Who said going the practical route had to be boring?

2016 Scion iM Review

All the sensibility of a Corolla, packaged in a stylish hatchback

By: Lindsay Prossnitz

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: April 5th, 2016

Though Toyota made the decision to phase out its quirky, youth-oriented Scion brand, it's really not as big of a loss as it might seem, given that most of Scion's current vehicles will be rebadged as Toyotas, virtually unchanged. It should come as no surprise that the Scion iM will soon be known as the Toyota Corolla iM. It shares all the sensibility and pragmatism that the Corolla has become synonymous with, just with a more intriguing exterior package.

The iM is a sturdy, reliable, five-door hatchback that comes packed with plenty of standard equipment, at an incredibly affordable cost. It's inexpensive, versatile, and efficient, yet still offers comfort features and new tech so you don't feel like you're settling by going the practical route. While the iM boasts sporty touches, it's prudent at its core, but it's the kind of car you'll be able to drive into the ground, and it will never say "uncle."

  • The Driving Experience

    Whereas the iA and FRS embody the fun-to-drive ethos of Scion, the iM's driving dynamics lean more towards the practical and sensible spirit of the Corolla, from which it's based. It shares its sibling's 1.8 four-cylinder, which is efficient and durable, but not altogether inspiring.

    Its driving dynamics aren't top notch like the Mazda3 5-Door, but it works just fine for everyday commuting. We would say its sporty styling belie its actual driving experience.

    • Ride Quality: Its composure on the road is terrific, providing a smooth, cushioned ride. A softer-tuned suspension really helps absorb bumps and other inconsistencies in the road.
    • Steering: While the iM provides a nice thick, sport steering wheel with thumb cutouts, you won't be screaming around any turns to really warrant them. The steering is pretty numb so while the vehicle will move how you want it to, it's going to do so on its own terms.
    • Acceleration: When it comes to putting the pedal to the metal, the iM is pretty lackluster. While you will get a little boost in Sport mode, it's thrashy, and pretty noisy, letting you know just how unhappy it is with your manhandling of it.
    • Braking: Braking could be more progressive. It drags a bit when initial pressure is applied to the pedal.
    • Handling: Independent rear suspension is an improvement on the chassis, providing a comfortable, controlled ride. Unfortunately, the iM feels a bit top-heavy, especially when taking tight corners, and you'll feel body roll.

  • Technology and Safety

    The iM is offered in a one-trim-fits all style, but that turns out to be a huge benefit to buyers because they don't skimp on the features. Riders are treated to an array of great standard features and tech that's pretty unheard of for the price.
    The downside is that there aren't a whole lot of options, except for navigation, interior ambient lighting, and various sport body enhancements. While a backup camera comes standard, that's about your only driver-assistance feature that comes with the iM. There are no blind-spot warnings, frontal collision, or similar warning systems offered. Perhaps there should be a warning that none of these is included or available.

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: A 7-inch touchscreen comes standard with an integrated backup camera. It displays a crisp image, is easy to reach, and quick to react when touched.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Bluetooth integration is simple search and find process. There were no hiccups, and my calls and music came through instantaneously.
    • Sound Quality: Audiophiles will be pleasantly surprised by how well the six-speaker sound system carries sound throughout the cabin. The small acoustics of the cabin actually work in its favor. And, when I was using Bluetooth, I had no problem hearing the receiver and vice versa. The cabin is pretty well insulated, so there's a good amount of noise cancellation - though nothing can drown out the wail of the engine when you try to work it double-time.
    • Controls: If you're familiar with the Corolla, being in the cockpit of the iM will feel like home. It's interior dash layout heavily favors that of its sibling, which is good because it means a clean design, that's not overly complicated or busy. There are a minimal amount of buttons that are easy to navigate through. The three-toggle heating/cooling system is particularly user-friendly and straight forward. A 4.2-inch color screen in the middle of the gauge cluster functions as an information display, with easy to read information such as speed, fuel consumption, range, etc.
    • Safety: Aside from the standard backup camera, there are no other driver assistance features available. Other standard safety features include: antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, driver knee airbag and a front passenger seat cushion airbag.

  • Exterior Design & Styling

    Where the all-new compact hatchback shows off its Scion roots is in its styling. It has sharp lines all over, and sits very low to the ground, giving it a handsome, athletic look. Eye-grabbing colors scream for you to look at it, so if flying under the radar was your plan you might want to reconsider the Electric Storm Blue hue. I thought it looked snazzy, and added to the overall eccentricity of the hatchback.
    It might just be Scion's last attempt at its original sporty aesthetic, and it works wonderfully from a visual standpoint amongst less interesting fare in this segment. The odd thing is that its iA brother, while looking less snazzy, is far better to drive.

    • Front: It has an elongated snout, giving it a low-nose profile, with a black mesh grille adding to its sporty flair.
    • Rear: In back are extremely angular LED taillights with a small rear windshield and wiper. And, it has a little spoiler -or sharkfin antenna - on top that can only really be described as cute.
    • Profile: The iM is characterized by sharp lines all over, starting with front fascia, and continuing through the shoulders of the vehicle.

  • Driver and Passenger Comfort

    While the iM's cabin is fairly minimal, it's neat and modern-looking but not necessarily truly attractive. It has a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel with contrast stitching and thumb cutouts, offering great grip and feel. Semi-soft touch plastic pads the top of the dashboard, and the rest of the materials look and feel decent.
    The overall appeal of the interior doesn't depart too much from Toyota's strange ergonomics that need to be seriously rethought. Frankly, we wonder who actually designs them because they're due for a month-long training seminar. The good thing is that the cabin is fairly comfortable, but the seats could use more cushioning.

    • Front Seats: Cloth seats with strong bolstering feel supportive and durable, with a comfortable amount of head and leg room for front passengers.
    • Rear Seats: Rear passengers enjoy the same sporty-ish seats with contrast stitching, though their head and legroom is bit a tighter unless the front seats are pushed forward a bit.
    • Visibility: Visibility out of the front and side windows is great. The rear window is a bit small, but the backup camera helps mitigate that.

  • Storage and Cargo Room

    The segment's title doesn't lie, this is a compact hatchback. But despite its compactness, it does a fairly decent job trying to maximize the space that it does have. The rear trunk is surprisingly capable, with the ability to hold bulkier sized items thanks to its upright hatch. A fair amount of binnacles in the interior offers various nooks to stash your phone, keys, cables, drinks, snacks, etc.

    • Storage: There are numerous places to store smaller items, from the petite center armrest, to side front pockets, and rear door pockets.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: The cargo area offers a decent amount of storage and is usefully wide. At 20.8 cubic feet, it's not the most spacious compared to the Ford Focus's 23.8 cubic feet, but it does remain competitive for this segment.

  • Final Impressions

    The Scion iM caters to the thrifty shopper by offering a loaded-up, one-trim-only vehicle -- but it's not purely utilitarian. There is a strong element of youthful style to the car, which was Scion's mantra, really. No one expects luxury digs at this price point, but overall the feeling is one of sparseness.
    You won't have access to fancy amenities like heated seats or steering wheel, but you'll get the essential tech you need at a bargain price. It's also geared towards younger buyers who don't want to have to go completely bland in their vehicle choice to stay in their price range. While it does deliver on Scion quirk, the eccentricities are only skin-deep, because once you peel back that electric blue exterior, you're looking at a hatch version of a Corolla. This means comfort and stability, not wild driving fun. But if you're in it for the long haul, the iM will be a loyal partner.

  • Specifications and Price

    Engine: 1.8-liter naturally-aspirated direct-injection inline-4

    Transmission: 7-speed CVT automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 137 horsepower / 126 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 28 city / 37 highway

    Base Price: $19,200

    As Tested: 20,334 (incl. $795 delivery)

    Standard Features: Automatic Projector Beam Halogen Headlamps, LED tail lamps and daytime running lights, seven-inch touchscreen display audio with AUX/USB ports, Bluetooth, six-speaker Pioneer audio system with HD radio, Aha, streaming internet radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, power-folding heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seats, cruise control, rearview camera,

    Options on our test vehicle: Carpeted floormats and cargo mat, wheel locks, rear bumper protector.

Shopping for a used
Scion iM?

• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 Scion iM, click here: 2016 Scion iM.