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Is this the World’s Smallest 4-Seater?

Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant navigates the New York International Auto Show in search of the best, worst and coolest from automakers’ new lineups. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor Wednesday and Thursday before the show’s public opening on Friday, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant.

Send in the clown car.

Scion’s new 2012 iQ claims the novel distinction of being the “world’s smallest four-person vehicle.”

The $15,995 car, available on the East Coast since March and in Los Angeles since November, measures a squat 10′ by 5′. That translates to serious fuel economy, with a combined 37 miles per gallon. That figure is better than all but hybrid vehicles, according to a spokesman.

It’s unclear, however, whether it’s a comfortable ride for four. “You can definitely fit three, maybe four, depending on the height of the driver,” the spokesman says. There’s more room on the passenger side thanks to a recessed glove compartment: two tall adults could sit with ease. But when we slipped into the driver’s seat, at 5’11″, it would have been tough to fit anyone but an infant in a car seat behind. (Scion has also suggested a dog might fit as a fourth occupant there.)

Owing to the tight fit, the iQ is also the first vehicle to have a rear-window curtain airbag. (The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has said that airbag technology is constantly improving.)

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    • -1′

    • Reminds me of a joke I heard when I lived in Poland: how many elephants fit in a “maly Fiat” (small Fiat prevelent on the roads then)? Four–two in the front, two in the back.

    • 37 mpg combined. I was getting this with a Passat turbo diesel already 15 years ago.

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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