Toyota iQ EV review

* Electric iQ city car driven * Not for general release * Limited availability to fleets late 2012...

Toyota iQ EV review

What is it? In theory at least, the iQ EV is the ultimate urban warrior. Its an iQ with all the extraordinary in-town abilities bequeathed by that cars abbreviated dimensions and taxi-humbling turning circle. However, it has a 63bhp electric motor in place of a petrol engine.

The lithium-ion battery pack is slung underneath the car, much as it is in a Nissan Leaf, lowering the centre of gravity and leaving the vital interior packaging unaffected. Toyota says the iQ EV will do 50 miles between charges enough for the vast majority of inter-urban commutes and reach speeds of up to 78mph.

Recharging from a mains plug takes between three and four hours, although in the unlikely event you have access to a fast charge facility, an 80% charge is possible in 15 minutes.

Whats it like to drive? As long as you never stray beyond the city limits, it is in many ways close to ideal. Electric cars work in towns not just because they offer zero tailpipe emissions, but because they are silent and responsive.

Amid the noisome hubbub of the rat race, the iQ EV would offer a small, but perfectly formed, cocoon of peace and quiet.

Whats more, because all its acceleration is available from the moment you touch the throttle, it would prove better by far at diving in and out of fast closing gaps in the traffic than its bald performance figures would suggest.

On the downside, where the standard iQ has been criticised for feeling out of its depth on the open road, we suspect its electric offshoot would be closer to drowning. In addition, the ride is as stiff as ever thanks to the ultra-short wheelbase and firm suspension.

Whats it like inside? All the elements that make the conventional car so well packaged survive unchanged.

The dashboard is sculpted out on the passengers side, which allows the front passenger to sit farther forward and leaves enough space for an adult to fit behind. Even the smallest children will struggle to squeeze behind an average-sized driver, though.

Were it not for a slightly raised transmission tunnel and a new information display screen, it would be hard to spot that this was an all-electric car.

The new display is a useful addition for those anxious about range, providing information on how far you can go and how much juice youre using. It can, of course, display your range, but so too can it recalculate it according to whether youre in town or on the motorway. It will show your current and long-term electrical consumption in kilowatt-hours per kilometre.

Should I buy one? An academic point, because you cant. Some electric iQs will come to the UK at the end of next year, but unless you happen to be part of the Government programme or small fleets that will lease them, the iQ EV and you must remain as strangers.

It is to be hoped, however, that the resulting research will encourage Toyota to make either this car or its successor more widely available: as long as you only ever drive in town, it works brilliantly.

Nissan Leaf
Renault Twizy

What Car? says

Andrew Frankel