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First seen at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show and later at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Toyota iQ was introduced as an advanced concept vehicle.
At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Toyota announced that the iQ would go into volume production in the latter part of 2008. By 2009, the first year of full production, Toyota expects to sell as many as 100000 of these ultra-compact vehicles.
The iQ was created at ED2, Toyota's advanced European design studio in the south of France. It is a product of Toyota's "Vibrant Clarity" design philosophy - design that is forward looking, intelligent and energetic, while retaining clarity of purpose and function.
The three elements of "Vibrant Clarity" are: Dynamic and daring exterior; Functional and aesthetic interior; Edgy urban colour contrast.
The name iQ represents what the car embodies. The "i" stands for individuality, while at the same time giving expression to "innovation" and "intelligence". The "Q" stands for "quality".
"The iQ was conceptualised a few years ago when Toyota began to focus more intently on the environmental impact of cars on society," says Kazuo Okamoto, executive vice-president in charge of research and development at Toyota.
Compact but not compromised, the Toyota iQ succeeds in the quest to be the world's smallest premium four-seater passenger car.
At just 2985 millimetres in length the iQ is 770mm shorter than the Yaris hatch, yet in height and width it is comparable to the popular small Toyota hatchback.
Despite its compact length the iQ is both versatile and practical.
In the pursuit of compact space efficiency, Toyota makes use of six new technologies in the iQ.
The first is a newly developed compact differential. This allows the iQ to have a very short front overhang with a gain of 100mm in interior space compared with the 'B' segment Yaris hatchback.
The second innovation is a flat, under-floor, fuel tank that allows for a short rear overhang and a reduction in the vehicle's overall length.
Historically a flat fuel tank has presented an engineering challenge because of the variance in fuel surface levels, depending on the stance of the vehicle.
Toyota engineers rose to this challenge and by optimising the placement and size of the functional components of the fuel supply system have developed a functional flat fuel tank that is very space efficient.
Thirdly, Toyota engineers have managed to significantly reduce the size of the heater-air conditioning unit of the iQ without any sacrifice in performance or output.
This compact system allows the size of the passenger side of the asymmetric dashboard to be reduced and placed further forward towards the base of the windscreen to free up cabin space.
The asymmetric design of the dashboard is the fourth technical element that adds to interior space efficiency in the iQ.
The unique shape of the dashboard allows the front passenger seat to be placed in its most forward position and still provide sufficient space for the occupant.
This provides ample space for an adult in the seat behind the front passenger, hence the 3+1 seating arrangement with accommodation for three adults and space for a child (or luggage) behind the driver.
The new Toyota iQ will be offered with a choice of two petrol engines and one diesel power plant.