Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion division was closed last year, but the move fortunately added the then-new compact Scion iM hatchback to the compact Corolla line.
History is sort of repeating itself here because the 2016 Scion iM was essentially an American version of the European market Toyota Auris. That’s a good thing because the iM had Toyota’s quality and durability.
The front-drive iM is a refined four-door hatchback with decent room for four or even five tall adults, although an occupant behind a tall driver could use a little more legroom.
The iM is primarily up against strong hatch rivals from Mazda, Honda and Volkswagen. But the iM’s long standard equipment list outdoes those competitors in the price area.The iM with a six-speed manual transmission is $18,750 and the one with a CVT automatic transmission is $19,490.
The iM’s long list of standard items includes dual-zone automatic climate controls, easily used 7-inch touch screen display audio system, color TFT multi-info display, thick leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, AM/FM/CD radio with 6 speakers and split folding rear seats. There’s also remote keyless entry and power door locks and windows.
New safety features are a pre-collision system, lane-departure alert and automatic high beams. There’s also a rear view backup camera and color-keyed heated power folding exterior mirrors with LED turn signal indicators.
The iM looks sportier and more aggressive than the new Corolla and its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine generates 137 horsepower, thanks partly to its dual overhead camshaft and 16-valve setup. The engine loves to rev but becomes a bit noisy under hard acceleration.
I found the 65-75 m.p.h. passing time on highways to be good when the engine works with what Toyota calls a “7-speed CVTi-S automatic transmission.
The lower priced iM has the manual transmission, which wasn’t available for a test. However, the CVT has a manual shift feature that works quickly. It also has a “sport” mode that can be selected by pushing a button, but doing that didn’t enhance the driving experience much so I mostly stayed in the “Eco” driving mode.
Estimated fuel economy is 28 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on highways.
The quiet interior has gauges that can be read quickly and user-friendly controls. The front seats are especially supportive for long drives, which is something that can’t be said for many small cars. There are plenty of cabin storage areas.
Good quality materials cover the cabin, which has attractive stitching and soft-touch areas. A generous amount of decent-looking plastic is used in the dashboard area, where ventilation vents are well-located. So are the front console cupholders. The sun visor vanity mirrors are lit.
The electric power assisted steering is firm and doesn’t provide much road feel, but is quick and accurate. The ride is firm, but supple. Major road defects such as raised highway expansion strips can be felt, but aren’t jarring. Unlike the Corolla sedan, the iM has a multilink rear suspension for better and ride and handling.
Handling is quite secure, helped by 45-series tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, and traction and vehicle stability controls. The brake pedal has a positive feel, and emergency braking is assisted by electronic brake force distribution and a brake-assist feature.
The hatch opening is low and wide, and trunk room is decent. But you’ll have to flip down the rear seatbacks, which sit flat, to get above-average cargo space.
The iM’s tight structure is a good sign that it should last a long time.