NEW YORK – Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s Scion brand unveils the iQ concept here, but the youth-oriented nameplate’s top executive says it would take at least a year to turn it into a production entry for the emerging micro-subcompact-car segment.

“This could drive off the stage,” Jack Hollis, vice-president-Scion, says of the concept model.

“We are still looking at it from a concept standpoint. But we’d love to see Scion expand from the current three products, and this might be the way to go,” he tells Ward’s after the iQ concept’s introduction at the auto show here.

The iQ would represent a long-discussed fourth vehicle for the brand’s lineup, which now consists of the xD subcompact, boxy xB cross/utility vehicle and tC sport coupe.

Toyota confirmed to Ward’s earlier this year the New York concept would be a new model and not replace an existing one.

While the Toyota iQ has been sold in Japan since November and in Europe since December, it would take the auto maker at least a year to homologate its emissions and crashworthiness to stricter U.S. standards.

“We’d have to do some extra engineering, but I would say we’ve a got a good starting point, Hollis says. “In Japan and Europe, (the iQ) is at five stars (crashworthiness).”

Toyota also must figure out how the iQ would fit into a segment that currently has just one other entry, Smart USA’s Fortwo. “With this concept, we think we’ve put some things in it that this segment is looking for,” Hollis says.

For example, the iQ concept skips the “bare-bones” philosophy of many microcars. Instead, it features premium touches such as high-quality upholstery, custom exterior paint that changes colors depending on the light, and a 10-in. (25-cm) LCD screen in the center stack for entertainment and navigation features.

In what is becoming a must-have for urban, youth-oriented vehicles, the concept includes a one-of-a-kind translucent LCD screen cover emitting colorful patterns when the touch screen is not in use.

The 10-ft. (3-m) long iQ concept also experiments with a rear-seating area accommodating one adult and one child, or a pet or small package. The rear seats fold flat, and the rear-seat cushion includes a small storage space underneath.

Hollis says a newly engineered, compact air-conditioning unit behind the center front console opens up front-passenger legroom. And instead of a glove box, the concept includes a detachable “glove bag.”

The iQ concept rides on a 79-in. (200-cm) wheelbase and measures 71.4 ins. (181.4 cm) wide. A set of 18-in. wheels barely squeeze into the wheel wells and are pushed to the very corners of the car for a surefooted look.

The iQ concept also features nine airbags, including a first-ever rear-window curtain airbag.

Five Axis, a Huntington Beach, CA-based customizer, added aggressive exterior and interior modifications to demonstrate the concept’s potential for personalization, a hallmark of the Scion brand since its 2002 launch at the New York show.

Hollis expects a production-version of the iQ concept would achieve between 35-45 mpg (6.7-5.2 L/100 km), saying a closer approximation requires more research into possible powertrains Toyota might use. In Japan and Europe, the production iQ uses both 1.0L and 1.1L gasoline engines, as well as a diesel mill.

“You have anywhere between a 1.1L and 1.3L that could be used,” Hollis says, shooting down the idea of a diesel iQ for the U.S.

He declines to speculate on a possible price range for a U.S.-market iQ, saying only, “Scion will not only be competitive, but we’ll do the best we can for the full Scion brand to make this fit with our whole lineup.

“It can’t be atop everything else,” he adds. “It’s got to hold its own space.”

The European-market Ii is up for the New York show’s “World Car of the Year” award after already bagging design awards in Japan. Hollis expects the concept will meet an equally enthusiastic reaction from current Scion owners and enthusiasts.

“It should be pretty good,” he says. “We’ll have some fun with it.”