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2016 Scion iM First Drive Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/10/2015 Nate Martinez

“The iM is an example of Waku Waku Doki Doki,” explained Kunihiko Endo, Scion’s deputy chief engineer for the iM. “It means driving pleasure and adding excitement to our cars.”

Wait a second, Endo-san.

Driving pleasure?

Excitement?

Maybe I’m sitting at the wrong media table.

2016 Scion Im Front Three Quarter In Motion 07© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Scion Im Front Three Quarter In Motion 07

My eyebrows were raised due to the fact that Scion’s latest hatchback is openly poached from Toyota’s successful Auris, an innocuous little people-hauler that populates city centers just about everywhere on the planet, but not the U.S. The iM borrows almost everything from that car, minus the front clip, some interior bits, and its wide selection of powertrains.

2016 Scion Im Front Three Quarter In Motion 11© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Scion Im Front Three Quarter In Motion 11

Like the Auris, the four-door iM hatch has a refreshingly athletic stance that during our test drive in Santa Monica made it pop against the humdrum flow of luxury CUVs and rental convertibles, especially in its arresting Electric Blue Storm and Spring Green colors (my favorites). To lessen any visual confusion with the Yaris, Scion’s designers resculpted its lower fascia, added LED daytime running lights and taillights, and mounted busy-but-attractive 17-inch alloy wheels. Checking the box for the lower TRD springs gives it an even hipper road-suction stance and, lo and behold, even amounts to hitting the “COOL” button.

2016 Scion Im Front View In Motion 03© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Scion Im Front View In Motion 03

And it’s as amenity-packed as it is crisp-looking — a recipe that takes dead aim on budgets-about-to-snap sub-35-year-olds. For instance, every ( every ) iM gets a Pioneer 7-inch touchscreen and six-speaker audio system (USB/aux/Bluetooth included), rearview camera, leather-trim steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40 split rear seat, and eight magnificent cupholders. Count ’em — eight! Heck, that’s a Red Bull and a latte for four (partly why those sub-35-year-olds budgets are strained in the first place). Frankly, there’s no need for a higher trim level, and that’s a good thing, as a range-topping edition doesn’t even exist (per Scion’s “Mono Spec” tenet). Meanwhile, there are cubbies and storage boxes galore, along with a surprising level of comfort, quietness, and overall spaciousness. Headroom in particular felt substantial at 39.7 inches, and even the unlucky middle-seat sitter in back won’t feel claustrophobic with 32.7 inches of legroom.

2016 Scion Im Rear Three Quarter In Motion 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Scion Im Rear Three Quarter In Motion 02

The dash’s two-tier architecture sticks close to the Toyota formula, but including soft-touch materials and piano black and leather accents does give it a certain Lexus-like zest — a very good thing. Other pluses: The infotainment system responds quickly to touch menu commands, the Bluetooth takes just seconds to set up, and the speakers’ sound quality rivals that of some premium European cars. One minus: Pointy elbows will dislike the thin padding atop the deep center storage bin.

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But, ah yes, does it drive as Endo-san promised?

Its “European-inspired” ride is a good mix of firm and pliable (plia-firm?). And once we’d escaped Santa Monica’s congestion, the suspension kept the iM’s little body mostly flat in the canyons, and its 225mm Bridgestones coyly squealed as the traction-control light flashed on the dash. Even so, it remained balanced and controllable, with mild midcorner plowing that continued into corner exit. Engaging Sport mode livens things up, as throttle response gets a remapped adrenaline shot and the CVT-I transmission both holds its seven “gears” longer and then snaps them off in alert, simulated steps when they happen. (Those who enjoy rowing their own gears can still get a six-speed manual gearbox.) Frankly, the droning 1.8-liter, 137-hp four-cylinder was working hard to maintain the pace, but at least my quick dash through Topanga Canyon barely fatigued the four-wheel disc brakes. Driving enthusiasts hoping for the second coming of the old Corolla AE86’s athleticism wrapped in a Scion shell are sure to grumble. They’ll gripe about its electric power steering having less feedback than a PS4 controller and darkly gloat about its engine’s lack of grunt. To which I say stop and look at the sub-$20,000 price tag, its amenity list, a two-year/25,000-mile no-cost maintenance package, and a 32-mpg combined estimated rating. Get real.

2016 Scion Im Infotainment© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Scion Im Infotainment

Does the iM have me saying Waku Waku Doki Doki ? Yup, sure does. It’s both a pleasure to drive, and — in-context — exciting. As a new model for Scion, a sub-brand built on model experimentation, the iM nails it. It’s the most fun you — plus three or four of your friends — will have in a Scion. 

2016 Scion Im Front Three Quarter In Motion 16© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Scion Im Front Three Quarter In Motion 16
2016 Scion iM
BASE PRICE$18,460
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE1.8L/137-hp/126-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSIONS6-speed manual, cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT2,950-3,050 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE102.4 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT170.5 x 69.3 x 55.3 in
0-60 MPH9.5 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON27-28/36-37/31-32 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY120-125/91-94 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.62-0.64 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE IN U.S.September 2015

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