2016 Scion iM first drive review: Hello…but you’re no oddball

2016 Scion iM

2016 Scion iM

Hello, Scion iM. Farewell to the Scion xB. Once the backbone of Toyota’s junior division’s lineup that also included such oddballs as the Scion xA and Scion xD, the xB is gone. Hello to the Scion iA and iM. Scion, which debuted as a brand twelve years ago with the aim of attracting new younger customers that the relatively staid Toyota brand couldn’t attract. When it came to Toyota, the kids weren’t buying it.

The original Scion concept was for models to have a relatively short lifetime, a sort of term limits for cars, not to be automotive careerist destined to grow stale. The venerable Toyota Corolla, which helped Toyota top Volkswagen in imported car sales in 1975, is the antithesis of Scion’s original charge.

Now, with the passing of the Scion xB—which in its second generation had outlived its sell-by date—all the original models of the Scion line are gone. The Scion iQ minicar disappears after a disappointing run, which would leave Scion for 2016 with the sport compact tC, the F-RS sports car and…

2016 Scion iM interior

The 2016 Scion iM comes, as they say, nicely equipped, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel with pushbutton controls. (click to enlarge)

And two new models, the four-door Scion iA, addressed in another CarBuzzard first drive, and the five-door hatchback Scion iM. Functionally the iM replaces the xB. Hatchback begets hatchback, though the iM falls short of the funk factor of its boxy predecessor.

In other markets, the new Scion iM is sold as the Toyota Auris, and it’s brought here as an inexpensive but feature-laden automobile that combines—this isn’t a quote but it might was well be—function and fun. Aimed at the young and impecunious, the 2016 Scion iM is priced at $18,460 with the standard six-speed manual transmission or $19,200 with the optional 7-step continuously variable transmission. And because it’s a Scion, it’s mono-spec, meaning there are no option packages or trim levels. It’s an iM, manual or automatic transmission, and pick your color. Of course, your friendly Scion dealer has oodles of accessories to sell you, but that’s another story.

But let’s start with the Stuff. The Scion iM comes loaded with Stuff. Air conditioning is standard, of course, but the iM goes well beyond the typical economy car equipment by including not only automatic air conditioning, but dual-zone air conditioning.

2016 Scion iM back seat

The 2016 Scion iM back seat is about what one would expect in this size of car: Big people will not want to ge very far in it. (click to enlarge)

Gotta have sounds so the iM comes with a six-speaker Pioneer system with a seven-inch display. The iM’s audio system has standard HD radio and Aha, USB port with iPod compatibility, an auxiliary port, voice recognition…though no satellite radio. Previous Scion models saw a very low satellite radio subscription renewal rate, so Scion decided to forgo the expense of satellite radio. The advice for those hooked on satrad? Get a satellite radio app for your smart phone, and accept that you’ll lose signal when you’re out of cell coverage.

Navigation—remember the accessories—can be added to the audio system for $900. BeSpoke Audio with Navigation combines voice recognition full-address destination entry, plus access to more than 100,000 Internet radio stations, podcasts, and audiobooks, along with personalized music channels, sports, tech, business and international news, social media like Facebook and Twitter, and location based services to find local restaurants, coffee, hotels, and weather updates, including Yelp! and TripAdvisor. Whew. It can be installed at time of purchase or later. But still, no satellite radio.

On a more pedestrian note, the iM has as standard equipment 60/40 fold-down rear seatbacks, and a cargo cover is standard—though it’s a flimsy pressed fiber affair. Handle with care. With the rear seats folded, the cargo load floor is very close to flat, with only a slight step up, making it easy to load large objects, and that kind of utility is why one has a hatchback to start with. Floor mats, including a mat for the cargo area, are an $185 accessory.

2016 Scion iM cargo area

The 2016 Scion iM cargo area has an almost flat floor with the rear seatback folded. (click to enlarge)

The Scion has power outside mirrors, as do most cars nowadays, but few have heated mirrors, and fewer still have power folding mirrors. A legacy (sorry, Subaru) of crowded European streets where, remember, the iM is an Auris.

The interior doesn’t look cheap, despite the bargain price. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard, and the cloth seats have a quality feel. There’s liberal use of trendy piano black surfaces, and there’s a contrasting band along the lower edge of the passenger side dash, stitched together with genuine stitching, worth repeating because the Toyota Corolla has imitation stitches molded into the dash. Ouch.

The controls will look familiar to Toyota owners, however, including the layout of audio and info screen controls on the steering wheel spokes, plus the cruise control stalk sticking out about four o’clock from the steering column. Yes, cruise and steering wheel buttons, standard.

And by the way, eight airbags and eight cupholders. Cosmic coincidence? We think not.

The 2016 Scion iM is not going to go unnoticed. The front is better described as a prow, pointed and with piano black (again) highlights leading back to tight headlight clusters. The visual aerodynamics are strong with this one. Scion calls the side contours “swoosh” lines, like the sneakers you’re wearing. A rocker panel aero kit is standard. Alloy wheels are standard. Notice a theme?

The hatch leans forward, going with the design language of the iM, and the taillights are highly contoured as a design element. Only six colors are available, but pick Electric Storm Blue and Spring Green to guarantee the iM’s noticeability.