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The Scion iQ Is A Tiny City Car That Everyone Has Forgotten

Nearly a decade ago in, ironically, the Big Apple, Toyota unwrapped one of the smallest cars it had ever built: the pint-size Scion iQ. The little car measured just 120 inches between its bumpers, a full 30 inches shorter than the 2-door Yaris that Pam Beesly was driving to work in NBC’s contemporary hit TV show "The Office," but nearly two feet longer than the Smart Fortwo.

The iQ’s debut as a concept car at the 2010 New York auto show was basically an interest survey, and it was apparently successful enough to inspire the automaker to put the little car into production about a year later. Sales began in mid-2011 for the 2012 model year, about two years after the automaker first began selling a Toyota-branded version with available diesel power in Asia and Europe.

By American standards, the iQ was tiny, but it mostly lived up to its smart billing as a more practical alternative to the dreary Fortwo. The Scion could actually hold three adults thanks to a quirky seating arrangement that saw the front passenger’s seat mounted closer to the dash than the driver’s seat, allowing for an occasional-use back seat. I attended the iQ media launch event in, ironically again, Texas, and survived a half-hour jaunt in the back seat with little long-term damage.

The iQ also had a perfectly acceptable powertrain that stood in contrast to the lurchy Fortwo, which made poor use of what was basically a motorcycle gearbox. For the iQ, Toyota used a 1.3-liter inline four that produced just shy of 100 horsepower to send grunt to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission. The iQ was geared to be peppy around town, where its engine didn’t have to work too hard. It wasn’t a great highway cruiser, but then again it wasn’t meant to be.

Though the car was never a big seller in the U.S., it gained some notoriety for serving as the basis for the authentically British Aston Martin Cygnet, a compliance special that helped the high-performance luxury brand tackle European fleet-wide emissions requirements. The Cygnet never made it to the U.S., although I suppose a trip to an upholstery shop and a blank check could recreate the plush-ish interior.

The iQ was dropped in 2015 after about 15,700 were sold here. That wasn’t very long ago, but it seems like the iQ has vanished entirely from American streets. I dare you to spot two in a single day. Surprisingly, the cars have really held onto their value. The 2015 iQ was about $16,000 new, and low-mile examples still cost over $10,000. That’s not a lot of scratch for a relatively new car, but a 62% retention in value is impressive for a car that didn’t sell well new.

Here’s a nice 2014 finished in bright orange — making it easy to spot — at a dealer in Florida that seems to specialize in city cars. For just $8,995, it has a slew of airbags, a touchscreen head unit with Bluetooth and navigation, and even a swivel reading lamp like you might find on a slightly larger Boeing 737. You’ll need to add a hubcap, though, as one has gone missing. Find a Scion iQ for sale

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1 COMMENT

  1. This is one of those cars that didn’t make much sense to me in the US (much like the Smart actually). The mileage wasn’t any better than a Yaris, but it was far less practical.

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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