2016 Scion iM First Review

By Tony Swan on August 3, 2015 9:45 AM

Unveiled at last April's New York auto show, this addition to the Scion lineup is presented as all-new for 2016, which is true-as far as the U.S. market is concerned. In other markets-Europe, for example-it's some three years into its product cycle, it's known as the Auris, and it wears Toyota badges. The Scion brand, of course, was created for, and is limited to, the U.S.

Scion classifies the iM as a subcompact, but this 5-door is only slightly smaller than the hatchback version of the compact Ford Focus, a car that Scion cites as a key iM marketing target. 

Save for the addition of a body kit and 17-inch alloy wheels (standard), the Scion team hasn't altered the iM's styling in preparation for the U.S. market. This is not a bad thing-the exterior has a sassy, sporty look. It doesn't exactly turn heads, but it's no wallflower. 

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Seductive interior

The interior is more seductive, with supportive seats, an attractive control layout, a 7-inch info screen, a 6-speaker Pioneer audio system, quality materials, soft touch surfaces, and an extensive array of standard features including air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel with a tilt/telescope column, pushbutton start,  Bluetooth, a USB port and a rearview camera.

The iM is supported up front by MacPherson struts, an all-but-universal setup in this class. But there's a multilink arrangement at the rear, another element that's a notch above basics among compact hatchbacks.

Power is supplied by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, essentially the same engine that propels the Toyota Corolla. In this application, it's rated for 137 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. There are two transmission choices-a 6-speed manual (standard), and a continuously variable automatic (CVT). 

More than 30 mpg combined

Officially a CVTi-S 7-speed A/T in Scion-speak, the automatic has seven simulated shift points programmed into its computer control, diminishing the slipping clutch sensation that's been a CVT turnoff to many in the past. With the standard 6-speed, the iM is EPA rated for 27 mpg city, 36 on the highway, 31 combined. The CVT version is projected one mpg better across the board.

While the iM's powertrain generates respectable mpg numbers, the acceleration that goes with the economy-oriented engine tends toward ho-hum, in tepid contrast to the standard engines in compact hatchback top dogs. The 2.0-liter four in the Focus, for example, is rated for 160 hp. The 1.8-liter turbo 4-cylinder in the VW Golf churns up 170 hp. The 2.0-liter SkyActiv four in the Mazda 3 is rated for 155 hp, and the base engine in the Kia Forte makes 148 hp. There are others, and most of the cars in this class offer upgrade engines with even more muscle.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

Solid chassis

On the other hand, the iM gives a good account of itself on the road. Chassis solidity measures up with the best in class, and the iM's responses are athletic, with the right level of damping to smooth out all but the sharpest bumps. The electric power steering could be a little more precise, as could the engagements of the manual transmission. Still, it's hard to imagine anyone being dissatisfied with the iM's dynamics.

Like other Scion vehicles, the iM comes in a single trim, with almost no options. The MSRP for the manual transmission version is $19,255, add $740 for the CVT. While there are other compact hatchbacks with lower base prices, none offer the iM's array of standard features. Overall, the 2016 Scion iM has a strong value story.

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