A panel of 65 motoring journalists in Japan has made Toyota's new iQ their overwhelming choice for that country's 2008-2009 Car of the Year. The diminutive but innovative micro city runner received more than twice as many votes as the second place finisher, the Citroen C5 and handily outpointed Nissan's highly-touted GT-R supercoupe, which came third in the competition. While the iQ has just gone on sale in the home market and will hit showrooms in Europe sometime in early 2009, its future in the U.S. has yet to be determined. Also unclear is whether the iQ will be marketed as a Toyota or Scion if -- but more likely when -- it finally does arrive here.
As long on innovation as it its short (118 inches) on size, the iQ offers room for four in a unique 3+1 asymmetric seating configuration that easily trumps its closest competitor, the smart fortwo. Toyota also fitted the iQ with the world's first rear-window curtain airbag, a welcome bit of safety kit in a vehicle with so little aft overhang. Matching an impressively appointed passenger cabin optimized to maximize space utilization with a super-low emission 1.0-liter engine that delivers over 50 mpg in Japanese trim, the iQ definitely has raised the global city car benchmark. It'll be interesting to see how well and how soon Toyota manages to translate that character and capability into an American-spec version.