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2017 Toyota Corolla iM Review By Steve Purdy

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By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Just before Toyota dumped the youth-oriented (read, inexpensive) Scion brand they came out with two fresh products: a little sedan called iA and this 5-door hatchback called iM. When Scion went away, of course, Toyota did not want to waste all those development dollars (or yen) and continued to make these two new cars. The former became a Yaris iA, and this one became a Corolla iM.

The stylish Corolla iM, front-wheel drive, 5-door hatchback sports an attractive front fascia with a narrow v-line across the hood showing the round Toyota badge in the center. Sharp-edged, oversized jowl openings and deep, black lower air dam make for a modern and attractive front view without a lot of drama. Side and rear views get well-placed character lines to make it look bigger than it really is, and accentuate the 2-box, wedge-shaped profile. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels add both heft and style. Fortunately, we’ll see no tacky plastic wheel covers on the iM. For style in a sub-compact, entry level hatchback I give it a good (but of course subjective) A-.

As you might surmise it’s pretty small inside but not so small as to make this over-sized guy uncomfortable. I fit through the driver’s door more easily than many other cars its size and even some larger. Power seats are not available, nor is leather, sunroof or other up-scale amenities. This is still a cost-conscious car. Space is good inside with a serviceable 90.4 cubic-foot passenger volume and 20 cubic-feet of cargo capacity under the hatch with the rear seatbacks in place. Focus, Elantra, Golf and Mazda3 are the iM’s closest competitors in size, but content varies substantially. 

The 1.8-liter engine makes an adequate 137 horsepower. You can have either the standard 6-speed manual transmission or this all-new CVTi-S. The latter is 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. The iM shares much substructure with the Mazda2 and comes from the same Mexican assembly line. It weighs just a ton and a half.

Competent ride, handling and ergonomics will not disappoint those with realistic expectations. This is not a sports, luxury, or special car in any way and does not pretend to be. Content is limited by the market segment they’ve chosen to be in.

As we mentioned earlier, options are nearly non-existent. The only one we see listed is a navigation system. We expect Toyota dealers will offer a few accessories and a line of TRD (Toyota Racing Development) accessories, but no turbo kit, we’re told. The aftermarket can provide that. Some surprising standard features include: automatic high-beam headlights, really slick alloy wheels, rear view camera with good colour screen, lane departure warning and forward collision warning/mitigation.

The iM hatchback with CVT lists at $19,490 and with manual transmission it’ll be $18,460. At these prices the company carries over the Scion “no haggle, no hassle” pricing strategy, so don’t expect to dicker and deal much with these prices.

Toyota’s warranty covers these cars for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. You’ll also get two years of free scheduled maintenance.

Our regular car testing routine includes a rich variety of day-to-day driving habits; from trips to town for errands to running into the big city for events, to blasting across the state on some recreational endeavour. We get a good chance to explore its driving dynamics. In this case we found them pretty darn good. Suspension tuning balances comfort and road competence about as well as you can expect in a car this small. That acceleration is a bit tepid, for sure but the CVT does not call attention to itself except on hard acceleration. And, it’s quiet enough to have a conversation with your passenger even at highway speeds.

To go with that good grade for style I’d have to give a modest C+ for content. But, again, let’s acknowledge this is an economy car selling for just around 20-grand. Compare that head-to-head, feature-to-feature with a half dozen or more competitors and you’ll not find it out of line.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved