2016 Scion iMPosted on December 16th, 2015
New hatchback rounds out the Scion family
By Nina Russin
This year, Scion introduces two new models: the four-door iA and iM hatchback. Although the iM is new to the US, it’s been on the global market for some time, called either the Toyota Auris or Corolla hatchback.
This doesn’t make it any less valuable as an addition to the Scion lineup. The Corolla is a solid platform with a history of reliability, making it a good choice for first-time car buyers.
The iM is available in two styles: the manual transmission car priced from $18,460 and automatic from $19,200. My recommendation is to go with the manual. Yes, it takes a bit more effort to drive in traffic, but the manual gearbox makes much better use of the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine’s available power.
The $740 difference in price is a pretty good down payment on that new road bike you’ve had your eyes on, and you can use the sixth gear to puddle around town and save some additional money on gasoline.
Scion utilizes monospec pricing to simplify the buying process. The idea is to pay the MSRP with no ups and no extras. In the case of the test car optional floor and cargo mats add $185 to the base price. Total MSRP including destination is $19,594.
Test drive in Phoenix
Over the past week I drove the iM around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley freeways and surface streets as well as a higher-speed segment of the I-10 freeway south of town. While it’s not the peppiest entry in its segment, I found the iM to be an appealing and willing partner for buyers with active lifestyles.
As with most small engines, the four-cylinder block in the iM needs to rev high: hence the advantage of the manual gearbox (the automatic shifts too early). Keep the engine in its sweet spot of about 3,000 rpm and you’ll have plenty of power for scooting around congested rush-hour traffic. My fuel economy wasn’t quite as good as the EPA’s 31-mpg estimate, but it wasn’t far behind.
The manual gearbox takes a bit of getting used to because of the way it’s mounted: neutral position is rather far forward. The shift lever also has a long throw as compared to other passenger cars of this type. But after a few minutes the operation seems pretty intuitive. A reverse lockout ring is a nice addition not found in some competitive products.
The standard rearview camera is a godsend. Since half the vehicles here are trucks, visibility in low profile passenger cars is limited, especially in crowded parking lots. At a time of year when evenings are cool enough to cover the rear window with frost that takes some time to clear, the camera also comes in handy backing out of the driveway first thing in the morning.
At this point, Toyota uses electric power steering throughout its model lineup as a way of saving weight and reducing internal pumping losses to boost gas mileage. On-center steering response is not particularly good on any of these systems, including the iM. However, the driver by no means feels disconnected from the wheels, and I felt comfortable making quick lane changes on the highway.
The advantage of EPS is low speed maneuverability. With its 35.4-foot turning circle, the iM can fit into a pretty tight parking spot on the street.
The iM suspension and brakes both deserve mention because both are steps up from the Corolla models sold stateside. In the US, only the sport model of the Corolla comes with the four-wheel disc brakes found on the iM: other models have rear drums. The double wishbone rear suspension on the iM is a step up from the torsion beam on Corolla sedans. Although most of a front-wheel drive car’s weight is over the front axle, the torsion beam can still be clunky on uneven pavement at higher speeds.
Visibility to the sides and rear is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the freeway. The driver sits low inside the car and the cowl is high, so smaller drivers will have to adjust the seat higher to have a clear forward view.
The advantage of hatchbacks over sedans is more spacious cargo areas. Although the iM is on the small side for stashing a road bike, it’s workable in a pinch of the owner is willing to remove both wheels. With the Corolla sedan, this would not be possible.
The standard cloth upholstery is attractive and more practical for buyers with active lifestyles than leather. It’s easier to clean, doesn’t get scalding hot in the summer or cold and rigid in the winter. The standard rearview camera does a good job of projecting a clear image in low light conditions. Even after a rainstorm, I was able to use the camera to see the view to the back of the car.
Dual-zone automatic climate control keeps front row occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
The gauge cluster is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions but the center stack screen can wash out in bright sunlight. A hood over the top would solve the problem.
A standard tilt and telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.
Sound quality from the standard Pioneer audio system is quite good. Features such as streaming Bluetooth audio and high-definition radio with Aha make it possible for owners to stream music from their smart phones.
The interior isn’t as quiet as a larger luxury car but the noise level is not a problem, even when traveling at higher speeds on the highway. Passengers in both rows should have no problems conversing.
Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for larger items. I appreciated the hatchback’s low lift-over height when loading up the back.
The Scion iM comes with front, side and side curtain, driver’s knee and front passenger seat cushion airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring.
The new iM is on display at Scion dealerships nationwide.
Like: A solid, safe compact hatchback with attractive styling and a versatile interior.
Dislike: High cowl limits forward visibility for smaller drivers.
Base price: $18,460
As tested: $19,594
Horsepower: 137 Hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 126 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 27/36 mpg city/highway2016, Urban 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, Scion, standard safety