FIRST DRIVE: 2016 Scion iM
Corolla sensibility, Scion quirkiness.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: August 13th, 2015
Scion needs a reinvigoration. Its current annual sales are less than single Scion vehicles were pulling back in the brand's early years. With several models on the way out, it's time to bring some fresh faces in. I've already jumped into the iA, the first part of a one-two punch designed to bring some more Millennial heads into Scion showrooms. Now, we're looking at the iM, which is a slightly-altered European-spec Toyota Auris hatchback that provides the right hook to the iA's left jab.
Thus, being a Toyota from the get-go, the iM carries with it a great deal of what makes Toyota vehicles so appealing - sensible powertrain options, a penchant for reliability, and driving dynamics that err on the side of caution. It possesses the requisite quirky, Zooey-Deschanel charm that Scion-badged vehicles typically have, but it doesn't lose sight of its inherent Toyota-ness along the way.
If you follow automotive design, the iM's interior will be immediately familiar. It shares many components with the Corolla, including the steering wheel and the general dashboard layout. A layer of semi-soft-touch plastic pads the dashboard top, and leatherette provides a nice feel on the steering wheel. The seats, swathed in that rough fabric that makes you think of sportier cars, have strong side bolstering and aren't so firm as to be uncomfortable on longer trips. The gauges are arranged sensibly, as well, with a standard multi-color display providing the meat in the driver-information sandwich. The HVAC switchgear is bright and easy to both read and use, although I'm slowly growing tired of the industry's obsession with fingerprint-oleophilic piano-black trim.
Thin-armed folks out there might cry foul at the center console armrest, which is covered in a thin, rough fabric that doesn't provide much support for bonier elbows. Maybe I should just start eating more.
This is one funky ride. While a general hatchback shape isn't really a canvas off which your wildest dreams come spouting, Scion does an excellent job of making the iM fall in with Scion's general attitude of, "Yeah, it's a little wacky." Sharp angles abound, from the strong elements in the lower front fascia, continuing along a strong shoulder line and ending with some wildly angular LED taillights. That shoulder line carries with it some significant rake, leading to a small (if perhaps a bit too small) rear windshield with a little spoiler on top. The iM pulled far more interest than the iA did during my time with these two cars, if only because the iM is offered in a variety of colors so loud they can't be in neighborhoods past 10 p.m. on weekdays.
On the Road
Whereas the iA is a sprightly little car that places its emphasis on the fun of driving a small car, the iM's driving dynamics lean more towards the Corolla off which it's based. That is to say, the iM feels far more sensible and pragmatic than its little brother. The car's 1.8-liter I-4 is Corolla-based, and in both cars it doesn't enjoy being wound out; it's far more comfortable cruising down the highway or sitting in city traffic. The CVT brings the revs up awfully high when forward propulsion is called for, even out of Sport mode. The six-speed manual lets you have a little more fun, but with a very high clutch bite point and an overly touchy throttle, smooth starts are difficult to achieve. The Toyota-sourced shifter has longer, more vague throws than the iA. The whole thing just feels a little uninspired.
That said, its on-road composure is just as excellent as the iA, if not a bit better. A softer suspension tuning soaks up undulations and pavement inconsistencies a bit better, and there's good road-noise mitigation at any speed. The softer suspension means the iM wallows a bit more in turns, but being the more pragmatic of these two cars, that's not terribly surprising. If a sportier ride is what you desire, consider the optional TRD lowering springs, or just move over to the Scion tC.
It's hard to bypass the word "sensibility" when talking about the iM, if you haven't noticed. That word even pops up when you look at the list of standard equipment that comes with the iM's $18,460 starting price. The brand's one-trim-fits-all mentality extends to the iM, so your money will net you some slick alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights, and a seven-inch Entune infotainment system. We're bemoaning the lack of competitive features like heated seats, but thus is the price we pay for a simplified pricing structure.
When it comes down to it, the iM presents itself as a quirky-looking bastion of pragmatism that should shuttle your Millennial compatriots around in both style and comfort, without becoming a huge strain on the wallet. It looks cool, it's pretty well-loaded, and it's packing an engine that will probably run past 200,000 miles with nary a shudder. If this is what "selling out" is to our screw-the-establishment attitude, selling out looks pretty damn nice. Blending in is overrated - don't forget that.
Specs & Price
Engine: 1.8-liter naturally-aspirated direct-injection inline-4
Transmissions: Six-speed manual, continuously variable automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 137 horsepower / 126 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (MPG, Manual): 27 city / 36 highway
Fuel Economy (MPG, CVT): 28 city / 37 highway
Base Price (Manual): $18,460
Base Price (CVT): $19,200
Available Features: Navigation
On-Sale Date: September 1, 2015
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 Scion iM, click here: 2016 Scion iM.