Last week Scion flew and put me up to test drive their new Scion iQ. This is my review about driving the car for a couple hours in LA. Typically I’ll review design books, interview designers, pass along links and talk about user experiences. So when I was emailed a couple months ago to see if I would be interested in test driving a car, I figured why not?
The event was held over three days at the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach, California. I had the option of either going earlier in the week or later in the week. The group of media people (blogs, magazines, apps) that I was with was around 24. I’m guessing that the earlier week group was around the same size. The first evening was mainly about getting to know people while the next day was essentially the full event while the third day was meant for travel home. The main day was divided into two parts. The morning consisted three sessions. The first was taking a look at the safety features and other elements that were unique to the design of the Scion iQ. The second part was looking at the marketing launch for online, TV and print of the car. The final part of the morning was viewing a short film and gallery tour.
The afternoon was when we got to drive the car around LA. Each car was partnered up with two people. Serendipitously I ended up driving with Saundra Marcel who happened to have just graduated from SVA’s Design Criticism MFA and was there for Design Bureau Magazine. Needless to say we had a lot of interesting conversations during the drive. Each group was given a map with two routes on it. The typical drive was supposed to be 50 minutes. I think we ended up around 120 minutes from start to finish.
How was the drive?
The designer of the car went to great lengths on the inside to make it not feel like a small city car. During the feature explanation they talked about some of the give and take to make the driver and front passenger not feel compressed. The engine was designed in such a way that the driver had more leg room. The passenger side ended up with a decent amount of space because the glove box was taken out and placed underneath the seat. The back area had some interesting trade-offs too. The back was either a trunk or a space for one other person. There were two back seats though I think it would be pushing it trying to fit four people in the car for long periods of time. There also wasn’t a spare tire. They felt that the service kit was sufficient. I would have felt more comfortable with a tire. During the drive we ended up needing to make a U turn. Another feature that was talked about was how tight the car can turn with its wheel base. I have to admit that making a really tight U turn was extremely easy.
As I was driving the car had decent acceleration for its size. I did feel slightly unstable accelerating past 45 miles an hour though. The steering wheel going past that speed felt a bit wobbly. I also found that the shape of the steering wheel where the thumbs rested was slightly bothersome. Not a huge deal but if I had the option I probably would have wanted a steering wheel without the thumb rests. Another issue that I had in front of me was the speedometer. As I was driving I would try to quickly glance to see the information in front of me. The numbers were either placed too closely together or too small. I found myself looking down longer than I should have.
The biggest problem with the car was the blind spots. There were a couple times where I couldn’t pass quickly because I wasn’t sure if a car was beside me. The side mirror’s were small but I don’t think that was the problem. Looking at my photos I noticed that the back window was tinted in some areas and that the corner sides were blocking a lot of visibility. I’m not sure how they can fix it but I think that contributed to me not being able to see as much as I would have been comfortable with.
The photos that I took above were of two different cars. Any image that had carpet visible was slightly modified while all others were from the car that I drove. I liked the fact that it seemed that car was easily modifiable on the exterior and interior. The modularity was quite appealing. With that said to make things the way I would have wanted would have been considerable on the cost and probably made it almost as much as a basic Mini Cooper.
In the city
As I was driving the Scion iQ I was trying to figure out who would be driving this. It’s clearly designed for the city because of the size for parking and quick turning. It would be very easy to drive in NYC. But typically for me if I needed a car it would be to pick up something that couldn’t be delivered. If I had to pick something up from IKEA for instance I don’t know if I could unless I put it on the roof. On the other hand if I had to make a quick commute to work outside of Manhattan I think this car would be a great option. I wouldn’t be spending too much on gas and would get me there quite quickly.