2007 Frankfurt Motor Show: Toyota IQ
Is Small Beautiful Again?
At the 2007 Frankfurt auto show this month, Toyota showed a concept version of a vehicle expected to be available in Europe in January 2009. The IQ, shown in brilliant white with purple metallic flakes in front of a swirling purple tie-die type background, is shorter than the smallest Toyota, the Aygo, but about as wide and tall as the Yaris. This footprint allows for maximum interior space and minimum exterior space.
The IQ wouldn’t meet Japan’s keijodisha requirements, the segment there which requires that vehicles be no longer than 3300mm nor wider than 1480mm and use an engine with displacement no larger than 660cc nor delivering more than 64PS. The primary benefit of buying a kei-car is lower automobile taxes, as well as generally being more fuel efficient and often less expensive. The kei-car segment is the only one in Japan in which Toyota does not directly compete, though their affiliate Daihatsu makes several.
Toyota IQ and Yaris
At 2980mm long and 1680mm wide, IQ is a bit larger than the smart fortwo, but the benefit of this space is the ability to carry more people. smart’s fortwo only carries two, but Toyota says the IQ can carry three if needed. Toyota makes room for the third person in a configuration they call 3+1. In normal driving situations, the driver and front passenger sit side-by-side. When room for a third adult or child is needed, the front passenger seat is moved forward; this is possible in part by a dash that swoops away from the front passenger and allows more space. To help ensure passengers don’t feel cramped in such a small vehicle is a glass panorama sunroof.
Among the clever solutions for space management is a fixed screen that sits on the dash in the driver’s sightline for navigation; when there is no information being displayed, it is clear and does not block vision. There is also an ultra compact HVAC system that takes up less center console space, in part enabling the unique shape of the dash. Instead of three gauges for speed, rpm, and fuel, one gauge holds all elements. Audio is controlled only by steering-wheel-mounted controls, which may annoy passengers but also means fewer items in the center stack.
Toyota declined to disclose what engine might be under the hood of the IQ, but indications are that the concept is indicative of a new entry for Europe to arrive in 2009. Though small, and not all elements from the concept may reach production, the IQ is not expected to be a cheap ride. The real IQ has been said to be planned for the €13,000 range (more than $18,000). More an image car like the smart fortwo or Mini Cooper or practical-but-friendly economical transportation like the Fiat 500 than entry-level efficiency like a Chevrolet Aveo, Toyota’s own Aygo, or Ford’s Fiesta, this small, efficient transportation will not sacrifice convenience or creature comforts and trades on style and personality. The small, cute IQ takes plenty of creases along the sides and edges to keep it from morphing into a blob and larger wheels and tires fill the wheelwells, contributing to a seriousness of look. While not taking form follows function to the degree that smart fortwo does in using its safety cell as a design element, the IQ can stand out in a crowd. The small front foglights and chrome-tipped triangular tailpipe imply a spirited nature behind this small car.
Whether or not the IQ travels across the ocean to find a home at U.S. dealers, it would look at home on European city roads as well as at home, even if a little big for the smallest class in Japan.