The 1.0-litre petrol engine has an adequate 67bhp, while the 1.33-litre has 98bhp. Whichever you choose, the iQ feels sprightly around town, but both engines can struggle once the speeds pick up. Buyers of either engine can choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and the Multidrive CVT auto.
The iQ is effortless to drive in the city, thanks to light controls and an incredibly tight turning circle, but the ride is choppy. It struggles on faster roads, too. There’s a fair bit of body lean in bends and it quickly runs out of front-end grip, while vague steering and a vulnerability to side winds make long journeys hard work.
The three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine has a distinctive thrum, and the door mirrors generate some wind noise at speed, but in most other respects the iQ is impressively hushed. Toyota has tried to make the optional CVT gearbox feel more like a conventional auto, but it still thrashes too much when you put your foot down.
There's no getting away from it, the iQ is extremely pricey for a city car. It’s well-equipped, though, and it'll hold its value well. Running costs are low, too: the 1.0-litre manual model averages around 66mpg and emits less than 100g/km of carbon dioxide, so road tax costs nothing. The manual 1.33-litre model does a creditable 59mpg and emits 113g/km (10% BIK tax).
Some of the cabin plastics don’t measure up to the iQ’s premium aspirations – they’re hard to the touch and scuff too easily – but the dashboard design looks futuristic and everything feels like it’s built to last. Toyota has performed consistently well in the JD Power survey, and the iQ topped the city car class in the 2012 study. There's also the reassurance of a fine five-year warranty.
The iQ scored five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests and it comes loaded with safety kit. You get stability control and nine airbags as standard, including one that inflates across the rear screen in the event of a rear-end shunt. Deadlocks and an integrated stereo make life difficult for thieves.
The single stereo control on the steering wheel is unecessarily fiddly, but it means the centre console is simple and it frees up extra space for the driver. However, comfort would be improved if the seat was height adjustable and the wheel moved for reach as well as rake. Rear visibility isn't great, either. The heater is controlled via chunky buttons and dials.
The iQ is just a handspan longer than a Smart Fortwo, yet it can seat four people. Well, sort of. The dashboard is pulled towards the base of the windscreen on the passenger’s side, which allows the front passenger to sit farther forward and leaves enough space for an adult to fit behind. However, even the smallest children will struggle to squeeze behind an average-sized driver. Boot space is virtually non-existent with all the seats in place.
The entry-level model – the iQ 1.0 – gets alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a six-speaker stereo with an MP3 player input. Upgrading to iQ2 spec (still with the 1.0 engine) adds front foglamps, automatic lights and wipers, climate control and keyless entry, while the 1.33-litre model (whch has its own unique iQ3 trim) gets 16-inch alloys, a six-speed gearbox, chromed door mirrors and a fuel-saving stop-start system.
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We have no doubt that this, the cheapest iQ, is the best model in the range. However, owners may still be left wishing they'd spent less on something more practical and with a higher-quality interior.