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New Toyota iQ may be the Smart Answer for U.S.

By on October 20, 2008 5:45 PM
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With Japanese sales of its new iQ city car set to start in November and a Euro launch due in the spring, Toyota has begun exploring the possibility of bringing this innovative "micro-premium car" to America as well. While U.S. sources will only admit that the prospect is "under consideration," Automotive News recently quoted the iQ's chief engineer, Hiroki Nakajima, as expecting this slick urborunner to turn up here within two to three years, pending requisite redesigns to bring things like its bumpers and airbag configurations into compliance with our current regulations. Chances are that any version sold in America also would be fitted with something larger and/or more powerful than the existing 1.0-liter/67-horsepower in-line four gasoline engine.

Spanning a mere 118 inches, this tiny Toyota rivals the smart fortwo in overall length but provides space for three adults and one child in a unique asymmetric seating configuration. To create that kind of packaging coup the iQ's engineers employed numerous space-optimizing techniques, from rescaling and relocating various interior components like the air conditioning module to fitting a flat, under-floor fuel tank. The powertrain configuration also got a rethink, with the iQ's continuously variable automatic transmission, differential and output shaft all positioned ahead of the engine to trim front overhang and increase the car's wheelbase for improved ride. To further burnish its eco-friendly credentials, the iQ matches exceptionally low emissions with fuel economy that exceeds 54 mpg in Japanese trim. As a final flourish, standard equipment on this new Toyota includes no fewer than nine airbags, highlighted by the world first rear-window curtain that protects against head injuries in case the car is struck from behind.

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