Long rumored as an ideal expansion player for Toyota's youth-oriented division, the 2011 Scion iQ formally joined the house lineup in New York, although it won't actually be in dealer showrooms until sometime early next year. Having already won numerous accolades around the world in its original Toyota-badged form, this latest Scion-specific iQ iteration carries over all of the key basic mechanicals and unique 3+1 seating arrangement but has been fine-tuned and cosmetically tweaked for U.S. buyers in a way that Jack Hollis, vice president of Scion contends "will define the premium micro-subcompact segment as the choice for new urbanites who want clever transportation without a sacrifice in style or new features."

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Powering the 2011 Scion iQ is a 1.3-liter inline-four fitted with dual variable valve timing and turning out "over 90 horsepower" which gets sent to the front wheels via a standard continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Scion claims that combo will ensure the car has all it needs to cope with all types of traffic demands and still return fuel economy numbers in the upper 30s.

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A quick bit of explanation may be in order about the technical definition of the Scion iQ's "3+1" cabin layout. To optimize its people-carrying space, the front passenger seat in the Scion iQ sits slightly forward compared to where driver's bucket is positioned, which permits a third, modestly-scaled person to slip in behind. While appropriately belted, the mini-perch aft of the driver is far better suited to parcels than humans of any size.

Like other Scion vehicles, the new iQ will come with a major load of standard features and offer plenty of personalization add-ons. Included among the basic is a six-speaker sound system with USB/AUX ports and steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls and a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat. Safety touches also will abound. In addition to standard Vehicle Stability/Traction Controls and anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, the 2011 Scion iQ boasts 10 airbags -- including the world's first rear-window bag and Scion's first driver seat-cushion bag.

Pricing for the 2011 Scion iQ won't be announced until closer to its on-sale date, but expect it to be the most affordable, as well as the most distinctive, member of the Scion set.

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