Toyota eyeing U.S. for 54-mpg iQ

If Toyota decides to bring the iQ to the U.S., it may have to educate the American public on the benefits of a premium mini car. The 1.0-liter engine should be good for 54 mpg, but the little car may come at a relatively premium price. The Japanese version retails for between 1.4 million yen and 1.6 million yen ($13,860-$15,840). That kind of cash could buy a new Ford Focus or a slightly used Honda Civic (Toyota’s own Yaris starts out at $12,205.)

The only other premium microcar out there is the Smart ForTwo , a which is 12 inches shorter than the iQ and gets 44 mpg. But the ForTwo pricing also starts at about $11,000.

Toyota is targeting sales of 102,000 units a year. Sales of the iQ should begin in Japan on November 20, and in Europe by 2009. The iQ should find good homes in both of these places, because they are traditionally friendlier than the U.S. to the small car.

For the iQ to come to the U.S., Toyota must develop different airbags and improve bumper strength for the iQ to pass safety standards. Toyota may also change the iQ for comfort items, including upgrading the engine to 1.5-liters.

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