The notion of an ultracompact city car is pretty foreign to most Americans, but if you live in a crowded urban center, it's one that can make a lot of sense. Heretofore, the only city car available in the United States was the disappointing Smart ForTwo, but now comes the far more pleasant and practical Scion iQ, which should go a long way toward redeeming the concept. The iQ is longer than the Smart by about a foot, but it's still two feet shorter than a Fiat 500. Still, there's enough space to allow Scion to squeeze in four seats--although the company characterizes the iQ as a 3+1-seater. That's because the front passenger seat is mounted farther forward than the driver's seat, allowing reasonable space for a passenger in the right rear seat. Meanwhile, the left rear seat is almost unusable unless the driver's seat is pulled all the way forward. More importantly, the iQ is actually fun to drive. Its tiny 1.3-liter engine makes only 94 hp, but the iQ weighs 2127 pounds, so it doesn't necessarily feel underpowered. Fuel economy is quite good in the city (where you're most likely to drive it) but on the highway it falls short of the 40-mpg mark. The continuously variable automatic transmission is far more polished than Smart's jerky gearbox, but we would prefer a true stick shift. The chassis is where the iQ really shines. Ride quality is far better than you'd expect with such a short wheelbase, and the steering is a delight. The turning radius, at 25.8 feet, is nearly three feet less than a Smart's; you can't beat that for maneuverability. The iQ is the smart choice in tiny cars.
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