TEST DRIVE and REVIEW: 2016 Scion iM is Value Engineering at its Peak

The Ny Daily News took the new 2016 Scion iM for a spin and had some positive thoughts on the vehicle.

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Brian Leon - NY Daily News: How far does value engineering have to go? If we’re talking about cars, the answer is further than ever in the year 2016. Whether it’s releasing a dirt cheap new car that already feels like it’s a decade old, or passing an entry-level Benz off for a luxury car, there seems to be no end to the length some automakers will go to cut costs and drive their sales. Don’t get us wrong, though, cost-cutting is not exclusively a bad thing. The practice has led to some of the more fun cars that we can remember – the Subaru WRX and its combination of world-beating speed and wallet-friendly MSRP come to mind – but there are times when a few more dollars on the back end would make a lot more sense down the road.

The 2016 Scion iM, however, is the prime example of how value engineering can be both good and bad. The iM is a brand new offering for Scion, but it’s not a new car. This smart little hatchback is sold around the world as the Toyota Auris (think Corolla wagon, or new Matrix), so it cut its teeth in the hotly-contested European hatchback market, among many, many others. To become a Scion, Toyota’s “youthful” brand gave the iM a flashy body kit, some Scion badges… and that’s about it. It looks cool from a glance, with that unique, V-shaped grille and a handsome overall shape that sets it apart and even prompted one bike-straddling passerby to say: “Nice Scion, man.” 

View Our Laurel Scion iM Inventory

But beneath the slightly flashy surface hides one of the best value cars you can buy off the lot in 2016. Scion’s goal with this car was to offer next to no options, leaving you with the most possible stuff for the least possible money. Needless to say, they’ve pulled it off brilliantly.

Starting at a base price of just $19,255 for the 6-speed manual ($19,995 for the CVT automatic), the iM starts slightly above the Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks, but offers more standard features than either. That sub $20K base price gets you 17-inch alloys, LED running lights, a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity, power folding heated mirrors, dual zone climate control, and a standard Pioneer 7-inch touchscreen audio system. You also get 2 years or 25,000-miles of no-cost maintenance, and 24-hour roadside assistance.

Want optional extras? Too bad – what you see is what you get, but frankly, you get quite a bit. Inside, 60/40 rear folding seats add up to a generous amount of cargo volume, and there’s plenty of leg and head room for four occupants. The cloth trimmed seats are decent, but you’ll definitely have to stretch your legs on journeys of over an hour or two. 

Our iM tester was fitted with the optional CVT, and while enthusiasts (ourselves included) will almost always argue that you buy the stick shift (whether or not you know how to drive one), the CVT may actually be the better transmission here. Our esteemed Editor Nick Kurczewski took the 6-speed iM for a test drive, and said that the low torque and vague clutch and shifter made the manual a chore. The CVT is perfectly fine as-is, and we reckon most buyers would be more than happy to pony up a few hundred extra.

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Speaking of low torque, this is no hot hatchback, but the iM feels dated in the powertrain and handling department. The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder makes a paltry 137-horsepower, and just 126 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s enough for most daily driving situations, but don’t expect a thrill every time you get behind the wheel.

There is something to be said for fuel economy, though. After over 600-miles with the iM, we easily reached its advertised 37 highway mpg , and then some. That made for a happy wallet after several hours of highway driving.

Handling is light and a bit on the roly-poly side, with a double wishbone rear suspension not doing much to help flatness in the corners. Like we said – it’s no GTI, but it gets the job done when you hustle it.

So the iM is great value, drives decently, gets great gas mileage, and looks good in bright colors, but what keeps it from being a winner? Frankly, that’s not so easy to explain, but I’ll give it a go anyways. 

When Scion launched in 2002, they intended to be the fun, quirky, youth-oriented Japanese brand to Toyota’s family focus. And at first, they largely succeeded.

The original, boxy xB was about as close to a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) car as you could get, and was incredibly space efficient and frugal, both at the pump and at the dealer. Add on a cool-looking coupe in the tC, and a wildly-practical Smart rival in the iQ, and you had one of the more interesting automotive lineups.
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