We spend a week in the all-new compact hatchback from Scion
High level of standard equipment
Uninspiring manual transmission
The first Scions began rolling out of California dealerships on June 9th, 2003. After a promising sales start, however, the intervening years have been, to put it mildly, a rollercoaster ride for dealers.
The xB, one of two original models, became a home run for the brand right out of the gate. The rest of the lineup, which grew to include an alphabet soup of four additional nameplates, produced sales that were not up to expectations.
Much of the sales malaise can be attributed to the fact that the majority of models had a tendency to linger in dealer showrooms long after they should've been either refreshed or replaced.
But Toyota aims to reverse the division's current angst and has already introduced two of the three all-new models it plans on adding to the brand's lineup, one of which is the 2016 iM.
2016 Scion iM
The 5-door hatchback iM shares its underpinnings with such stalwarts as the Scion tC and Toyota Corolla. The good news is that while the front suspension consists of the same MacPherson strut setup as those two models, unlike the Corolla's rear torsion beam it has a fairly sophisticated double-wishbone suspension out back.
At the same time, the iM adheres to Scion's monospec formula, so the only choices from the factory that buyers will be given is that of transmission and one of six colors: Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Barcelona Red Metallic, Spring Green Metallic and Electric Storm Blue.
While the iM is new to the U.S. market, it has been available in much of the rest of the world, since 2012, as the second-generation Toyota Auris. But while its headlights and upper grille resemble those found on the Toyota Corolla, The iM offers a re-worked the lower front fascia, making it even more angular.
Along the sides, a distinct upper character line and standard side sill extensions break up what would otherwise be a slab-sided look, while its' painted and polished alloy wheels are also unique to the iM. In back, a rear upper spoiler, large trapezoidal taillamps (which, by the way, look absolutely stunning at night) and a protruding hatch lip along with a re-styled the lower rear fascia give it an overall aggressive look.
Inside, Scion has done a nice job in the ergonomics department. Everything falls within easy reach of the driver with the exception of the manual shifter in the forward positions, which we found to be a bit of a stretch. The aggressive styling is also limited to the exterior. With the exception of the instrument binnacle, which is nicely sculpted, the dashboard lacks the inventiveness of other models in the compact hatchback category. The surfaces are nicely detailed and soft to the touch, but the overall look leans towards that of a slightly sporty Corolla.
Something else to consider is the fact that although the lack of a leather interior option is certainly not a deal killer for its intended target buyer, the inability to order an iM with a sunroof very well could be.
Under the hood
The only engine choice is Toyota's 137 horsepower 1.8-litre 2ZR-FAE inline-4 (torque maxes at 126 lb.-ft.), but it can be had with either a standard 6-speed manual or optional CVT automatic transmission (featuring both a Sport Mode as well as "manual shifting" capability).
The EPA rates the manually-equipped iM at 27/36/31 city/highway combined mpg; while our own observed fuel economy was a respectable 28.1 miles per gallon in city driving and 35 mpg on the highway.
On the road
Although it shares its platform with the tC, the iM feels much more buttoned-down in the handling department – especially on the highway. Long drives on the expressway are handled with ease and in comfort. The suspension manages to absorb both small and large road imperfections without feeling floaty. And while there isn't a lot of feedback through the steering wheel, we never found ourselves having to constantly correct our course. Although they lack that initial satisfying bite, the 4-wheel disc brakes are easy to modulate with plenty of feel transmitted to the pedal.
While wind and engine noise are fairly muted, quite a bit of tire noise enters the cabin – especially at freeway speeds, although this is a trait of many vehicles in this class.
You also have to keep in mind that this capable highway cruiser is no back roads racer. So while it far outshines its coupe sibling in overall handling, it doesn't come close to carving corners like the best in the segment.
Our tester was equipped with the 6-speed manual. While this might seem like the sportier of the two transmissions, shifter travel is a bit long and the clutch engages closer to the top of pedal travel than we prefer. Given the choice, we predict most buyers, even those considering the manual, will opt for the CVT.
Acceleration is also what you might expect with only 137 horses on tap and a curb weight of 2,943 pounds. It's certainly acceptable, but even with the manual transmission we never found ourselves tempted to engage in stoplight grand prix.
2016 Scion iM prices
The Scion iM comes with a veritable cornucopia of standard equipment that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, the aforementioned body aero kit, LED daytime running lights and tail lamps and a piano black grille treatment. The list continues with projector beam auto on/off headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear view camera, power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry, leather-trimmed steering wheel with phone, information and infotainment controls, 7-inch touchscreen display audio (featuring Aha), Bluetooth wireless phone and music streaming capability and a USB port with iPod connectivity.
In addition to its hatchback versatility, there's good news in the pricing department. Manual transmission models start at $19,255, while those equipped with a CVT will have an MSRP of $19,955. Both prices include a $795 destination and delivery fee. Scion's "Pure Price" policy means that once the dealer prices any of Scion's models (which may or may not be the same as the MSRP) on their website, that price becomes the non-negotiable, "no haggle" selling price.
Our Barcelona Red Metallic, manually-equipped tester had a base price of $18,460.Adding $185 for carpeted floor mats, $55 for wheel locks and $89 for a rear bumper protector, plus $795 for a delivery, processing and handling fee, brought its as-tested MSRP to $19,594.
The Bottom Line
There are many things we like about the new Scion iM. Chief among those is its hatchback versatility, smooth highway ride and high level of standard equipment.
On the other hand, its performance and manual transmission can't match the best this segment has to offer, while its slick exterior styling is not matched by the overly conservative-looking interior.
On the whole, however, the new Scion iM represents a decent value in the compact segment. We only wish its performance matched its looks.