By Zach Vlasuk
KBB Expert Rating: 7.1
As hatchback sales continue to lay stagnant in the U.S. marketplace, Toyota’s youth-focused division figured it was high time to build a car that many young car buyers have been asking for: an affordable-yet-stylish small sedan. The 2016 Scion iA is just that, and includes many of the features young car buyers expect as standard fare. Even so, the iA doesn’t live up to its promise as a fun-to-drive urban runabout. Sure, it looks the part, but Scion’s subcompact can’t equal the Ford Fiesta Titanium when it comes to driving dynamics or interior refinement. Nevertheless, the iA still excels against rivals like the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent and Chevy Sonic in the more pragmatic areas of fuel economy and features-for-dollar.
If your budget tops out at $18,000 and nothing but a small sedan will do, the 2016 Scion iA deserves a test drive. The iA also represents a comparatively strong value proposition, offering laudable fuel economy, a generous roster of standard equipment, and more trunk space than some compact sedans.
Since its inception, the Scion brand has appealed to those who seek the reliability and quality of a Toyota but in a sportier, more youthful package. As a rebadged Mazda2, the 2016 iA lacks Scion’s chief selling point. If you’re looking for a truly sporty subcompact, consider a Ford Fiesta or Chevy Sonic.
KBB Expert Ratings
Based almost entirely on the second-generation Mazda2, the Scion iA is an all-new model for 2016.
Overlooking the frustrating lack of a standard center armrest, the 2016 Scion iA was built with ergonomics in mind. Adjusting the climate is a straightforward affair, the steering wheel offers...
... more adjustability than most drivers will ever need, and the Mazda-sourced remote-controlled infotainment system features one of the least-distracting interfaces on the mainstream market. Despite its zoom-zoom genetics, however, the iA delivers a very un-Mazda-like driving experience. The steering feels vague and disconnected, the body sways more than a dashboard hula girl, and acceleration is so sluggish that passing and merging require the planning and precision of a drone strike. On a brighter note, cabin noise levels are on par with most of the segment, and ride quality is surprisingly comfortable and compliant on imperfect pavement.
TOUCH OR REMOTE CONTROLLED INFOTAINMENT
Pulled directly from Mazda’s electronic inventory, the Scion iA’s infotainment system comprises a 7-inch touch-screen display, two USB ports, mobile app connectivity, and a dial-based controller that, after only a few days of use, enables you to operate the interface without taking your eyes off the road.
LOW-SPEED PRE-COLLISION SYSTEM
At speeds under 18 mph, a laser sensor mounted behind the windshield scans the road ahead to alert the driver to potential hazards. If the system determines a collision is imminent, the car will brake automatically.
Except for the budget-grade headliner, the Scion iA’s cabin looks and feels more sophisticated than its entry-level status would suggest. Although the average American might find them a bit restrictive, the front seats are supportive. Rear legroom is plentiful for this class, and the trunk is roomier than that of a Toyota Corolla. Complaints? Sun visors don’t slide to block the sun and the push-button ignition system lacks a passive-entry function. This results in a worst-of-both-worlds situation, where you remove the key fob from your pocket or bag only to put it right back in once the doors are unlocked.
The iA’s cleanly styled exterior is highlighted by a bold front fascia treatment set off with Toyota’s now-signature piano-black accenting, prominent character lines, and standard 16-inch alloy wheels. We also found nighttime visibility to be quite good for a car fitted with traditional multi-reflector headlights in lieu of more modern projector-beam units.
Every Scion iA comes standard with cruise control, a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, LED turn-signal indicators, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, and a 6-speaker audio system linked to a 7-inch display and two USB ports. On the safety side of the ledger you’ll find six airbags, the aforementioned low-speed pre-collision system, and a rearview camera.
Not unlike every Scion, the 2016 iA adheres to a mono-spec packaging structure. This means that beyond the transmission and exterior color, your options are limited to dealer-installed options like a center armrest ($295), front doorsill appliqués ($170), and a plug-and-play navigation upgrade ($495).
The lone engine offered is a Mazda-sourced 1.5-liter, direct-injected 4-cylinder that makes 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. It drives the front wheels through a standard 6-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic transmission that’ll set you back an extra $1,100 or so. Fuel economy is predictably impressive, scoring EPA combined figures in the mid-to-high 30-mpg range regardless of which transmission you choose.
106 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
103 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/41 mpg (manual), 33/42 mpg (automatic)
Including destination and delivery charges, the 2016 Scion iA begins with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) around $16,500 and tops out close to $18,000 with an automatic transmission and navigation. Base models of the Chevy Sonic, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio each undercut the iA by roughly $2,000, but end up costing nearly $1,500 more when comparably equipped. The Ford Fiesta Titanium, on the other hand, boasts such standards as leather and heated front seats as well as a more engaging driving experience for a nominal premium of about $800. And then there’s the Nissan Versa SV, which includes virtually everything found in a loaded iA, but for $500 less. Kelley Blue Book has yet to determine 5-year residual values for the 2016 Scion iA. In the meantime, we suggest perusing KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price, a guide designed to help you land the best deal on a new vehicle.