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2016 Scion iA Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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2016 Scion iA

2016 SCION iA
By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Scion’s reason for being is to lure youngsters to the Toyota/Lexus brands by providing appealing small, inexpensive cars for those entering the auto market for the first time - sort of a gateway car, if you please. The brand has only been around for a dozen years and appears to have served the purpose for which it was designed, but some of the original models were allowed to get a bit long in the tooth by modern auto design standards. Here is one of the new models, introduced in the summer of 2015, helping to bring the brand back up to date.

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The Mexico-built Scion iA sub-compact sedan is based on a front-wheel drive, 5-passenger platform shared with the Mazda2. Design details for this car, though, are unique to Scion and focused on the U.S. market. This is the first conventional 4-door sedan ever offered by the brand. The gaping grille with piano-black insert reminds me of a Mitsubishi as it appears to gulp air. Chrome is minimal surrounding the grille and covering the tailpipe extension. Evil, slanted headlight bezels integrate with cheek and chin creases to present an aggressive front view. The side view offers much more modest, subdued character lines and a modern, conventional profile. We see some obvious similarities with Corolla on the sides and rear. Halogen headlights are standard.

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Inside we see some surprising touches we don’t expect in an entry-level little sedan, like stitching across the lower dash and door panels and better-than-expected materials. The diminutive instrument panel has essential information but a minimalist look. The standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel has audio controls and cruise control settings. Functions managed via the center-dash display screen are reasonably simple. A few nuances take some practice and exploration but nothing really stymied us like some other, more sophisticated systems, particularly on higher-end cars. The HVAC controls are three simple dials, just the way God intended.

The iA gets a new high-compression, direct injected, 1.5-liter engine, making just 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque, mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Scion claims a highway mpg of 41, with 31 in the city and 35 mpg combined for the manual and a click higher in each category for the automatic. Fuel capacity is 11.6 gallons. With our manual transmission car and lots of spirited driving we managed an average of 37.9 mpg.

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We found the powertrain to be adequate for this 2,400-pound car. The six-speed manual transmission takes the driving dynamics quotient from tepid to fairly fun. The suspension tuning favors the more mundane but you can push it fairly hard before it gets worrisome. Disc brakes in front and drums in the rear do their jobs just fine. The engineers tell us that putting discs in the rear would be superfluous on this car. I’m not an engineer, but I agree. Underpinnings are essentially Mazda so we expect good handling.

Content is good for an entry-level car. All the power accessories we expect these days – windows, mirrors, locks – are standard as is push-button start, remote entry, rear-view camera, cruise control, low speed collision system, 16-inch alloy wheels and 7-inch multi-function display with control knob on the console. The audio volume knob is down there as well making it rather difficult to manage. Cup holders are behind that and very awkward.

Accent, Fiesta, Versa and Sonic are direct competitors, they say, and the iA stacks up well in that category. Versa is incrementally larger inside but they are all great values. For such a small sedan the iA feels fairly roomy up front, but the rear seat will be mighty cramped for anyone more than mid-sized. It gets 60/40 folding rear seat backs that fold almost flat for extra load versatility and trunk space is good at 13.5 cubic-feet. The shape of the truck space and the low lift-over adds to functionality.

While I see some reviewers didn’t like the manual transmission’s clutch and shifter feel, I thought both were just fine. This is no sports car, of course, but doing one’s own shifting for anyone who likes to drive will be the element that takes this car from an also-ran to a possible purchase. I thought the clutch and shifter were better on this one than the new iM we were testing near the same time.

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Our test car shows a base price of just $15,700. Scion dealers adhere to a no-haggle purchasing system. Scion’s new car warranty covers the whole car 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Two years of scheduled maintenance is included for “qualified buyers.”

We found the Scion iA a pleasant car to live with, but we didn’t have to ride in the rear seat. The cabin was comfortable even for this bigger-than-average guy and reasonably quiet at speed. Handling and overall performance will satisfy all but the most critical.

And, certainly the price is right, even with no haggling. The content for such a low-end car is quite impressive.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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