2016 Scion iM Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
The Price Point May Be Low, But Design, Execution, and Materials Are High
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY
• SEE ALSO: Scion Research and Buyers Guide
If not reinvention, Scion's lineup has had a major makeover for 2016 with the iA sedan and iM hatchback joining the rear-wheel drive FR-S and front-wheel drive tC sports coupes for model year 2016. The second-generation xB continues, for a while, as a 2015 model.
While hardly Scion's first hatchback, the iM is its most mainstream, at least for the US market. Definitely a Toyota product in styling, it eschews the more-Japanese domestic market look of previous Scion hatches. It's sold as a Toyota Auris in Europe, and as the Corolla hatchback in Australia and New Zealand. Although it uses Corolla bits under the skin, the iM has a four-inch shorter wheelbase than the American-spec Corolla, and gets independent rear suspension instead of a torsion beam axle. The engine is the 1.8-liter four found in the Corolla, albeit with Valvematic instead of VVT-i valve control, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or electronically-controlled continuously-variable (CVT) transmission. Brakes are four-wheel disc.
Which, with the IRS, indicates a sportier mission than the typical low-priced small hatchback. And after a week with a CVT example and an earlier short drive in one with the stick and a TRD suspension kit, that rings true. In stock form, it's more "sporty" than "sport", but that means more potential buyers. The TRD kit should be close to perfect if your idea of weekend fun involves autocrosses or other relatively low-budget competition or the pavement in your part of the world is carefully maintained. While not blisteringly quick in acceleration, with either transmission it's capable enough to deal with the demands of traffic. More importantly, there's a useful amount of interior space in a small-footprint package, and interior materials and styling are above the iM's modest price.
As with all Scions, the 2016 iM is offered in mono-spec trim, one engine, manual or automatic transmission, and a high standard equipment level. Dealer-installed accessories including wheel locks, various interior and exterior bits, and a audio/navigation system are offered, but not necessarily necessary.
My test example had the CVT and carpeted floor and cargo mats, wheel locks, and a rear bumper protector. The accessories added security and a bit of comfort, but were not absolute necessities. As is, the iM is an honest and functional small car. Decent performance, frugal fuel use, and a comfortable and versatile interior wrapped in a stylish exterior give it a fun-to-drive character that can be missing from small hatches, especially with an automatic. If the 137 horsepower and 126 lb-ft specs don't sound promising, the engine is typically Toyota, with good low- and mid-range torque that works with an automatic, and the CVT is one of the better ones around, with minimal lag in response to driver inputs. Add an easy 30 mpg with minimal highway use and the easy parking and interior versatility of a hatchback, and the iM is much more than a basic transportation module.
APPEARANCE: The logo in the middle of the Vee-shaped grille is the Scion "S", not the Toyota "T", but the parentage is obvious. From that grille through the strong, rising shoulder line to the prominent extended taillights, the Scion iM presents the best of current Toyota group style. The diamond-shaped faux brake ducts at the front, muscular fenders, and visual lowering effect of the standard "aero kit" lowers give it a sporty look. It's more European-looking than usual for an American-spec Toyota/Lexus/Scion offering, and all the better for its intended market. Running lights and taillights are LED, and the body-colored outside mirrors are power-adjustable and folding and heated.
COMFORT: The price point may be low, but the design, execution, and materials are not. Nothing inside feels or looks "cheap", and fit and finish are as expected from a Toyota product. It's any color you want as long as that's black, but textured soft-touch upper materials, gloss "piano black" panels, backlit instruments, a tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel with a stitched leather rim with audio, cruise, and information controls, and a touchscreen-based audio system with AM/FM/USB/jack/ and Bluetooth streaming inputs are far above "bottom-feeder" status. Ditto dual-zone climate control. Front seat comfort is surprisingly good, and the driver's cushion is height-adjustable. Rear seat usefulness is enhanced by a low central tunnel, although three-across works best if all are small -- no differently than in any other small "five-passenger" car or crossover". The rear seat folds 60/40 for extra cargo space. Rear doors plus the hatch mean passenger and cargo loading and access are great. There's a space-saver spare under the rear load floor.
SAFETY: Being a Toyota product means that the 2016 Scion iM has the Star Safety System with Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), and antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST). There are front, front seat-mounted side, full-length side curtain, and driver's knee and front passenger seat cushion airbags. Plus safety harnesses, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and a first-aid kit.
RIDE AND HANDLING: A fully-independent suspension, with MacPherson struts in front and a double-wishbone system in the rear, distinguishes the Scion iM in the small hatch class. It's well-developed and tuned, giving a moderately firm ride and reasonable competence in the corners in stock form. Want sportier? Upgrade the tires first. If you're serious, there are TRD (Toyota Racing Development) kits available with springs, sway bars, and shocks that will stiffen and lower the car. I've spent some time in an iM so-equipped. On poorly-maintained roads it's out of its element. On a smooth surface, just keep in between the cones and have fun! Brakes are four-wheel disc, no rear drums here.
PERFORMANCE: Interestingly, the Scion iM uses a slightly-modified version of the Valvematic 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine found in the Toyota Corolla Eco model, not the regular VVT-i version. Valvematic is simpler, and uses variation in intake valve lift instead of butterfly or slide valves for throttle control. It's also a bit more efficient. The result is 137 horsepower (at 6100 rpm) and 126 lb-ft of torque (at 4000 rpm). And plenty of torque lower than that for easy driving with either transmission. The stick is more fun, but for commute duty the CVT will be less stressful. Its control electronics are set up to simulate shifting in D, which makes it feel more like a regular torque-converter automatic and also reduced the "rubber band" feeling that CVTs can have as you wait for your throttle pedal input to be translated to forward motion. EPA ratings are 28 mpg city, 37 highway. With little highway droning I got an easy 30.
CONCLUSIONS: The Scion iM is an interesting new entry in the small hatchback class, and a good one.
SPECIFICATIONS - 2016 Scion iM
Base Price $ 19,200
Price As Tested $ 20,334
Engine Type DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with variable valve lift
Engine Size 1.8 liters / 110 cu. in.
Horsepower 137 @ 6100 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 126 @ 4000 rpm
Wheelbase / Length 102.4 in. / 170.5 in.
Curb Weight 3031 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 22.1
Fuel Capacity 14 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires 225/45 R17 Toyo Proxes
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent double wishbone
Drivetrain transverse front engine / front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 28 / 37 / 30
0 to 60 mph est 8.8 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Carpeted floor and cargo mats $ 185
Wheel Locks $ 65
Rear Bumper Protector $ 89
Delivery Charge $ 795