The 2016 Scion iA was a replacement for a scheduled vehicle. It wasn’t a car I would have chosen to drive, but you take what you’re given and move along with it, right?
So why is it the vehicles we think we’ll like the least are those that impress us most? To whit, I’ve always preferred hatch models to sedans and yet the modern features of the 2016 Scion iA were far more impressive to me than what I later found with its sibling, the iM. Coming from the same family, these two cars are definitely different. Some of that has to do with the iA’s genealogy; it’s actually a Mazda2 in Toyota clothing and the former is a car I’ve always enjoyed driving.
So it felt at home, even with more exciting looks than the donor chassis – a Mazda that’s no longer available on these shores, and that’s a great loss.
Come to think of it, Scion has, since its inception in 2002 relied on others for its vehicles. The initial xA and xB were Japanese market Toyotas and the newer FR-S was developed primarily by Subaru. At least the latter will continue as a Toyota in the future as will this iA and the iM as well.
While the 2016 Scion iA is about the same size as the late, lamented Mazda2, its shape is much different, owing to the dedicated trunk. In addition to the iA’s gaping mouthLexus-like nose treatment, this vehicle features more rounded body lines that give it an elegant look front to rear. Large rear glass edges itself toward the short rear deck and gives the car a complementary visual feeling.
The Graphite dark gray iA driven here has zero options on it from the factory and, including delivery fees has a $17,570 list price. That doesn’t mean it’s got no semblance of goodness to it. Rather, the Scion iA is exceptionally well equipped with modern attributes without adding from Scion’s aftermarket columns A, B or C.
Power, such as it is comes from a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder directly-injected modern engine that has its optimal power at 6,000 rpm; torque is a complementary 103 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm and redline comes around the 6,400-rpm mark. Scion fits a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission (a stick is available but not in this midwest fleet) with good gearing (1,900rpm at 70mph) and sport mode, accessible through the shifter and quite nice for an enthusiast driver.
Like many other Toyota small cars, MacPherson independent front suspension (with stabilizer bar) and fixed torsion beam suspension keep the car performing nicely and electric power steering is good, if not crisp, allowing a 32.2-foot turning circle and 2.84 turns lock to lock. Scion fits front disc and rear drum brakes on the iA; they work just fine on this 2,416-pound car. Relatively tiny P185/60R 16-inch tires are mounted on open twinned five-spoke alloy rims.
There are lots of hard plastics throughout the cabin – what do you expect for your $17 large? – and the dual-tone gray/blue comfy and supportive cloth seats are the only things that break up the monotony of a mostly-black interior which, like many Mazda cars has its infotainment screen smack dab in the center of the upper dash area. Controls are easy, self-explanatory and, even though this is an entry vehicle it does have pushbutton start/stop but not a smart key.
The speedometer sits directly in front of the driver with tachometer/odometer/trip odometers to the left and fuel gauge/info (including outside temp) to the right. There is no temperature gauge and, while aesthetically interesting with industrial graphics within the speedometer, other gauges tend to be tough to see in direct sunlight. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio, trip info and phone operation on the left with cruise control on the right, a nice change from the dedicated stalk seen in other Toyota family vehicles.
This is an economical car with ratings of 33/42/37 mpg from the smaller 11.6-gallon tank. During the 265 miles we drove around Indianapolis, our average was close to 37mpg using regular fuel and, once turned back to Scion, there was a half-tank available with a range of 140 miles. Most of our driving was to and from Indianapolis Motor Speedway with little freeway driving, so those figures are impressive.
The nicely appointed interior includes space for three shorties in the rear who get cup holders but little else other than fixed, rather short headrests. Those rear seats can be folded 70/30 to increase the 13.1 cubic-foot space in the dedicated trunk. There is a temporary spare tire with steel wheel under the floor of the trunk, which is well-finished as well. A bright strip across the dash delineates horizontal vent outlets stretching across the dash and effectively cooling and heating front-seat occupants.
There is a multimedia interface wheel in the center tunnel that controls the stand-up screen at dash center. It contains, audio, home and navigation settings; with the latter, if navigation isn’t fitted as it wasn’t on this car, it’s still possible to call up location in latitude, longitude and elevation. Phone pairing is a piece of cake – taking less than 15 seconds and all audio settings are meant for a five-year-old, meaning even an ancient can understand them. A crisp backup camera is included.
Scion apps on the screen include HD radio, traffic map, fuel economy monitor and maintenance (oil and tire rotation notifications). The home screen contains added apps, entertainment communications, navigation and settings, all of them easy to work. There is no satellite radio on this car but one can run Pandora through the phone. The two USB plugs at the base of the center stack are joined by an auxiliary and 12-volt plug. The floor is fairly grippy so will accept a phone easily.
Isn’t it neat when a car is better than you thought it would be? That was the case with this Scion 1A, which will (happily) survive after Scion’s brand name goes away for the next model year. Lithe, with modern running gear and handsome body lines, the Scion iA will likely have long legs in a fickle marketplace, thanks in part to its other-marque lineage. It was a treat to drive during this particular week in Indianapolis and is a sedan I can easily recommend for purchase.
By Anne Proffit