Scion has axed three of its hatchbacks recently: the compact xB, subcompact Scion xD, and the tiny iQ. What went wrong? It might have been the competition or perhaps it was due to Scion’s small Canadian dealer network, but in my opinion the blame lies with their styling: the tall, boxy styling of the xB and the smaller xD failed to resonate with Canadian buyers while the iQ’s oddball styling had few fans.
Fortunately, Toyota’s overseas division had a stylish replacement for the xB: the Corolla-based Toyota Auris hatchback that’s already sold in Japan and Europe (and known as the Toyota Corolla hatchback in Australia and New Zealand). For the North American market, Toyota/Scion gave it more aggressive front and rear fascia, equipped it with a North American-spec 1.8L four-cylinder engine and choice of manual or CVT transmissions, loaded it up with many standard popular features, and called it the iM.
What iM stands for is a bit of a mystery: Scion has said it could mean ‘individual’ or ‘integrity’ and ‘Modern’ or ‘Multi-faceted’ but there appears to be no official consensus. I’m voting for ‘in the Money’.
Though the iM’s styling is certainly not revolutionary, it successfully combines a sporty, rakish look with the practicality of a four-door hatchback. To add some spice, all iMs come with a black honeycomb mesh grille, body-coloured rocker panels, rear roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, and 17-inch machined alloy wheels. It’s refreshing to see the complete absence of any exterior chrome trim; all of the exterior trim is black. It’s also nice to see a new hatchback that’s available in variety of vibrant colours such as ‘Electric Storm Blue’, ‘Barcelona Red Metallic’, ‘Blizzard Pearl’ and our test car’s ‘Spring Green’ which seemed to us more like ‘Luminous Yellow’. Indeed, if I’d put a “Taxi For Hire” sign on the roof, I could have made some extra money last week.
With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $21,165 with six-speed manual transmission, and $21,990 with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that includes a seven-step manual shift mode, the 2016 Scion iM is priced competitively with other compact hatchbacks (when comparably equipped) such as the Mazda3 GS ($22,150), Hyundai Elantra GT GL ($21,249), Ford Focus SE ($19,599) and the Kia Forte LX+ six auto ($20,695), Subaru Impreza 2.0i CVT ($22,195), and VW Golf 1.8 TSI Trendline six auto ($22,295).
But though it’s about the same length as its major competitors, the iM’s wheelbase (2,600 mm) is between 37 and 100 mm shorter than its competitors. It’s also lower in height and narrower in width than key competitors. As a result, the iM cabin’s passenger volume (2,560 L) is smaller than most: Mazda3 (2,730 L), Hyundai Elantra GT (2,718 L), Kia Forte (2,780 L), Subaru Impreza (2,763 L) and VW Golf (2,647 L).
Despite this, the iM’s cabin doesn’t feel cramped, at least for four adults: five may be pushing it. The door openings are big and it’s easy to get in and out of. There’s plenty of headroom and ‘sitting behind myself’ in the rear, I had two or three inches of kneeroom and plenty of footroom under the front seat.
The interior design which includes a tall, flat-topped instrument panel is similar to the Corolla sedan’s, but includes a new seven-inch centre touchscreen, standard dual-zone climate control, sportier-looking black fabric seats with white speckled inserts, more piano-black trim on the dash, and a contrasting stripe along the bottom of the dash.