Not Much to be Excited About
Every now and then, a car comes along that’s so good, it’s hard to put into words. This is not one of those reviews. Actually, I’ve got plenty to say when it comes to Scion’s latest offerings, the iA and iM— and they might not be exactly what you were hoping for if you’re a fan of the Toyota-offshoot brand.
The two were introduced at the New York Auto Show earlier in the year, and both promised to be “fun-to-drive” and deliver “high-style” to the much-needing Scion lineup. Right. It’s been a few days and I’m still searching my luggage for those two crucial items.
Hatchback? Let’s start with the high(er) note: the iM. From the start, you can tell that the iM is plenty better looking than the iA. It’s got five doors (which may or may not appeal to American buyers, who knows), a sharp set of wheels, some subtly aggressive lines, and a not-so-bad-to-look-at booty. I’d say it looks better than a GTI, but that’s about as near to the GTI as things are ever going to get. Under the hood you’re met with (to steal a descriptor from my co-driver) a “gutless” 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine barely coughing up 137-horsepower to the front wheels. You’re optioned with either a CVT, which isn't completely terrible, or a manual, which isn’t good at all. These offerings return a well-enough 27 city/26 highway/31 combined mpg. Another positive the iM brings to the table is the utility of a hatch. You get 20.8 cubic feet of room in the trunk with the seats folded up, which is respectable in its class. For reference, that's enough room for luggage, medium-sized dogs, various filled garbage bags, what have you. Feeling a little cheeky? Scion even fitted the iM with a Sport button *gasp* which holds the revs longer, accentuates shifts, etc., etc.
Or Sedan? And then there’s the iA, which is essentially just a Mazda2. Mazda2 drivetrain, Mazda2 interior, Mazda2 shifter, Mazda2 push button start, Mazda2 trunk— Scion took the Mazda2, put a catfish face on it, and called it a day. But even then, somehow, some way, something went wrong in the transition from Mazda to Scion. It felt like engineers went and dumbed it down. Whereas the Mazda2 is a normally fun little car to toss around (power or not), Scion fiddled with it to a point where it’s almost unrecognizable behind the wheel. The steering is soft and the 106-horsepower 1.5-liter engine might as well have not even been there. Good news is (thanks to Mazda), the iA returns a more impressive 33 city/42 highway/37 combined mpg with an automatic (31 city/41 highway/35 combined manual) than its iM comrade. To put it in Scion terms, it “zips as it sips." So do with that information what you will.
The Verdict In typical Scion fashion, both of these cars fall short of where they should be. The iA is a rebadged Mazda 2 that was somehow made worse. The iM is a Toyota Corolla five-door that definitely looks better, but isn’t any more engaging than the average Corolla. The whole presentation of these two cars feels like a half-baked idea, and considering neither of them are original to Scion, it's pretty obvious why the felt that way. I wanted these two cars to be good, I really did, but it’s hard to justify both the iA and iM as viable options in two segments already filled with good choices (like the Mazda2, or VW Golf). As for price, the iA is pretty cheap at only $15,700 starting off ($16,800 automatic), and the iM isn’t much more expensive at $18,400 with a manual ($19,200 automatic). Specs: Engine: 1.8L 4-Cylinder (iM)/ 1.5L 4-Cylinder (iA) Horsepower: 137 (iM)/ 106 (iA) 0-60: Forever Price: $18,400 (iM)/ $15,700 (iA) Positives: iM Has a Great Design iA's Interior is Very Functional (thanks to Mazda) Negatives: Slow as Molasses (both) iA Has a Face Not Even a Mother Can Love iM's Manual Gearbox Wasn't Great