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Toyota IQ 2008 Road Test

Tue, 25 Nov 2008

“I-Cute” doesn’t quite ring true. Pretty, it isn’t. This is a little car for the head, not the heart. A FIAT 500 is cute. A Hyundai i10 1.2 is a brilliant suburban buy. A Toyota IQ is probably the most sensible, practical city car on the planet.

In a length of less than 10 feet, it packs in five star NCAP crash safety, four adult size seats and a turning circle of just 3.9 metres.

Now ten feet is one foot longer than a Smart ForTwo, but the IQ is For Four, occasionally, when it needs to be, and two or three plus their clobber when it doesn’t.

Toyota very wisely held the launch in Milan, which is infested with cars parked haphazardly anywhere the owners can squeeze them in. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these cars are Smart ForTwos that command a practical kind of urban chic. And there are growing numbers of FIAT 500s that are actually less practical and more expensive then the Pandas they are based on, but are bought on looks and looks alone.

The Toyota IQ won’t be bought on looks. It’s runtish, though less abbreviated than a Smart. It looks more like a small van than a pair of doors on wheels. And it has quite big 15” wheels with deep, sensible 175/65 R15 tyres that help it to ride remarkably well.

In town, once you get used to driving a windscreen (you can’t see the front), it’s extraordinarily manoeuvrable, capable of more U turns than a Labour chancellor of the exchequer, where even London taxis can’t make them. It rides ruts, cobbles and tramlines with aplomb.

Yet show it an open road and it makes a decent fist of things there too. It doesn’t scuttle round corners, it grips, and at much higher speeds than when nasty things start to happen in a Smart. It’s better than a FIAT 500, too. The rear wheels don’t hop and instead stay glued to the tarmac.

Get it on the motorway and it will actually pull 107mph on the clock. It’s not fussy. The gearing works out at about 22mph per 1,000rpm in 5th in the manual, while 3,000 rpm gives you 80 in the CVT auto.

It’s a very smooth CVT. A delight to anyone palmed off with the sort of automated manual you get in the Aygo, Yaris, FIAT 500 and new Honda Jazz. You chunder out a few more grams of CO2 with the CVT, though, so no tax-free motoring. It’s in Band B, which either works out at the promised £20 next year or goes up to £40 after yesterday’s announcement. I haven’t worked it out yet.

£9,495 gets you into a basic IQ, and that’s the same sort of money as a FIAT 500 1.2 Lounge.

You don’t get the FIAT’s clever Microsoft Blue & Me hands-free mobile phone and computer. Nor its solid glass sunroof. But you do get a decent list of standard kit including aircon and alloys, and the fact you don’t have to fork out Vehicle Excise Duty every year.

Its chain-cam 3 cylinder engine thrums out a healthy 68PS, just one down on the little FIAT, so no perceptible loss there.

But where it kicks the FIAT 500 and the Smart ForTwo into touch is by offering an excellent CVT for another £1,000. This really is a select it and forget it transmission. No jerks. No lurches. Play the idiot and floor the throttle and, of course, the car takes a while to catch up with the engine revs. But drive it sensibly and it’s the ideal box about town. Also making the IQ Multidrive an ideal choice for the disabled who, in the UK, are better placed to make use of small parking spaces. And there’s room for a wheelchair in the back, though no chance of an electric footway-terrorising scooter.

Having spent your £9,495 to £11,495 there is also scope to spend more. The optional dashtop satnav + Bluetooth at £950 proved a little bit slow witted in Milan’s chaotic traffic system, but it’s line of site on top of the dash and decently easy to programme.

Accessory packs and leather seats can add yet more to your expenditure, if you really feel inclined, so I guess, even with ‘free’ metallic/mica paint until March 2009, you could spend up to £13,545 getting your IQ specced up to the level our Multidrive was.

But you won’t be able to go to the 90PS 1.4 Yaris engined diesel until next summer at the earliest.

Not much point anyway, in my opinion, because the last thing you need is a sports performance diesel city car that costs more to tax than a petrol version.

So did I like it? Would I want one? Do I recommend it?

Well they all qualify for 100% first year capital allowance so if your company buys one for you it can claim the entire cost against one year’s profits. That now only applies to the FIAT 500 diesel, and the C1 and the 107 and the Aygo.

And you can get four real people inside. The economy is outstanding. And, though it’s a city car, it’s very happy on motorways so you could drive it from Lands End to John O’Groats without pain.

I predict city dwellers are going to go for it big time. And anyone who doesn’t think it’s good value for money can always go buy themselves an Aygo, C1, 107 or i10.

For prices, availability, specifications, powertrain details, dimensions, and performance figures please click the tabs.

More at www.toyota.co.uk

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