Toyota's Scion brand is aimed at young, frequently first-time buyers, and its newest offering should appeal to that clientele. While it may not act quite as sporty as it looks, the brand-new Scion iM is one heck of a value.
I mean, who would expect standard equipment like alloy wheels, a rear camera, heated power mirrors with LED turn-signal indicators, a leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel, voice-recognition technology, dual-zone climate control, and a rear-window defogger for a base price of $18,460.
While it is new to the U.S. market, the 2016 iM is not really a new car. It is a mildly revised version of the Toyota Auris, a compact, five-door hatchback the automaker has been selling overseas. The changes amount, essentially, to front-end and interior cosmetics and a peppier engine than those offered in the Auris.
I like the way the iM looks, both inside and out. The body is a stylish marriage of sportiness and hatchback functionality. The 17-inch alloy wheels are certainly a design plus, as is the front-end treatment. The only aesthetic bones I had to pick with the tester were the plastic body cladding on the rocker panels that looked like an afterthought, and the bright chartreuse paint. It was not a hue you would want to confront in bright sunlight with a hangover.
Unlike a lot of inexpensive cars, the iM's interior turned out to be well-appointed both in terms of its amenities and the quality of the materials employed to finish it. And unlike a lot of inexpensive cars, the iM doesn't suffer from a paucity of soft surfaces. The dash is virtually all soft-touch, as is everything on the door panels from the armrests up.
The seats were nicely upholstered, and supportive. The interior accents were largely high-gloss black plastic, which, unlike faux wood, struck me as a pleasant and honest use of materials.
As 91 cubic feet of interior volume might suggest, the iM test car proved quite roomy. Reasonably tall people will find the rear-seat legroom quite adequate. And despite room afforded folks, the cargo space is still decent.
The iM boasts good ergonomics from the seat support to the instrument and control layout. Visibility is fine, although the rear window is a little pinched. The car felt quite solid, and proved a quiet companion on the highway. (Like most small four-cylinder engines, the iM's gets a little buzzy when flogged but remains civil during normal driving.)
The suspension, while firm enough to keep the iM pretty flat and stable during lively cornering, was certainly comfortable enough.
When it comes to performance, the iM is something of a mixed bag. The handling is fairly consistent with the sporty styling, as is the braking afforded by discs at all four corners. But the engine tells a different story. At 137 horsepower, it's not as muscular as other planets in the compact cosmos. The Kia Forte 5 boasts 173 horses; the Volkswagen Golf, 170; and the Ford Focus, 160.
That kind of power in the 3,000-pound iM provides 0-to-60 m.p.h. times in the neighborhood of nine seconds, which is leisurely, indeed.
Interestingly enough, there isn't a big fuel-economy trade-off for the engine's output. The iM I tested, equipped with the continuously variable automatic transmission, had EPA mileage ratings of 28 m.p.g. city and 37 m.p.g. highway. While not hard to take, they are middling by compact standards. (The iM with the automatic costs just $740 more than the base model with the six-speed manual and gets one m.p.g. better mileage ratings.)
2016 Scion iM (automatic transmission)
Base price: $19,200.
As tested: $20,334 (including shipping).
Standard equipment: 1.8-liter engine, continuously variable automatic transmission, front-drive, and a surprising amount of equipment not usually found at this price point, including 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and a rearview camera.
Options: Floormats, rear bumper protector and wheel locks.
Fuel economy: 28 m.p.g. city and 37 m.p.g. highway.
Engine performance: Ho-hum.
Handling: Quite competent.
Ride comfort: Good.
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper.
The Ben key: four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.