Steering Column 26.06.09

Higher iQ

Toyota has brought out a new version of its tiny hatchback, the iQ. Known as the iQ3 (or “iQ cubed” apparently), it has the 1.33-litre petrol engine we’ve already seen on the Auris, Yaris and Urban Cruiser.

The engine turns out 98bhp which is enough to take the little car to 62mph in 11.8 seconds but turn in an average of just under 59 miles in exchange for a gallon of unleaded. The CVT automatic gearbox only knocks that back to 55.4mpg. The top speed’s pretty impressive too – 106mph which makes it more than just a city commuter car.

The smellies are kept to a relative minimum too with carbon dioxide emissions down at just 113g/km for the version with a six-speed manual gearbox and 120g/km for the auto. That means both are in band B for road tax – a mere £35 a year.

Toyota says the car’s a class-leader being cleaner and more economical than anything similar by any other producer, thanks in part to the stop and start system that turns the engine off when sitting still and in neutral, but turns it on again as a gear is selected. The whole process takes less than half a second.

I’ve always thought the little car was a funky little package – stumpy and rounded, just the sort of shape I’d have loved to have a toy of when I was a kid. Big 16-inch alloy wheels and a high shoulder up to the windows. Great.

A pal told me the other day that car designers trying to appeal to male buyers just have to imagine what a six-year old would like to play with on a dashboard, and despite the iQ3 being a very small car indeed, there’s plenty of toys in the box.

There are automatic headlights and wipers, climate control, keyless entry and start, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and a nice sound system. As for safety, there’s all you’d expect to find on a well specified modern car, plus the world’s first rear window airbag. I suppose when you’re sitting so close to the back window that has to be a comfort.

Prices begin at £11,495 for the manual iQ3 and you can add £1,000 for the CVT automatic transmission. There are a few accessory packs available too like the iUrban (£345) plugged with parking sensors, iConnect (£375) with Bluetooth coms built in, iStyle (£295) festooned with chrome strips, and iSports (£495) with, believe it or not, a roof wing and a rear skirt with triangular tailpipe ports.

If you want leather seats (this is just getting silly now) it costs £690 extra and if you want a multi-use satnav it’s £930.

A box of people

Citroën has extended its range of Berlingo cargo vans. It’s adding the 725 L2 Crew Van which, despite sounding like something the Black Watch would mount a light machine gun on, is a tax-dodging people and kit shifter.

Built around HM Revenue and Customs rules to be totally VAT-reclaimable, it can carry up to five people or over 700kg of cargo. It has a clever rear bench seat that folds and slides completely forward against the back of the front seats when it’s not being used for people.

The back seat unit is also fitted with a mesh bulkhead separator so that it keeps cargo out of the back of people’s heads no matter how hard you brake and no matter how many people are sitting in there. In the seat folded position it slides right forward to the back of the front seats.

Working to the tax rules means it doesn’t have side windows for the back passengers so it’ll be a bit dark in there, but at least it’ll be comfy, safe and legal.

It’s powered by a 1.6HDi diesel engine turning out 90bhp. The price is £13,565 plus VAT plus delivery charges.

Mike Grundon


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