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First drive: Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.

First drive: Toyota i-Road
The Toyota i-Road is like nothing else on earth, but you may never be able to buy one.

   



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Toyota i-Road

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It will not be coming to the UK anytime soon but the Toyota i-Road gives us a glimpse into what personal transportation may be like in a few years' time. With a footprint barely larger than that of a bike, but offering the comforts of a car it could be the answer for gridlocked urban centres.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Toyota i-Road
Engine: 2x2kW electric motors
Transmission: front-wheel drive, rear-wheel steer, single-speed automatic
Body style: two-door, two-seat personal mobility
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Range: 30 miles
Top speed: 28mph
Power: 6hp

Exterior Design: 4 4 4 4 4

The looks of the Toyota i-Road are Marmite in the extreme. Some (generally younger) drivers loved the futuristic, sci-fi styling, while others could not get past the single Cyclops headlight up front and the way the body tapers off towards the single wheel at the rear. For what it is worth we loved it, even in some of the more garish colours it is available in.

Interior Ambience: 3 3 3 3 3

In contrast to the extrovert exterior the inside of the i-Road feels very laid back. Yes the materials are usual Toyota quality (dull black plastic that will last a lifetime), but everything is conventionally laid out and the expanse of glass lets in a lot of light, meaning it does not feel as claustrophobic as it could.

Passenger Space: 2 2 2 2 2

Front seat passengers are well catered for with plenty of leg-, head- and shoulder room, but those riding in the tandem back seat will feel short-changed and struggle for somewhere to place their feet.

Luggage Space: 1 1 1 1 1

There is none. Actually there is a little cubby behind the rear seat in which you could fit a litre of milk, but that's about it. If you want an electric Toyota with luggage space you'll need the COMS, a single-seat quadricycle with lockable boot.

Safety: 1 1 1 1 1

One of the main safety features of the i-Road is its lack of speed. Foot to the floor, it will not exceed 30mph. The fact that the front wheels are powered while the rear does the steering means it can brake and turn in a way a scooter/motorbike would not be able to, but it has not been tested by Euro NCAP and bar a pair of seatbelts it has no safety systems to speak of. We can't imagine the flimsy doors offering much in the way of protection in a side-on impact and also suspect that such an accident would leave the i-Road lying on its side.

Comfort: 2 2 2 2 2

With just slide up plastic windows it can get quite noisy in the cabin with the whirr from the electric motors battling with air rushing past. This is followed by a bang and noticeable shudder as the stiff suspension of the Active Lean system hits another pothole.

Driving Dynamics: 5 5 5 5 5

Put simply the Toyota i-Road is unlike anything else we have driven. With the single rear wheel doing all the steering (forklift style) it does take a bit of getting used to, but once up to speed you can but smile. While the body is fixed into position at low speeds, with the rear wheel taking all the slack for easier manoeuvrability, once up to speed the Active Lean system of the front wheels takes over, meaning you lean into corners motorbike style. Even at sedate speeds, and that is all that the i-Road is capable of, it is great fun to drive, yet always composed, as the steering wheel provides feedback when the body has achieved maximum lean (26.5 degrees) to remind you to straighten up.

Powertrain: 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Hidden behind each front wheel is a 2kW electric motor that provides 3hp. Certainly not mind blowing, but when you consider electric power's instant torque output, a 300kg kerb weight and the single-speed transmission, the i-Road always feels spritely, until it runs out of puff at 28mph that is.

Potential Alternative

The nearest rival for the i-Road in the UK is the Boris Bikes scheme, and while prices for the UK are non-existent at this stage, the Toyota does look decent value with the first 15 minutes costing about 2,40, 1.60 for a further 15 minutes and 80p per 15 minutes thereafter. At 2 for half an hour and an extra 1 for up to an hour the bikes certainly have the advantage, but then they do leave you open to the elements and you act as the 'engine'.

You could also sign up to the Zipcar car sharing service for 59.50 a year and 6 per hour - or take a taxi or use another form of public transport.

What to Order?

Flights to Grenoble or Toyota City in Japan - we imagine getting to the south of France may be cheaper. You simply cannot buy an i-Road at the moment, nor are you ever likely to be able to. The 35 cars in Grenoble are part of a Toyota feasibility study to see if it works in the real world and even if Toyota reckons it does (and there is no guarantee of that) sales are likely to be restricted to local councils or operators of car sharing services.


Paul Healy - 16 Sep 2014



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2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.



2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota i-Road. Image by Toyota.
 






 

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