Market Snapshot


Motor Trend has confirmed earlier rumors that Toyota will ship its iQ minicar to the United States. This new entrant will fill in as the smallest vehicle in the lineup, achieve in excess of 50 mpg, and be badged a Scion. Sources claim the model will debut in its North American form at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. European and Japanese models—regions Toyota previously designed the minicar around—previewed its production version at the Geneva Auto Show in March.  


The iQ is a 3+1 four-seater aimed at providing functionality where its main rival, the SMART car, left off. The four seats can accompany three adults and one child, whereas the SMART is dedicated for two. Packaging innovations and component downsizing help reduce both weight and size while conventional elements in the steering, transmission and fuel systems have been shuffled to maximize space.

Chief engineer Hiroki Nakajimi tells Automotive News that the iQ is the first production vehicle to exhibit "vehicle packaging innovation": the concept of rethinking the approach to component development.

Three engines will be available worldwide, including 1.0L three-cylinder and 1.5L four-cylinder gasoline engines and a 1.4L turbodiesel. The second is the most probable as it can be sourced from the Yaris and would fit the needs of larger American drivers. As a Scion, the iQ could be differentiated from Toyota's high-mileage offerings, including the Yaris and Prius.

The Scion line needs renewed buzz to restore its original brand image and move away from its conservative second-generation models. A fresh niche icon could prove valuable. Toyota held a launch party this month that revealed styling packages for the Japanese model, much like its agenda in the United States with Scion's widely known "accessory-friendly" mentality.

Under the in-house accessory brand Modellista, the iQ can be fitted with mild performance modifications or customer-selected color themes. The recent mood throughout the automotive industry has been sour. The few bright spots have been with compact and ultra-compact vehicles. As a competitor to the successful Smart car, the iQ stands to offer a more functional alternative to the ultra-niche icon and appeal to a larger audience.

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