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April 7, 2013

Little Scion iQ offers large rewards

I am a very big fan of very small cars, especially stubby micro-runners like the Scion iQ. Driving one last week, I enjoyed every big benefit that the little shrimp offers.

Sure, the iQ is little. But it amply covers about 90 percent of my motoring needs. It probably does for you, too. Think of how often you travel alone in your car, with only a briefcase or shoulder bag, or a sack or two from the store.

“It’s a good commuter vehicle,” said Emmett Horgan, owner of Rockingham Toyota Scion Honda in Salem, N.H. “If you’re commuting in and out of Boston all the time, you could fall in love with the iQ. It lends itself to parking, and to getting around in an urban environment.”

But the sassy scooter is more than just a transport drone. The iQ is exciting. At least it is for the driver and front-seat passenger. The two-door capsule has a minuscule rear seat, with backs that fold down to give you needed cargo space. Rather than insulating you from the world, the little car attaches you. You remain active and engaged while driving, without the enormous, big-car barrier you get from, say, a hulking SUV like the Yukon Denali. Driving an iQ is like ambling on the sidewalk instead of sitting in a room.

It feels like motion, too. The Scion’s small size makes it so nimble and quick that the iQ responds instantly to driver movements, the way a bicycle turns when you simply lean. On a street in Boston I accomplished a one-eighty U-turn faster and tighter than I ever managed in even the most ambitious sports car.

What’s more, while it trundles to all the same places that a hulking Yukon Denali can take you, the iQ operates with so much more restraint. The 2013 Scion iQ lists at about $16,000. Its government fuel-economy rating is 36 miles per gallon in city driving, and 37 mpg on the highway. Through one week of ordinary, mixed driving, I averaged 39 mpg. That’s better than I’ve done in most hybrid cars, which exist to save gas.

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