Scion's new iM hatchback: A decent ride for less than $20K

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2015 1:34 PM
Scion's new iM hatchback: A decent ride for less than $20K

Toyota's youth brand, Scion, has added an impressive five-door hatchback for 2016 that features a lot of standard equipment, pleasant looks and decent ride for under $20,000.

In fact, the 2016 Scion iM seems like a bargain compared to many other low-priced hatchbacks, as it comes standard with a Pioneer 7-inch touchscreen, seven-speaker audio, dual-zone automatic climate control system, a backup camera, 17-inch wheels, automatic on/off headlights, heated outside mirrors, LED daytime lamps and keyless entry.

And that's before factoring in the free scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Buying an iM is easy, too, because the factory only offers a few options — basically some wheel and cargo accessories and a navigation system.

The base 2016 iM with a six-speed manual transmission starts at $19,255, including the destination charge.

The lowest manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2016 iM with continuously variable transmission (CVT) that a driver operates like an automatic is $19,995.

All iMs come with a 1.8-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that develops 137 horsepower and 126 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Admittedly, these numbers won't excite sporty drivers who expect to go from zero to 60 mph faster than the iM's estimated 9.5 seconds with CVT.

But the test-driven iM with CVT still could feel perky when the "Sport" button was pushed, which revved the engine higher and made the otherwise drone-like CVT click through pre-set gears as if it was a seven-speed automatic.

At its heaviest, which is with the CVT rather than the manual transmission, the iM weighs just over 3,000 pounds, so it doesn't feel or act like a heavy car.

But the ride in the test-driven car was so good, with a front MacPherson strut suspension and rear double wishbone configuration soaking up many bumps and vibrations, that passengers thought the iM was more expensive than it is.

The car does lean in the corners, but the electric power steering felt surprisingly realistic.

The iM's interior is quieter than expected, with road, wind and adjacent vehicle noise subdued. The biggest noise intruder in the test-driven iM was the four-cylinder engine that droned and sounded strained when hard-pressed to accelerate.

The car's interior surfaces look good, with plastic that's nicely textured and, in many places, soft when pressed on.

The fabric seats have sharp-looking upholstery with accent stitching. The steering wheel comes standard with leather trim. Neither is expected at this price.

The best seats are the front buckets, which provided good, firm support on four-plus-hour drives.

Passengers in the iM back seat sit theater style — higher than the front-seat riders — on a flat, cushioned bench.

But there's an unexpectedly generous amount of headroom back there — 37.5 inches so the high seat position doesn't make headroom feel cramped.

Eight cupholders are at the ready and there are many cubbies for storage.

The rear seatbacks split 60/40 and fold flat to maximize cargo space, which measures 20.8 cubic feet when the rear seats are in use.

On the outside, the iM has an upscale shape and styling similar to that of the CT200h from Toyota's luxury Lexus line.

But truth is, the iM is closest to the looks of the Toyota Auris — a hatchback sold in countries around the world but not the U.S.

The test-driven iM's fuel economy was disappointing. With the vast majority of driving done on highways, the car averaged only 30.2 mpg for a range of 422 miles.

The federal government rates the iM with CVT at 28 mpg in city driving and 37 mpg on the highway.

At today's prices for regular gasoline, it cost less than $33 to fill the 14-gallon tank.

A final note: The iM has a new sedan sibling, the iA, which also is arriving in Scion dealerships for the 2016 model year.