Test Drive: 2016 Scion iM

Scion recently dropped their all-new iM into the marketplace. The car's general shape feels very derivative of Lexus' CT200h. I often have trouble remembering that Scion isn't that far removed from Lexus, since they both operate under the Toyota mother ship. The hatchback's bold styling definitely gets a lot of looks. The honeycomb front grille, flanked by aggressive-looking headlight pods and LED driving lights, looks great, but the full-body aerodynamic kit is a bit overstyled for my taste. I liked the 17-inch rims, shod with surprisingly fat 225/45-sized rubber.

I want to tell people that I have the Bon Jovi stereo upgrade. Because I give love a bad name.

Once you get in, the iM feels roomy for a small car. At 5'10", I had head room to spare. Scion's use of soft-touch materials anywhere your hand might fall is very nice for a car in this price category. It's pretty dark in there. The one splash of colour comes from a contrasting, off-white strip of material at the bottom of the dash – it's a nice touch. The styling is relatively conventional, and not quite as out there as we've seen in some Scions in the past. I found it to be a well-designed, well thought out cabin.

The manually-adjustable fabric seats are reasonably comfortable, but exceptionally well bolstered – they wouldn't be out of place in a sports car. The seats are not heated – as a matter of fact, that's not even an option. A very strange omission, considering the iM has something like power folding mirrors as standard equipment.

A nice grippy little steering wheel falls into hand – it has a full array of buttons for your phone, cruise control, driver information screen and the trip meter.

There's a 7.0-inch touchscreen front and centre that handles your phone and media functions – it has voice recognition, USB and auxiliary inputs, as well as Aha radio. The interface is typical Toyota-fare, and works pretty well. I found the hard buttons on the edge of the unit irritatingly small but you don't need to use them very often. There's nothing wrong with the sound system, but one of the few options that Scion offers is the nebulous Bongiovi Acoustics enhancing system. Apparently it makes a noticeable difference in the sound. Personally I'd spring for it just because I want to tell people that I have the Bon Jovi stereo upgrade. Because I give love a bad name.

RIP: Confirmed: Toyota to kill Scion

The iM comes very well-equipped and includes some premium-feeling amenities like automatic head lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control system and a backup camera.

I found a couple of places to drop my stuff. The front of the centre console is home to a small rubberized bin with your USB, auxiliary and 12V plugs – it can be hidden away behind a nice flip-up lid. The armrest, which I feel is way too far back since I could only get my elbow on it, houses a small carpeted cargo space underneath it as well. 

There are three seats in the back, each with a headrest. They are not the most comfortable seats, but head room is just as spacious as it is up front. The leg room is OK but not generous – I had about an inch to spare. Scion made the floor almost flat but unfortunately the centre console comes back quite far, which really limits the centre foot room.

Our three kids felt a bit cramped width-wise. It was easier to throw one of them in the trunk, and fold the middle seatback down – it becomes a nice armrest with a couple of cupholders.

The 588 litre trunk looks small when you pop the hatch, but it ended up swallowing a whole load of gear and groceries for our family. The rear seats split 60/40 and fold down if you need more space. I found the trunk was also well thought out – they include a couple of grocery bag hooks and some very solid tie-down loops, as well as a removable tonneau cover/parcel shelf that swings up when you open the trunk.

It's form over function at the back, as the angled tail gate does take a little bite out of the trunk's potential cargo space.

A 1.8l four-cylinder motivates the front-wheel drive iM. It puts out 137 hp at 6,100 rpm, 126 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 and is paired with a CVT. Fuel economy is good – Scion rates it at 8.3 l/100 km (28 US mpg) in town and 6.3 l/100 km (37 US mpg) on the highway. I ended up averaging an impressive 8.0 l/100 km (30 US mpg) during mostly city driving with a heavy foot – not bad!

I have to be honest – I wasn't expecting a lot. The engine's relatively low output, coupled with a CVT and a surprisingly chunky 1,375 kg hatchback made me think it will be a somewhat limp driving experience. I fired up the iM using a good old-fashioned key (thankfully it does come with a remote door lock/unlock function). And I was happily surprised. Of course this isn't a fast car, but it has adequate power everywhere – off the line, in town, even on the freeway. Yes, passing on the highway takes a few seconds, but even there, it held its own. Its CVT has seven pre-programmed "gears" that you can shift between, using the gear selector. The "shifts" are relatively quick and quite satisfying, considering they're not really gears at all. The car also has a Sport mode – it doesn't do much. It makes the iM a bit more responsive and hangs on to revs a bit longer, but it's certainly not a transformative driving mode.

I find myself surprised again when I start tackling a few corners and curves. The iM's surprisingly sophisticated-feeling chassis does a great job! It has electronic steering that, while a bit numb on centre, is actually responsive. Handling is very good. There's definitely some body lean, but the car grips competently and even borders on fun occasionally. In addition, I found that the ride is pretty good – it gets a bit busy but the vehicle's motions are well-controlled and the holes and bumps are dampened well for an economy car.

Scion's control of noise is respectable for this class – at higher speeds you start getting some road and wind noise, but nothing too intrusive. The engine is the low point here – when you step on it, it puts out some nasty raspy notes that are a bit off-putting. Visibility out of the car is quite good, with the exception of shoulder checking – that part isn't much fun thanks to those fat rear pillars.

The Scion iM is a cool little car. I like that Scion keeps their packaging simple. It's pretty much take it or leave it – my review car had the optional CVT and other than that, you can get a navigation system and a bunch of interior and exterior accessories.

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was middling. She said she found it easy to drive and was surprised to find out that it was as affordable as it is – she felt it would cost more considering some of the equipment and the level of refinement.

The Scion iM would be very easy to live with. It comes very well equipped, drives well, offers plenty of functionality and is efficient – frankly, there are not very many compromises. Not to mention the baked-in reliability that I would expect from a Scion product. I think it is a very competitive car in this class and it seems like an excellent value.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/60,000 km roadside assistance

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2016 Scion iM
articles_PricingType 2016 Scion iM
Base Price $21,165
Optional Equipment $825 CVT (continuously-variable transmission)
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,695
Price as Tested $23,785
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.0
6 Exterior Styling
7 Performance
7 Interior
8 Fuel Economy
7 Comfort