Before I begin, I would like to say that I am not, what some might call, a "car person."
I want a car that I feel comfortable in, is easy to get around in and park, and allows me to listen to music or podcasts from my iPhone while I'm traveling. I have simple desires and wants in a car, and don't want anything super fancy. I haven't owned one for over 7 years, and right now only need one to run errands (or to drive to, as I have been strongly encouraged to get by my father, a part-time job), and the only major driving trip I take every year is to Pittsburg for Anthrocon.
So now it's come time to procure my own car, because let's face it, I can't keep driving my mother's spare Avalon that she temporarily* loaned me forever. I decided to focus on smaller, simpler cars; low cost, low gas milage, and ease of maneuverability & parking.
Initially, the Smart Fortwo caught my eye and got me excited in the whole super-compact car. The more I researched it, the more I realized it was little more than a slightly-more-powerful golf cart. Nice if I still lived in Philadelphia, but now that I'm in Jersey and a good chunk of my driving is either on the Garden State Parkway or AC Expressway, I decided I didn't want to die.
I did more research, looking for the smallest cars offered by different brands, and after a huge recommendation for Toyotas from my father (and indirectly from my mother, as she currently owns 2 Toyotas), I settled on either the Toyota Yaris or the Scion iQ (overseas it's a Toyota iQ, as Scion's an American branch of Toyota. I think that's how it works. Feel free to correct me.) On a whim, I decided to go to a local Toyota dealer today to test drive both cars. I'm not ready to buy either yet, but I may as well figure out if I even want this kind of car before I get my heart set on it and end up hating it once I am able to plunk down the money for it, right?
So here's what I've learned about both cars, and my personal opinions on each one.
- Ridiculous Turning Radius. I could see myself never having to do a K-turn again.
- Freaking. Adorable. I'm such a girl, I know.
- USB hookup in central consol right next to the gear shift for my iPhone.
- Very comfortable. In spite of it's size, I didn't feel cramped in the front seat at all. The moulding of the seat itself felt like it was made for me. I can't speak for the back seats though.
- It has a tinier footprint than the Yaris, which means I NEVER have to worry about parking spots being too small. Heck, in a pinch I might even be able to just pick it up and plop it where I needed! (but probably not, ha!)
- Room for up to 3 passengers (as long as they're tiny, at least in the back) OR luggage, but not both. It has no actual trunk space, as the rear seats go right up to the windshield. If you want to put in luggage or whatever in the back, you have to fold those seats down. I can get away with this for now as I only need it for me, but I can see this being a huge inconvenience in the future.
- Scion's APR is higher than Toyota's, so even though the cars are about the same price it might end up costing me more over the time I'm making payments.
- The ride was NOT smooth at all. I felt every tiny little bump and dip in the road as I drove, and going over a small speedbump felt like driving over someone's dog. I find driving to be very relaxing, but I could not really relax in this car.
- No glove box. I don't store lots of stuff in my car, but I'd like to not have stuff like my insurance card, registration, car documentation, etc in the door pockets (which is currently the only storage built in the front). There IS a modest sized open space behind the gear shift between the two seats where normally a small console might be where I COULD put my own box or bag for storage, but obviously not really ideal.
- I heard a lot of people complaining about the sluggish pick-up in this car, but I didn't have an issue with it. It was definitely less powerful than the Yaris, but the first car I ever owned was a Volkswagen Cabrio and the pickup on that wasn't fantastic either. It's something I could easily get used to and definitely NOT a deal breaker.
- No Spare Tire. It has a patch kit, and some sort of liquid-solution you put into your tire to allow you to drive up to 60 miles, but I'm not sure if I want to trust that. It all comes down to which I'd rather be doing at night on the side of the road should my tire go flat. I had a spare on the Cabrio, and the two times I've had to change it myself it took me over an hour. Not sure how well the liquid solution works, but if it's actually decent I might prefer that over trying to mess with a carjack and spare tire, which is why this isn't in the "minus" category. I'll just have to look into this.
- Even though it's not much more than a couple feet bigger than the iQ, it's big enough to comfortably hold 4 people (and I can actually attest to this, as I DID sit in the back seat) AND some luggage, plus I still have the option of folding down the rear seats if I need even more room. The back row actually has 3 seat belts so I could conceivably seat 5, but realistically they'd have to be children, midgets, or runway models. I test-drove the hatchback model as opposed to the sedan; the sedan trunk space is separate from the rest of the interior but with the hatchback it's all one space. (I explain this as, prior to today, I didn't know what the difference between them was.) Given the choice, I'd go with the hatchback.
- The ride was much smoother. Speed bumps still felt harsh, but not nearly as bad. The normal road was about as smooth a ride as my mother's Avalon.
- Very nice pick-up. I didn't have to put the peddle all the way down in order to accelerate faster than the iQ with the peddle to the floor. As I said with the iQ, I COULD get used to a slower pickup, but it's nice to have that little extra power.
- An actual glovebox. Hooray! You know you're a grown-up when you get excited about a glovebox.
- They've been made in the US since 2007 vs the iQ only being around since last year, so I can get a MUCH better deal on a used car.
- Cruise Control. It's an option, but it's part of a package that includes power windows and a few other things. It's $250 for the package, but honestly I'm just considering that as part of the base package. Screw manual crank windows!**
- Turning Radius wasn't quite as tight as the iQ, so I won't be able to give up K-turning entirely. Still better than the land-boat Avalon, but that doesn't say much.
- the iPhone hookup is inside the glovebox and connected closest to the passenger's door. The car has built-in hands-free calling so theoretically I shouldn't ever need to touch my phone while driving, but having it so far away could be an issue.
- Even after adjusting the seat, it just wasn't as comfortable as the iQ, at least not as a driver. Future passengers may argue this point with me, of course.
I'm definitely leaning more towards the Yaris. Honestly, if the iQ's ride was smoother it would have been a MUCH harder decision. I like it a LOT and it was a lot of fun to drive, but I can definitely see how being jostled around constantly, even on a smooth road, would just make me tense. It's such a shame, but not a HUGE one because the Yaris is a really nice alternative.
A lot of the other features in the Yaris were identical to the iQ. They were both automatic, but had 2 different "drive" gears. One worked as your standard drive, and the other had a more gradual acceleration which was better for merging, passing, etc. This didn't make much of a noticeable different with the Yaris, but it DID help the iQ. Also, both cars had built-in phone call buttons, radio & CD, electric-adjustible side mirrors, and a bunch of other things I'm probably forgetting. There's actually a lot in these cars that are similar, but the Yaris happens to be in a more versatile package. Tiny cars like the iQ are great if you never leave the city, but I want something that works well in both... and doesn't rattle me around either way.
So there you have it, my fairly car-noob impressions of two cars that many serious car enthusiasts would be embarrassed to be seen in. Good thing I'm not a car enthusiast; this shit is EXPENSIVE.
* My mother loaned me her Avalon so I could drive to Anthrocon in mid June, and the original plan was to return it when I got back. Unfortunately, the day after I got back is when Bob broke up with me, so then I needed it to help move out, and now I've been using it because I no longer live in an area where I can get by just walking everywhere.
** My sincerest apologies to everyone out there who loves their manual crank windows. Call me lazy if you want for not wanting to do this myself. It's ok, I can take it.