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2016 SCION iM and iA First Look and Drive by Steve Purdy +VIDEO
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Toyota added the Scion brand to its portfolio about a dozen years
ago to sate the appetite for an affordable line of entry level cars
appealing to young, often first-time, buyers. The goal was to please them
enough that they would graduate to the myriad of Toyota products and
ultimately to Lexus. That’s not unlike Billy Durant’s
philosophy of building General Motors progression of brands from
inexpensive Chevrolet's to pricey Cadillac's.
Well, that seems to have worked reasonably well in that the Scion
brand is still around, though its line of cars now includes a rear-wheel
drive sports car that only peripherally fits the brand philosophy. And,
they just dropped the little city car, iQ, so popular in Europe. Folks here
just did not take to it. Tastes in most everything change quickly,
particularly with the younger set, and that includes automobiles. The Scion
lineup began to get a bit stale so most of the original lineup is gone and
we now have two new entries that appear at first blush to take another
strong run at the youth market.
The new iM 5-door hatchback and iA compact sedan will show up at
dealers in early September and we were treated to a preview in Grand
Rapids, MI recently. After a reasonably thorough tech briefing on each car
we took to the back roads of west Michigan where fruit groves, wetlands and
forests near the Lake Michigan shore mix with productive fields of corn and
soy beans offering some good roads and photo ops.
First, let’s talk about what they have in common.
The marketing philosophy for both new Scion products is to offer
what they call “mono-spec” cars that come reasonably well
equipped but without many options or choices. You’ll choose your
color and transmission and not much else.
Both cars get lots more high-strength steel to reduce weight and
increase chassis rigidity. Both get much improved aerodynamics. And, both
get much more standard content. All that happens without much of a bump in
price from the models they replace.
Both cars get surprisingly up-scale interiors, vastly better than
earlier Scions. Materials and design are so much improved, in fact, they no
longer look like entry-level cars at all. Leather seating is not offered
but steering wheel cover and shifter boot are stitched leather. We see
enough real stitching, including across the dash and around the seats, to
know the designers wanted something special. Seat bolstering is good and
the single durable seating material is attractive enough. Piano-black trim,
brushed metal surfaces and good quality plastics compliment the more
stylish and interesting shapes the designers have provided. Ergonomics work
well and simple controls and gauges did not annoy.
Both cars feel a bit underpowered to those of us who review cars
regularly. The tuner guys are not going to be interested in these cars but
that’s not the market Scion is after. Heart-thumping acceleration is
not of interest to these youngsters, we speculate, so the powertrains
offered in both will be fine for them. Scion believes these youngsters will
be more interested in fuel mileage and efficiency than 0-to-60 times. I
think they are right.
Ride, handling and NVH rank well with everything in the class that
we have reviewed. We found good agility and poise during our
not-too-demanding first drives. While we experienced only a few miles of
rough roads on our west Michigan drive we’ve not given them a
thorough challenge yet. That will come with a full review.
2016 SCION iA
The Scion iA is based on a Toyota of Europe front-wheel drive,
5-passenger, compact sedan but with details focused on the U.S. market. It
is the first conventional 4-door sedan ever offered by the brand. The
gaping grille reminds me of the Mitsubishi as it appears to gulp air. Evil,
slanted headlight bezels integrate with deep cheek and chin creases to
present a remarkably aggressive front view. The side offers modest, subdued
character lines and a modern, conventional profile. We see some obvious
similarities with Corolla on the sides and rear. Halogen headlights are
The iA gets a new high-compression, direct injected, 1.5-liter
engine, making just 106 horsepower, attached to either a six-speed manual
or six-speed automatic transmission. Scion claims a highway mpg of 42, with
33 in the city and 37 mpg combined. Fuel capacity is 11.6 gallons.
Push-button start is standard as are 16-inch alloy wheels. It weighs just
Accent, Fiesta, Versa and Sonic are direct competitors, they say,
and the iA stacks up well in that category. For such a small sedan it feels
roomy inside, I thought, though interior volume is about the same. It gets
a 60/40 folding rear seat backs for extra load versatility and trunk space
is good for this small car class.
2016 SCION iM
Scion iM 5-door hatchback has a less aggressive front fascia but it
is wedge-like and striking. A narrow v-line across the hood shows the round
Scion badge in the center. Sharp-edged jowl openings and deep, black lower
air dam make for a modern and attractive front view. Side and rear views
get lots of well-placed character lines to make it look bigger than it
really is. The standard 17-inch alloy wheels add both heft and style.
We’ll see no tacky plastic wheel covers with these new cars.
The iM, shares much with the Mazda2 including a Mexican assembly
line. It comes with a 1.8-liter engine making a tepid 137 horsepower. You
can have either the standard 6-speed manual transmission or an all-new
CVTi-S. That’s a continuously variable transmission with 7 shift
points programmed into its range and a ‘sport’ mode that allows
more aggressive shifts. The EPA rates the CVT at 27 mpg in the city, 37 on
the highway and 32 mpg combined. With the manual transmission just subtract
a click from those mileage numbers. A 14-gallon fuel tank makes for a good
cruising range. And space is good with 20 cubic-feet of cargo capacity
under the hatch and an impressive 90.4 cubic-foot passenger volume. Focus,
Elantra, Golf and Mazda3 are the iM’s closest competitors.
As we mentioned earlier options are nearly non-existent but the iM
will offer a few dealer accessories and a line of TRD (Toyota Racing
Development) accessories – no turbo kit though.
Scion’s warranty covers the cars for 3 years or 36,000 miles
and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.
The iA sedan starts at just $15,700 with manual transmission and
$16,800 for the automatic. The iM hatchback starts at $18,460 with manual
and $19,200 for the automatic. Scion firmly believes in a “no haggle,
no hassle” pricing strategy so don’t expect to dicker and deal
much with these prices. You can even make a purchase entirely on-line if
you like. (These prices do not include the $750 destination charge.)
Neither car offers integrated navigation (but you can use your smart
phone as a source) CD drive. Both get standard low-speed pre-collision
safety system, tire pressure monitors, back-up camera, USB ports and AUX
audio jack, apps capability, Bluetooth, 7-inch display and all the other
stuff we expect.
We’ll have more to say about these two once we’ve had
more time with them. Judging from our sneak peek it looks like Scion is
back in the game – but the competition is mighty stiff.