The new 2016 Scion iM is one of two important new products for Toyota’s youth brand, and we got to test both a manual and CVT automatic.
You can think of the new Scion iM as a Toyota Corolla five-door hatch, as they are virtually interchangeable. Though the Scion iM is technically a Japan Domestic Market model known as the Auris, it does share a number of architectural traits with the Corolla, however its sheet metal is all its own.
The five door hatch is comparable in size and scope to the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, and Forte5 from Kia and has a starting price of just under $20,000 for both the manual and automatic version.
It comes standard with a number of visual items like 17-inch alloy wheels, auto on projector beam headlights, a body color aero-body package, and LED daytime running and tail lights. It also has power folding side mirrors and a backup camera standard.
Our testers both came in bright shades, the manual transmission car was Electric Storm Blue and the CVT Automatic Barcelona Red. If you prefer more subdued colors, the iM also comes in the standard shades of black, white, silver and charcoal.
While the exterior is all its own, the cabin is a spitting image of the Toyota Corolla save for a number of trim elements and switchgear. In fact, the quality and aesthetics of the controls, buttons and switches is a bit of a step up.
Scion iM’s all come one way, black with cloth seats. You get white accents in the stitching as well as a piece of soft trim across the dash panel. There’s a 4.2-inch information display in the instrument cluster and the steering wheel has all the expected audio and infotainment controls.
Its manual adjusting seats are indeed comfortable and supportive making long drives no problem at all. The cloth has a nice look and feel I thought, and appears to be sturdy enough to wear well over time. The center armrest with storage underneath was a nice touch, as was the handy phone cubby on the console.
Rear seat passengers have adequate space for legs and head room. It will seat three across but would be a tad bit snug. Those seats of course do fold down for a flat load floor in a 60/40 split. And under the floor is a spare tire. Nice.
Overall, the cabin is put together with reasonably good materials and fit, but there is no mistaking this interior for a luxury car. It has soft touch trims but still a lot of hard tap tap plastics and still feels basic. Overall though it earns 4 of 5 stars.
Standard infotainment here is a 7-inch display audio system sourced from Pioneer. It has an aftermarket-like look and feel with its double-din mounting format, yet its menus and workability are virtually identical to Toyota’s other models.
It has connectivity options wired and wireless for your phone, which it depends on for most expanded services beyond AM and FM stations. You can upgrade to Bespoke Audio with Navigation at your dealer, but from all the information we can gather, Satellite radio isn’t available.
Audio quality from its six speakers is adequate, leaving audiophiles with the need to replace the system. But the good news is, you easily can. This brings us to scoring the the technology, which comes in at 4 of 5 stars.
Under the hood is the same 1.8 liter Valvematic four-cylinder engine found in the Toyota Corolla ECO. It has 137 horsepower and some pretty impressive fuel economy numbers from the EPA. Different from the Corolla, it’s available here with a six-speed manual transmission in addition to the CVT automatic.
Power from the engine is what I’d call adequate, by not means fast and barely sporty. The good news is that when equipped with the manual transmission you get that sporty feel of control that those into driving can appreciate.
The shifter is on the soft and rubbery side, but it works with with a soft and forgiving clutch for an easy all-around drive. Fuel economy for the manual Scion iM is rated by the EPA at 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway with a 31 mpg combined rating. In my time with the car I achieved 33 mpg combined.
For those looking at the CVT automatic, you’ll find this one a bit more interesting than many. It’s what Scion calls CVTi-S which means it has a sport mode and the ability to offer up a simulated 7-speed shift point set.
Set in sport mode and shifting manually, you do get the sensations of a more traditional automatic transmission. But those sensations are more in sound of the engine than feel in your back. Even in drive with sport mode, it will throw you a few simulated shifts. Not bad at all.
The CVT equipped Scion iM is rated higher than the manual transmission model at 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined. And it not only achieved its promised ratings but exceeded them with 36 observed mpg during our week with it.
This brings us to scoring the powertrain, which while very efficient indeed, doesn’t really match the messages sent by the car’s marketing in styling which says sporting. Instead, this powertrain says economy car, but still earns a respectable 4 of 5 stars
In the chassis department the Scion iM differs from the Corolla in one key area. Instead of a bargain basement torsion-beam rear axle it has a fully independent double wishbone design which is meant to offer up a more refined feel.
Refined it feels yes, but the suspension tuning is squishy and soft in comparison to competitors like the Mazda 3 or perhaps the Volkswagen Golf. When you combine this with tires which have not so much grip, it feels more like the Corolla sedan than a sporty hatch.
While the thing has the hardware bits underneath to make it a sharper and more sporty car, in the end its tuning and driving character again fall short of the Scion imagery. Thus in scoring the chassis it comes in at 4 of 5 stars.
Like the Toyota Corolla, the Scion iM is for the most part well put together inside and out. In testing both cars I couldn’t fault the build quality much, nor the fit of interior and body panels. It does still have a basic economy car feel that puts it square in 4 of 5 star territory for quality feel.
In our final measure of value, the Scion iM does make a good play here with the brand’s Monospec packaging. The manual priced out at $19,594 and the CVT automatic at $20,334. Both had carpeted floor mats, wheel locks, and a bumper protector added as options.
Overall this brings the Scion iM to 4 of 5 stars for our test drive score.