Does Toyota's advanced 1.33 VVT-i engine make sense in its clever iQ city car? Steve Walker takes a look.
You may well have heard that Toyota's iQ is clever. Even putting the name, with its in-built dig at Mercedes' Smart fortwo, to one side, the little car is bursting with sharp thinking. It's the kind of stuff that could easily become the norm in small car design over the next few years as other manufacturers get around to liberating ideas from Toyota's brain box. Of course, this is just the basic iQ platform we're taking about. What happens when Toyota marries its bright young thing with its most intelligent small car engine technology? The iQ 1.33 Dual VVT-i with Stop & Start should give us the answer.
Ten Second Review
Toyota's iQ brought a lot of new things to the city car table and it's fitting that this innovative piece of small car design should have an engine that resides close to the cutting edge. With dual variable valve timing, Stop & Start technology and an optional Multidrive automatic gearbox, the 1.33-litre Dual VVT-i unit fits the bill.
Toyota set out to redefine the city car with the iQ and did so at a time when these compact vehicles were firmly on the up thanks to our growing concerns over urban congestion and the environment. Its off-set cabin layout, flat under-floor fuel tank, ingenious steering system and ultra-compact air-conditioning unit all serve to maximise the space inside, enabling the car to carry four passengers at a push inside a package only 20cm longer than the two-seater Smart. What this clever Toyota didn't do when first launched was to match its design ingenuity with an advanced powertrain. Good though the standard 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is, it looks a little conventional next to the iQ's other features. The 1.33-litre VVT-I engine is much more in-keeping with the rest of the iQ package, with its Stop & Start functionality and the optional Multidrive automatic transmission.
With the 1.0-litre 67bhp engine installed, the iQ feels very composed and like it could handle quite a bit more power. The 1.33-litre petrol engine provides that extra urge with 98bhp and torque of 125Nm at 4,400rpm. The engine itself uses Toyota's advanced Dual VVT-i technology which continuously adjusts the timing of the inlet and outlet valves to produce an extremely efficient combustion process. The Stop & Start technology cuts the engine when the gear lever is in neutral and the clutch pedal is released, then restarts in under half a second when the clutch is depressed. This has the potential to cut fuel consumption by up to three percent in urban areas where sitting stationary in traffic has become the rule rather than the exception. The iQ handles extremely neatly, lulling its driver into the assumption that it's a much larger car. It lacks the vivacious feel to its handling that the most enjoyable city cars possess but ride quality and body control are first rate for a model of this size. At lower speeds, the steering's electric assistance should make manoeuvring the car simplicity itself and the minimal front and rear overhangs will mean that it's easy to edge into even the tiniest parking places. The tight 3.9m turning circle means that even if you spot a parking place on the other side of the road, you may be able to throw a quick U-turn to snaffle it.
Design and Build
In order to appeal to an image conscious clientele, the iQ had to look the part and with what Toyota dubs its foursquare 'super stance', it looks like something that's just driven straight from a motor show stand. There's a touch of the toy car about the way the big 15-inch alloy wheels sit at each corner of such a tiny vehicle. The wraparound rear glass, the smoked headlamp units and the door mirrors with inbuilt indicators all indicate that this is no budget city scoot but the real surprise and delight features come inside. The innovative asymmetric dashboard was designed to open up the whole cabin area. It ensures ample leg room for the front passenger, even when the seat is in its furthest forward position. The sliding seat configuration allows an adult 190cm tall to sit comfortably in the rear seat behind a front passenger of the same height. Shoulder-to-shoulder distance between driver and front passenger is 50mm wider than in Toyota's supposedly larger Yaris supermini and bears comparison with a Mondeo-sized vehicle. A flat under-floor fuel tank, a 20% smaller heater unit and repositioned steering gear all make this possible. The all-round space and seating layout means there is ample room for three adults plus either a child passenger or luggage behind the driver. The rear seats fold flat and there's a storage tray that slides from below the rear seat.
Market and Model
The 1.33-litre engine can be specified with the Multidrive automatic gearbox which adds to the convenience factor in town and unlike the 1.0-litre version, it comes in the top plushest iQ3 trim level. This specification includes 16" alloy wheels and the iQ's detailed standard safety specification which runs to nine airbags and VSC+ stability control. The iQ is being positioned at the premium end of the city car segment and it's noticeably more expensive than it's low budget rivals. The car's success will hinge on whether or not buyers are willing to pay extra for the ingenuity of its design and the cool image that Toyota is attempting to construct around it. The 1.33-litre models add to the impression of the iQ as residing at the cutting edge of small car design but they also add to the price and many prospective buyers will turn straight to the price guides to see that they could get a far larger supermini for a similar amount.
Cost of Ownership
Buying a Toyota iQ might not be cheap but running one should be. The 1.33-litre engine can return nearly 58mpg thanks to clever Stop & Start technology (around 7mpg less than the 1.0-litre) which is a strong showing for a 1.3-litre unit and emissions are just 113g/km (though that's a jump from the 99g/km figure recorded by the 1.0-litre version). Choose the Multidrive transmission option and the economy figure dips to around 55mpg with 120g/km emissions. Even if you do have a small shunt in your iQ, body panels are designed to come on and off very easily, lowering the cost of repair. With such low carbon dioxide emissions, the Aygo is not only a model environmental citizen but it also qualifies for a 100 per cent exemption under the forthcoming London congestion charge legislation, which is well worth knowing.
A high-tech car like Toyota's iQ should have a high-tech engine and in the 1.33-litre Dual VVT-i powerplant, it's got it. With more power than the standard 1.0-litre lump and environmental credentials boosted by Stop & Start technology, the 1.33 should prove a more desirable proposition. The optional Multidrive automatic transmission will also be a major draw for urban dwellers but it further increases the price of what Toyota already admits is a premium product.