The point of Toyota’s Scion brand seems to have been to attract young drivers of modest means, in the hope they’d eventually graduate to Toyota’s more mainstream (and more expensive) models. Since their introduction in 2003, Scions have been quirky, inexpensive and easily personalized, but without the reliability and durability problems that often plague quirky, inexpensive cars. As older drivers, we’ve generally felt the Scions we’ve test-driven didn’t measure up to their subcompact and compact competitors.
We could tell there was something different about the 2016 iM, a new model, the first time we opened a door and noticed how substantial it was. Where some Scions we’ve driven have sounded tinny, this one felt solid, from the fit of its doors to its behavior on the highway. The iM, a 5-door hatchback, also is better equipped than previous Scions we’ve driven and delivers better fuel economy. And while it rides as smoothly and quietly as Toyota’s venerable Corolla, it’s more fun to drive and costs less when comparably equipped.
Anybody can take a drab little car and load it up with luxury features; that was the modus operandi of South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia brands. Eventually, the cars they built were good enough to justify all those add-ons. Scion did its Korean competitors one better by waiting until it had a seriously competent platform on which to house the goodies.
Our Barcelona Red Metallic iM was equipped with a 1.8-liter, 137-horsepower engine with 7-speed continuously variable transmission. We felt it handled more crisply than Corollas we’ve driven, befitting its sharper styling. Its major deficiency was the very light touch of the steering system. A little more resistance and road feel would be welcome.
The iM was roomy in front, less so in back, though head room was sufficient throughout. The cargo compartment measures 20.8 cubic feet, acceptable for this class but not outstanding. Major competitors in the compact-hatchback category include the Hyundai Elantra and Veloster, Kia Forte, Volkswagen Golf, Subaru Impreza, Mazda3 and Ford Focus.
The standard-equipment list, however, sets the iM apart from most of its competitors. Our iM, base-priced at $19,200, had 17-inch wheels, rear-view camera, 7-inch touchscreen color display, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, audio controls on the steering wheel, and chrome-tipped exhaust. Just a few options are available – including navigation with satellite radio, as well as personal touches such as a body side moulding and lower body graphic. Our iM, with a sticker price of $20,334, came with optional floor mats, cargo mat, wheel locks and rear bumper protector.
Scions enjoy the same reputation for reliability that Toyotas are known for. The Corolla, on which the iM is based, has better-than-average reliability, according to Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Corolla “Good” on all major crash-protection except for a “Marginal” score in the small-overlap crash test. Crash-test data specific to the iM is not yet available.
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2016 Scion iM Hatchback
Engine: 1.8-liter inline Four, 137 horsepower, 126 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 7-speed CVTi automatic
Weight: 3,030 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear
Wheels: 17×7-in. alloy
Tires: P225/45R17 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 20.8 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 14 gallons
Fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline