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2012 Scion iQ Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Scion iQ was new.


Performance: 6.3

The 2012 Scion iQ makes parking a breeze, and it outperforms the Smart Fortwo, but reviewers dislike that a manual transmission isn’t an option. The standard Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), a type of transmission that operates similarly to an automatic and has an infinite number of gear ratios to improve fuel economy, decreases the iQ’s fun-to-drive quotient considerably.

  • "The iQ is pretty good in its element. Because the wheels are splayed as far out to the corners as possible, it has a 25.8-foot turning circle, so pouncing on a parking spot across the street is a cinch." -- Motor Trend
  • "Unlike the ForTwo, it's brilliant to drive. In fact, from behind the wheel, it's Toyota's best small car." -- Autoblog
  • "It proved more than adequate for low-speed city driving, having the oomph to dodge and dart through traffic. But it lost steam easily--we had it floored while climbing a city hill as the iQ had given all the power it had available. The driving quality suffers, especially under acceleration, from the uneven power delivery of the CVT." -- CNET
  • "Unfortunately the iQ's performance is sleep-inducing, not so much because Scion anticipates acceleration to 60 mph in 11.8 seconds but instead because the powertrain responds with such an insipid sound when you lay into the throttle." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

With a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 94 horsepower, reviewers know that the Scion iQ won’t come close to being the most powerful car in the class, but after testing it, they’re surprised that it’s capable of handling highway speeds, passing and merging. But some automotive critics are disappointed with the iQ’s standard CVT because it drains the iQ of fun-to-drive potential. A manual transmission, which is typically more fun to drive, isn’t available.

Fuel economy is good for the class, but for a car this size, the iQ’s EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings aren’t as high as you might think. It averages 36/37 mpg city/highway.

  • "Mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the only option, the iQ gets a surprising amount of push. It steps off the line smartly, its engine winding out with a tortured sound." -- CNET 
  • "On the road, the engine is noisy, buzzing at high revs from being linked to a continuously variable transmission." -- AutoWeek
  • "Here’s what’s wrong with the new Scion iQ: It’s stuck with a continuously variable transmission that drains the fun out of it. Every. Single. Drop." -- Car and Driver  

Handling and Braking

Overall, reviewers find that the Scion iQ’s handing and braking capabilities are a lesson of compromise. The iQ can squeeze into nearly any parking space, but in exchange for outstanding maneuverability, drivers will have to learn to bypass road bumps that can be hard for the iQ to tackle.

While the iQ’s small frame suggests that it will be tossed around at high speeds and in strong winds, reviewers say the iQ is planted and has strong brakes. Critiques of the iQ’s steering, however, are divided. Some say the iQ’s steering is accurate, while others say it is unresponsive.

  • "Drive in any major city, and you will be amazed at the number of parking spaces that become possible." -- CNET
  • "The person in the front left seat will have the best seat of all: the iQ delights with accurate, communicative steering. … The suspension does a tremendous job of masking the short wheelbase: the ride is never choppy. And unlike in the Smart, the iQ's rear suspension actually absorbs bumps." -- Autoblog
  • “That said, the iQ responded smartly when starting on steep inclines, and the brakes were strong and responsive, even during hard downhill braking." -- AutoWeek
  • "Because of its compressed measurements, the iQ can be susceptible to pull and wander from road disturbances such as dips, grooves, and cable car tracks. The ride feels firm, yet there's obvious body movement in the corners. … However, it feels remarkably secure at highway speeds with no noticeable crosswinds to terrorize us." -- Motor Trend
  • "In motion, though, neither the steering feel nor the responsiveness could stack up to the nimble Mini, nor even the merely agile Fiat." -- Popular Mechanics

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