Consumer Reports’ recent tests of the tiny Scion iQ found it to be slow, uncomfortable and noisy, among other drawbacks. With a road test score of 29, it joins the ranks of the lowest-scoring cars CR has tested in recent years.At only 10 feet long, the new iQ is slightly bigger than the tiny Smart ForTwo, which is also among the lowest-scoring cars CR tested. Unlike the Smart, a token rear seat adds some flexibility, but it is very small and takes up almost all of the iQ’s luggage space when in place. Consumer Reports’ testers found its choppy ride, noisy cabin and uncomfortable driving position severely limit its appeal.
Among the iQ’s few high points: Its stubby body gives it an amazingly tight turning circle, making it easy to park and best suited to urban driving. And its 34 mpg overall helps out at the pump.
Consumer Reports’ latest tests also include a face-off featuring one of the auto world’s greatest rivalries: The BMW 3 series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sport sedans. Redesigned for 2012, the BMW 328i beat out the updated Mercedes C250 by only one point in Consumer Reports’ road test scores: 86 vs. 85. Each car now comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine instead of a six-cylinder as its base powertrain, following an increasingly popular trend toward better fuel economy. Both are improved over the previous models Consumer Reports tested, but they still score below the Infiniti G37 in this category.
The 328i is quicker, handles better and is more fun to drive, although its steering is less communicative than in the previous model. And Consumer Reports recorded an impressive 28 mpg overall, easily the best fuel economy in the class. But the C250 is quieter and provides a more refined powertrain and simpler controls. Each car provides taut, agile handling, with little body lean and high cornering limits.
Also tested: The redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco has a mild hybrid system that delivered 29 mpg overall, beating all conventional (non-hybrid or diesel) family sedans in Consumer Reports’ tests. Highlights of the Malibu Eco include a comfortable ride, a quiet and well-finished cabin and straightforward controls. But it has uninspiring handling, low cornering limits and a tight rear seat for this category. Its overall road test score of 76 is lackluster among midsized family sedans. While the hybrid Eco version was the first of the redesigned Malibus to go on sale, two conventional four-cylinder engines will come later.
Consumer Reports also tested three stylish and sporty cars for summer: the V8-powered Chevrolet Camaro convertible and Dodge Challenger R/T coupe, and the sleek, if tiny, Fiat 500C drop-top. Though each delivers on fun driving, none is an overall standout in its category. The Camaro and Challenger are modern muscle cars, reminiscent of another era. The Camaro is very quick with excellent brakes and sharper steering than previously tested models. Recent handling changes have improved the Challenger’s steering and body control. But overall, they both fall short of the Ford Mustang GT coupe and convertible that CR previously tested. The Fiat 500C has agile handling, impressive fuel economy at 34 mpg overall and a clever top design that can open as a huge sunroof or can be fully lowered. But it has a choppy ride, cramped driving position and slow acceleration.
Among this group of tested cars, only the Dodge Challenger is Recommended by Consumer Reports because it scores high enough and has above-average reliability. The BMW 328i, Mercedes-Benz C250, Chevrolet Malibu Eco and Camaro convertible are still too new for CR to have reliability information and the Scion iQ and the Fiat 500C scored too low to be Recommended. To be Recommended, a vehicle must perform well in CR’s battery of tests, have average or better reliability in Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Survey and perform well in government and industry crash tests.