This week-long visit with the Scion iM didn’t get off on the right foot. I took the key – yep, uses a real key – got into the car, started it up and suddenly the engine revved and alarms went off. Okay, turn off ignition and try again. This time the car ignited properly, but as everyone knows, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
It didn’t get much better from there. I went to sync my phone, and it was recognized in the normal 15-20 seconds. Immediately the Scion’s software decided to call me, thereby making it impossible to listen to radio music because my phone was engaged in calling itself. So rather than living with that – there’s no satellite radio and only AHA is available among the apps onboard (aside from HD radio)The 2016 Scion iA and iM front-wheel-drive small cars may appear to be twins because of their similar names and branding but they’re anything but. The iA is based on a Mazda2 platform where the Scion iM reverts to Toyota’s Corolla chassis. While both donors are well-tested over the years, the Mazda is a more sporting package and, for this writer that’s definitely a plus over the Toyota’s innards.
– I went without hands-free for the balance of the week, including the trip from Indianapolis to Chicago for the return home.
Because the Scion iM is built on a Toyota Corolla, they share similar mechanical attributes, but there is a significant difference: where the Corolla’s 1.8-liter engine has port injection, the Scion iM is directly injected, aiding both efficiency and power, resulting in 137 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque at 4000. Redline is 6400.
This particular iM has a 7-speed CVTi-S shiftable (on the floor) transmission – manual is available and preferred – and is helped by an ECO button for efficiency and a Sport mode for some added fun. Unlike the Corolla and Scion iA, Scion’s iM has fully independent suspension, with MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbones to the rear. Still, there were some graunchy noises to the suspension under normal usage. Disc brakes all around complete the mechanical package on this 3031-pound car.
Make no mistake about it, with aggressive body lines the Electric Blue Storm 2016 Scion iM has a very appealing facade. It looks like a sporting hatch and, for the most part behaves that way. The shark-nose front end is accentuated by a high body crease that wends from the front halogen headlamps through to the protruding tail lamps, a recent styling cue that is going to keep body shop owners in business replacing those lights. Handsome windmill 17-inch alloy rims lie on 225/45R 17-inch low-profile tires. The big J-Lo rear fascia with its tiny rear window has low-lying turn indicators and a single chrome exhaust.
The cabin has few soft plastics and many pieces look like they came from the standard Toyota parts bin, in particular the old-style cruise control and clock at dash central. There are audio and phone controls on the left together with trip computer on the right side of the grippy, leather triple-spoke steering wheel. There’s a covered area at the base of the central stack with a single 12-volt, auxiliary and USB plugs with a modestly grippy floor. Central storage is bilevel with a grippy floor at the top.
There are cup holders throughout this cabin but the sole amenities for rear seat passengers are raised bench seats and access to front seat-back pockets. Bright black accents abound throughout the businesslike interior. I like the heating, air conditioning and ventilation controls as their adjustments are easily ratcheted up and down and I also like the seat fabric, even though support is minimal.
Hatch space is excellent and covered, with a 20.8-cubic-foot’s worth of space for cramming valuables inside. For the return trip we had two 22-inch suitcases and a single backpack in the rear enclosure, allowing the interior to look bare of possessions. Both rear seats fold to increase that capacity.
So this becomes a regular car review of a vehicle on which I put more than 500 miles, getting nearly 40-mpg from the 14-gallon tank on the road back to the Windy City. Federal ratings are 28/37/32mpg on regular unleaded; mileage on this car was well better than that. It was a mid-day, midweek trip that featured very little traffic, hence the ability to travel at steady rates all along, using the tried-and-true cruise control.
With a total cost of $20,334, the 2016 Scion iM 5-door hatch has three options of carpeted floor mats and cargo mat, wheel locks and a rear bumper protector. That’s it. Whether this car is a good value or not depends on whether it has been possessed by gremlins like the Ghostbuster Edition driven here. This was a car I clearly wanted to drive and enjoy, but the electronics problems it had made the voyages around Indianapolis for the 100th Indianapolis 500 and the trip to return home a little less pleasurable than expected.
By Anne Proffit