet, with a base price of almost $48,000, which was some three times what a base IQ cost. Too bad almost nobody actually bought one (many Americans never even heard of it)…although the more obvious reason was that it was really not an Aston, but a redone minicar.

The IQ itself lasted in the American market only a few years…..through 2015, although, unlike the Smart, which a number of buyers went for, the IQ never seemed to catch on with the public. I still see a fair number of Smarts on the roads in my area today. The IQ, however, not surprisingly, did manage to outsell the far more expensive Cygnet. I was sorry to see it go, along with the entire Scion Division, which, IMO, although lacking in the variety of different vehicles of its master Toyota, offered a refreshing change to the usual Toyota Middle-East-Bazaar system of buying their products.

And, as Always……Happy Vehicle-Memories