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Toyota says new small iQ offers quality

Toyota says it's out to prove a tiny car can be top-notch with its new iQ "ultra-compact" that's just a bit smaller than 3 meters (10 feet) but offers quality safety features, mileage and handling.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Toyota says it's out to prove a tiny car can be top-notch with its new iQ "ultra-compact" that's just a bit smaller than 3 meters (10 feet) but offers quality safety features, mileage and handling.

And it's asking a bit more in pricing for the iQ, which seats three adults and one child or luggage in the fourth seat.

It goes on sale in Japan Nov. 20 in Japan starting at 1.4 million yen, ($14,000) more expensive than Toyota's Vitz, which sells for about 1 million yen ($10,000). Toyota Motor Corp. is targeting selling 2,500 iQ cars a month.

It is planned for Europe early next year. Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said Wednesday other markets, including the U.S., were not in the works for now.

The iQ is trying to be in a class of its own, like the Mini Cooper, and it's not a two-seater like Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz Smart, according to Toyota.

It has a 1.0 liter, 1,000 cubic centimeter engine, which means it's not a minicar, whose engine size is limited to 660 cubic centimeters.

Toyota hopes to woo fashionable drivers who are willing to pay more for a small car, not the typical frugal compact owner.

"We have revolutionized the packaging of this car," Watanabe told reporters. "It's in a class of its own."

Koji Endo, auto analyst with Credit Suisse in Japan, said the iQ holds great potential as environmental standards are expected to grow more restrictive.

"Only a small car is best suited to clear those kind of regulations," he said. "The small car market is going to grow."

The iQ comes with nine air bags for the standard model, including a curtain shield air bag that deploys from the roof lining about the rear window to protect back-seat passengers heads in a rear-end collision.

It delivers 23 kilometers a liter, or 54.1 miles per gallon, under Japanese standards, the best mileage for a Toyota that's not a gas-electric hybrid, Toyota said.

"When it comes to cars, traditionally big has meant good. The iQ dispels that notion," Hiroki Nakajima, iQ's engineer, said at an unveiling event in this Tokyo suburb.

Toyota usually shows models at Tokyo hotels. But it chose a cavernous gymnasium to showcase the iQ, including a pantomime act and models wearing futuristic outfits to underline how the model was special for Japan's top automaker.

The cars zipped around to show off their tight turning radius of 3.9 meters (nearly 13 feet).

Nakajima said he did not compromise on quality to achieve a spacious interior and stuck with quality raw materials. But the car felt rather cramped inside, especially in the back.

Toyota said it made design innovations for a more efficient placement of the engine, fuel tank and other parts, as well as made backs for the seats thinner while not compromising on comfort for more leg room.

The iQ's "i" stands for "individuality," "innovation" and "intelligence," and "q" for "quality," and hinting at "cubic" and "cue," it said.