• After more than a year and half since its unveiling, Scion's tiny iQ is now on sale.
  • The tiny hatchback is just 10 feet long, but seats four, leading Scion to describe it as "the world's smallest four-seater."
  • Scion says the subcompact starts at $15,995 and achieves nearly 40 miles per gallon.

 

The world's smallest four-seater is finally arriving in showrooms. First shown in North America at the 2010 New York International Auto Show more than a year and a half ago, the tiny Scion iQ is now on sale at US dealerships.

Measuring around 10 feet in length - only about a foot longer than the Smart Fortwo - the tiny Scion iQ is expected to appeal primarily to city dwellers. Competition will come from the Smart and other small hatchbacks like the Fiat 500, Mini Cooper and more mainstream Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.

But while the iQ may not out-handle a Mini or offer as much room as a Yaris or Versa, the small hatchback has an ace up its sleeve: gas mileage. According to Scion, the iQ's 96-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder helps the city car deliver fuel economy of nearly 40 miles per gallon - enough to achieve top honors among traditional gasoline-powered cars on a recent EPA listing of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on sale.

While the iQ's fuel economy figures are certainly boosted by its small engine, the hatchback also touts a low curb weight of just 2,127 pounds - around a half-ton less than traditional passenger cars - and a standard continuously-variable automatic transmission, which eschews gear ratios to boost fuel economy.

Scion says the iQ is priced from $15,995 before destination. While that figure is higher than many of the subcompact's competitors, the iQ also features a host of goodies that help justify the cost. In addition to a standard automatic transmission, the iQ boasts included curtain side airbags, anti-lock brakes, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth and a USB port with a digital media player connection for iPods and other devices.

The iQ will provide a much-needed boost to Scion's sales, which measured just 3,553 units last month - a decrease of more than 7 percent over November 2010. While year-to-date Scion sales are up more than 8 percent over last year, much of the brand's success comes from an updated tC coupe, while its xB and xD hatchbacks continue to struggle.

 

What it means to you:

The growing city car segment has a very charming new challenger.

author photo

Joni Gray is a long-standing member of the automotive industry and has worked on both the corporate and publishing sides of the business. Over the past 20 years, she has managed advertising and marketing programs at Mazda, Hyundai and Honda and has been an editor at both Kelley Blue Book and the Los Angeles Times.

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