Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Supermini with green IQ acquits itself admirably on ice and snow

THAT mighty atom, the iQ from motoring giant Toyota, happily came my way this week. Not so much a 4x4

THAT mighty atom, the iQ from motoring giant Toyota, happily came my way this week. Not so much a 4x4 but more of — how shall I put it? — a “1x1”, I am intrigued by the sheer genius of this tiny car every time I drive it. The iQ is not the first car you would think of to tackle roads choked with ice and snow, yet in arctic conditions it acquitted itself well.

There is little rationale for my fondness for the iQ except that while I view it as a triumph of design, most of my potential passengers were completely ambivalent about it. That is until they travelled in the iQ: some remain sceptical but most had to admit that Toyota’s baby is at the very least ingeniously put together.

Its “oddities” as a car are immediately apparent: this may be that when you get out of the iQ you do not have to walk around to the back because you are already there. Or that the boot space is no more than a sliver behind the rear seats. But the cabin area is as spacious as any supermini and the ride as comfortable.

So how was this car conceived? At first sight it seems that the iQ’s designers dispensed with everything superfluous around the cabin — the interior space that carries driver and front-seat passenger.

The bonnet is like a button nose at the front; the rear of the car ends where you believe the rear section — boot, loadspace, rear-seats — on a “normal” car should begin. Yet there are small rear seats and on a first outing in the iQ a few years ago I successfully carried three adult passengers and some video equipment.

But of course essentially the mighty iQ is a town or city car and this is where it excels. You can park it in the most amazingly tight spaces and all-round visibility ensures ease of sight when parking. It takes to town and city life like the proverbial duck to water but motorway driving in the iQ is a different matter.

In fact, I had never driven the iQ on a motorway until this week’s test drive. I was looking forward to seeing how it responded. It was ideal test conditions for the little car: gusting cross-winds and later on driving rain.

I have to report that the iQ handled brilliantly for its size on long stretches of motorway. But you had to drive the car more — that is, be aware of its limitations with regard to power. Handling was not a problem and neither was speed. The iQ was more than willing to notch up a steady 70mph.

My overall observation here is that the car is more at home doing what it was designed to do and that is in the urban environment where economy is king. With manual transmission, iQ3 returns an official 54.3mpg in combined cycle driving, and 119g/km of CO2 — Band C for road tax. Equipped with Toyota’s Multidrive CVT system, fuel economy is unchanged and emissions rise slightly to 120g/km. Tyres with low-rolling resistance are fitted to the manual 1.0-litre iQ to help keep emissions down to 99g/km. An Eco driving indicator also helps low emissions by showing efficient use of the accelerator, and a Gear Shift Indicator helps the driver time up and down shifts to optimise “green” performance.

It is natural to be concerned about safety in such a small car and Toyota was manifestly aware of this when designing the iQ. It benefits from a number of new technologies and earned a five-star rating in Euro-NCAP crash testing.For example, something called Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) works with the standard ABS (advanced braking system) to ensure the most effective brake force is applied to each wheel, according to road conditions. By preventing the wheels from locking, EBD helps maintain stability when braking during cornering. The body of the car is designed with safety paramount and nine airbags are fitted as standard.

I would not hesitate to recommend this car to anyone looking to assuage a burgeoning conscience about doing your bit for the planet. Along the way, you might really enjoy driving and owning an iQ. But that of course as I always like to emphasise is entirely up to your personal taste in cars.

The iQ is the world’s first four-seat car under three metres long

Six linked design and engineering innovations deliver exceptional interior space within small exterior dimensions

Contemporary styling inside and out with premium quality equipment features

Three grades — iQ, iQ2 and iQ3

Five-star Euro NCAP safety performance

Choice of 1.0-litre VVT-i or 1.33-litre Dual VVT-i petrol engines

Customisation options include colourful side and roof decals and interior leather upholstery choices

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