Why the comparison?
The Smart Fortwo has had the sub three-metre city car segment pretty much to itself since it was introduced way back in 1998. Indeed, it has been around so long that it's now in its second-generation guise - the refreshed Smart Fortwo arrived last year. Until Toyota revealed its clever little iQ nothing has been able to match the Smart's tiny dimensions and city friendliness. The iQ does exactly that, and Toyota hopes it'll snag a good number of Smart customers with its new city machine.
How are they similar?
The Smart Fortwo and Toyota iQ are both under three metres in length, allowing them many parking concessions in some of the world's most congested cities. Some countries even have under three-metre only parking slots and reduced parking rates for drivers of cars that boast such tiny dimensions. Space efficiency is key in both cars, the Smart shoving its engine and transmission under the boot floor and Toyota downsizing all major components to make it fit under the iQ's small bonnet.
Aimed at urban use, both the iQ and Fortwo are relatively tall given their short length. Neither offers a great deal of space for luggage, though you'll get a weekly shop in the back so long as you're not feeding too many people. Being small means they're also both very efficient, the iQ delivering a combined consumption figure of 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km from its 1.0-litre petrol engine - so long as you opt for the manual. The Smart is similarly frugal, its 1.0-litre engine returning 60.1mpg in its 60bhp guise, with emissions of 112g/km not quite as impressive as the Toyota but still pretty planet friendly. Those small output engines do mean rather slovenly performance though, the iQ taking 14.7 seconds to reach 62mph, and the Smart taking 16 seconds in 60bhp guise. Going up the Smart's engine range and choosing the 85bhp version reduces the 0-62mph time to a more traffic dodging 10.9 seconds.
How do they differ?
As close as these two cars' goals are, they are remarkably different. Toyota only offers one variant, with two transmission choices - auto and manual - while Smart has a wide choice of engine power outputs from the 1.0-litre three-cylinder range, the option of a diesel and a new 'micro hybrid' range that reduces engine emissions and consumption by adopting a start-stop system. The Smart is also offered as a 'cabriolet' with opening fabric roof and removable side bars.
The Smart is a strict two-seater too, whereas the iQ - Toyota claims - can seat four. They'll need to be very friendly and flexible to get in though, as the seat behind the driver is better used as additional storage space. Three people in the iQ is a realistic proposition, so long as you're not going too far. The boot in the iQ is non-existent thanks to those 'seats', but folding them does result in quite a large luggage area. The Smart is rear-wheel drive and the iQ front-wheel drive, the Toyota riding and handling far better than the choppy, unresolved damping of the Smart. Opt for the German car and you'll be able to pick one up for under £7,000, while the Toyota starts at a far loftier £9,495 - before you've added any options.
So which one would we have?
In their aims, the Smart Fortwo and Toyota iQ are almost inseparable. However, the way the two different companies have gone about providing their idea of the ideal city car is actually rather different - proportions aside. The Smart feels like a car that's built specifically for the city: a two-person transportation device that's charming and enjoyable but seriously out of its depth when the roads change from congested and building lined to free flowing and fast. The Toyota works better in both environments, without any real compromises in either. It's also more spacious, and feels more like a 'proper' car than the Smart. It's not cheap though, but that still wouldn't stop us from recommending it over the Smart.