Sales of the Smart ForTwo minicar plummeted after gasoline came back down from $4 a gallon, but Toyota's Scion brand is readying its own minicar for sale in the U.S. The latest word is that the 2011 Scion iQ will land at dealers in March.
2011 Scion iQ
2011 Scion iQ at 2010 New York Auto Show, with Scion's Jack Hollis
2011 Scion iQ and tC at 2010 New York Auto Show, with Scion's Jack Hollis
Of all brands sold in the U.S., Scion--known for small, quirky cars--may make the most sense for this unusual little car.
The 2011 Scion iQ looks somewhat like a Smart ForTwo, but it offers a lot more.
And it fixes the Scion's least-liked feature, the automatic-clutched manual gearbox that gives a jerky ride like nothing you've ever experienced.
The iQ uses a more conventional continuously variable transmission (CVT) that should produce much smoother acceleration.
It has a number of other innovations too, including unique "three-plus-one" seating and a rear-window air cushion that protects the heads of rear passengers in an accident.
Scion expects to price the 2011 iQ competitively with the Smart ForTwo--which starts at $11,990 for the most basic model--and its fuel economy rating should be comparable to the Smart's 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway.
For the U.S., the Scion iQ is fitted with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine putting out more than 90 horsepower.
In other markets, where it's sold as a Toyota, it carries smaller, more efficient engines that aren't considered powerful enough for U.S. traffic.