Originally published August 24, 2015
When Scion first revealed the production-model iM at the New York Auto Show this year, my interest level was immediately piqued. Besides the reincarnated legendary Corolla GTS AE86 launch in 2012 in the form of the FR-S, there hasn’t been a Scion that would appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers. Previous models can be described as eccentric, peculiar, quirky or even the dreaded, ‘interesting’. Interesting doesn’t sell cars to the mass market.
While I’ll be the first to admit the Scion xB is a neat and functional little thing, cube-type vehicles have never and probably never will be the vehicle of choice for the masses. The Scion xB did its job and it did it well – it was a popular choice with the tuner show car crowd, as evidenced by the large number of xBs on the show floor of any compact car show – its wide, flat surfaces just begged for custom graphics and vinyls, while its cube-like interior was perfect for installing gigantic and extremely powerful custom sound systems. It was never meant to be the replacement for the Corolla or the Civic as the market for the Civic or Corolla is ‘everyone’, while the xB remained in purgatory with the ‘eccentric vehicle’ buyers’ due to its rather inaccessible shape and styling.
The targeted-at-Millenials tC was a little more accessible due its more conventional shape and sporty appearance. The Sport tC was fun to drive and was even available with a TRD supercharger for a period of time. The tC was also campaigned with some success in several motorsport series – including a V8-swapped monstrosity that took the Formula Drift crown with Tanner Foust at the wheel. Sales were initially strong and the tC saw some relative success for the first couple of years after its launch in 2006. By 2010, however, sales were down drastically. With the launch of the updated second-generation tC in 2011, sales picked back up for a couple of years but like its predecessor, began to drop again after the initial bump.
The tiny xD four-door, quirky almost-cube hatchback never seemed to catch on and was discontinued just three years after its launch in Canada in 2011. And the iQ, well, let’s not talk about the iQ.
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So now the Scion history lesson is over, let’s move back to the iM. When the cover was lifted off the iM and the iA sedan (we’re getting the Mazda2-based iA sedan in Canada but under the Toyota Yaris nameplate, not Scion iA) at the Scion late-night preview in New York, I knew Scion was switching gears. As we know, for the most part, while neat vehicles, previous Scion models only appealed to a very small portion of the market, and one look at the iM made it quite clear Scion is throwing its chips in with the mass-market and going to battle with the likes of the current compact hatchback kings – the Mazda3, Elantra, Focus, and the Golf crowd with the new four-door hatchback.
Ok, enough blathering about stuff, let’s get to the beans.