Scion's new hatchback joins the fray in a resurgent North American market for the segment. Too bad the powertrain isn't stronger...
It’s not just that the U.S. hatchback market is seeing a bit of an upswing – we could actually be looking at one of the best periods ever for the car type in this country. Volkswagen, Mini, and Fiat hold down the the three- and five-door arenas for the Europeans. Focus and Fiesta are strong products for Ford, and Chevy has just announced a Cruze Hatchback to add conventional flavor to the lineup of plug-in Volt and Bolt. Kia and Hyundai have five traditional hatchbacks between them. The Nissan Versa Note is a value, Mazda’s 3 hatch a critical darling, and Honda’s upcoming Civic Hatch is bound to be at least a match for the versatile competence of little brother Fit.
- At $19,255 (MSRP of $18,460 plus $795 for delivery/destination fees), Scion has packed a ton of content into this car. These days it’s nothing to spend twenty-five grand on a compact hatchback, but the iM gets you out the door with a seven-inch touchscreen, bluetooth, remote keyless entry, one-touch up/down windows, and dual-zone climate control for under twenty. I don’t love the look of the leather-trimmed dash strip, but I can admit that it might sway some shoppers as a ‘premium’ touch for no extra money.
- The powertrain may not deserve it (more on that in a second), but the standard wheel and tire package is great at this price point, too. The iM comes standard with 17-inch allow wheels, wearing 225-section rubber, where most base versions in this competitive set have 15- or 16-inch stock and skinnier rubber.
- I'm not sure how I feel about the iM's sharp-nosed styling. My initial reaction was less than positive, but while I was tested the car I had a few friends make note of it being pretty attractive. What do you think, readers?
- Scion’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is outgunned but just about everything these days. Outputs of 137 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque may have been acceptable a generation ago, but in 2016 they represent serious weaksauce. Most of the competition has moved to turbocharging or 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engines, which doesn’t help Scion’s case. The Mazda3 2.0-liter nets 155 hp and 150 lb-ft, for instance, while VW’s 1.8T makes 170 hp and 199 lb-ft. Lower displacement doesn’t help Toyota’s economy ratings much either: Combined EPA mile-per-gallon ratings (all manual-transmission cars, like my tester) are 30/31/33 for VW/Scion/Mazda, and a similar case can be constructed versus just about every player in the segment.
- The spec-sheet argument wouldn’t have as much weight with me, if the engine and six-speed manual came together as a sweet pairing. Sadly, they don’t. The six-speed proved incredibly truculent when cold – every morning of my Michigan winter – and pretty notchy to use, even when it warmed through. I don’t mind having to wind-up a small engine to get into its powerband, as one must with this 1.8, but I’ve got to have a reasonable transmission at hand to enjoy it. The automatic transmission – sure to be the volume leader for iM – may be better, but I bet it saves the day.
- Compact hatchbacks are brilliant for the flexible space they offer. I think that the iM would prove valuable in this regard once you actually lived with it and started schlepping to Target and IKEA, but the fact is it’s smaller inside than its main competition. Smaller overall, and without a clear advantage in front-seat, rear-seat, or cargo space.
- Ford Focus
- Hyundai Elantra GT
- Kia Forte5
- Subaru Impreza
- Volkswagen Golf
|Output||137 Horsepower / 126 Pound-Feet|
|EPA Fuel Economy||36 Highway / 27 City / 31 Combined|
|Cargo Volume||20.6 Cubic Feet (Rear Seats Up)|
|Estimated Lease Price (As-Tested)||$340/Month|