2016 Scion iA Review

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Christian Gulliksen Christian Gulliksen Editor
April 21, 2016

The 2016 Scion iA isn't fast or particularly roomy, but it delivers a great blend of features and performance for a remarkable subcompact price.

The 2016 Scion iA is a generously sized subcompact, and prefaces two other small cars with which it will be closely related: new versions of the Mazda 2 and Toyota Yaris due within a year.

For Toyota’s youth-oriented brand, Scion, the iA is the badge’s first four-door sedan.

The iA has familiar proportions that look a lot like other cars in its class—unavoidable, maybe, in a car so small. It's easy to see Mazda's design influence in its sculpted sheet metal, especially in a profile that bears a strong resemblance to the Mazda 3. Front and rear lamps have a stronger Scion flavor, and the aggressive nose with a massive trapezoid containing the grille and blacked-out bumper lend a sporty appearance. Chrome trim is joined by trendy piano black treatments.

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The interior, meanwhile, is more cockpit-like than other cars in its class, with circular vents and an upright touchscreen that gives its dashboard the look of a Mercedes-Benz CLA. The multimedia system uses a control knob sourced directly from Mazda.

The 2016 iA is powered by a Mazda 1.5-liter inline-4 engine making 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. It’s a different engine than the one in the current Toyota Yaris, and it combines direct injection with a high 12.0:1 compression ratio. It's linked to a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 6-speed automatic.

The iA only weighs around 2,400 pounds, which makes it one of the lightest sedans in this class; and the new, stronger structure help bring a good combination of safety, ride quality, and handling. The layout of the iA, with a front strut and rear torsion-beam suspension, and rear drum brakes, calls out that this isn’t intended as a particularly sporty model; but with Mazda engineering has nevertheless given the car a sporty fun-to-drive flavor. Acceleration is sluggish from stoplights, but it's reasonably accommodating at mid-range speeds.

The Scion iA is sized very closely to the sedan versions of the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Rio, and Nissan Versa, among others. The overall length for the iA is about 172 inches, with a width of 66.7 inches, height of 58.5 inches, and it’s built on a 101.2-inch wheelbase—the same as the new Mazda CX-3 and upcoming Mazda 2, which likely won't be sold in the U.S.

The back seat can be cramped for adults, but the situation is better for the driver, who has a height-adjustable seat. The split-folding (60/40) rear seatbacks fold flat, and connects to a generously sized trunk. Front seats adjust fore and aft ten inches. All iA models include steering-wheel controls and voice recognition for audio and phone functions.

Safety equipment in the iA includes a full roster of airbags, including front and rear side-curtain bags, and a low-speed forward collision warning system uses a laser sensor to warn the driver of potential collisions. All iA models also include a rearview camera. Since this is an all-new model (and structure), it may be some time before we see a complete set of crash-test ratings for the iA.

The IIHS has deemed the iA a Top Safety Pick+ in its testing. Federal officials haven't yet released data from their testing.

Pricing is highly competitive, and the mono-spec iA will cost $15,700 with the manual transmission and $16,800 with the automatic. That’s for a very well-equipped model, not a stripped-down price leader. Standard features include air conditioning, keyless ignition, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, and power mirrors. The base audio setup is a 7.0-inch touchscreen Display Audio system with six speakers, Bluetooth hands-free calling and music-streaming capability, USB and analog-input ports, and streaming-app compatibility with Aha, Pandora, and Stitcher services.

Customization and personalization options—in lieu of options—have been a part of the Scion purchase experience from the start. And you can be sure there will be plenty of appearance add-ons, as well as perhaps some performance upgrades, on offer.

Fuel economy is good, but perhaps not as good as it should be. EPA fuel economy is rated at 31 mpg city, 41 highway, 35 combined for the manual version, and 33/42/37 mpg with the automatic.

By comparison, the Ford Fiesta's best ratings for a special 3-cylinder version hit 43 mpg highway; the Chevy Sonic tops out at 40 mpg highway for its most efficient version.

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2016 Scion iA

Styling

It's tough to make small sedans very slick, but the Scion iA is pert enough to draw attention.

The iA makes its boldest styling statement with a massive trapezoidal grille that dominates the front fascia as it sweeps outward and downward toward the ground. Chrome trim and surrounding bodywork echo the geometric shape, magnifying what may be the most emphatically designed nose in the subcompact segment.

That’s, however, where the drama ends. In profile, the car’s close relationship to the forthcoming Mazda 2 (which is not sold in the U.S.) can be seen in the sculpting of fender lines that flow in gentle arcs over the front and rear wheels. The trapezoidal theme continues at the iA’s tail, where Mazda’s design influence is mitigated by taillights that look more consistent with Scion’s usual design language. 

The iA’s cockpit, with circular vents and an upright screen mounted to the top of the dashboard, looks rather like the design found in a Mercedes-Benz CLA. The effect is decidedly upscale, especially for a car that starts under $16,000.

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2016 Scion iA

Performance

The Mazda-derived chassis in the Scion iA wants to party, but power's on the lean side.

You won’t see any SkyActiv badges on this Scion, but Mazda developed the iA’s front-wheel drive powertrain with the usual SkyActiv priorities of sportiness and fuel efficiency.

This begins with a 1.5-liter inline-4 makes a scant 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. While acceleration from a stop is sluggish at first, the iA—which weighs a mere 2,400 pounds—feels lively once under way.

Most buyers will opt for the 6-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode that does actually keep revs up near 4,000 rpm for more spirited driving. Scion expects 10 percent of buyers to choose the 6-speed manual transmission, which is a delight to operate, with short throws and precise shifts. 

The only downside for self-shifters is a small and gimmicky digital tachometer that makes revs nearly illegible by obscuring them in a gray-on-gray display at its periphery; it's easier to see the tach's readout for the gear the car thinks it should be in, a calculation clearly skewed to fuel economy that tends to recommend fifth or sixth when power is most accessible in second or third.

On the road, the iA drives and rides like a more substantial, more expensive car than it is. The electric power steering has good feel, and engineers have made the most of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear. Athletic handling characteristics make it tempting to wring as much as possible from the little engine and 16-inch alloy wheels. This fun-to-drive nature is a pleasant surprise in an entry-level commuter. Ride quality is equally polished, composed and smooth even over bumps at higher speeds.

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2016 Scion iA

Comfort & Quality

It's a subcompact, so the Scion iA's chintzy trim and rear-seat space are par for the class.

The iA delivers tremendous value for its price and something, somewhere, had to give.

Cost-cutting seems most obvious in the choice of material for upholstery covering the seats and doors, which has a decidedly chintzy look and feel. The cheapness is most evident when the sun reflects on the fabric's shiny surface. It's not unacceptable for the segment, and perhaps stands out because the car tends to overachieve in other areas. Much of the other interior trim is soft-touch, though, and the harder plastics aren't offensive. Overall fit and finish are good.

Head room and leg room for the driver and front passenger are good. Head room in the rear seat will be tight for 6-footers, and leg room can vanish quickly when front seats are adjusted for tall occupants. The cabin can feel narrow, and while there are three seatbelts in back, there's only adequate width for two adults.

The rear seat folds flat with a 60/40 split and open to an exceptionally large and well-shaped trunk. The combination can't offer the versatility of a hatchback, but it comes closer than one might imagine.

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2016 Scion iA

Safety

Forward-collision warnings with automatic braking are a welcome feature, but there's no crash-test data yet for the iA.

Federal officials haven't yet crash-tested a Scion iA, but scores from the independent IIHS are very good.

The agency has rated the iA with "Good" scores all the way around—including the notoriously difficult small-overlap crash test—and have rated the front crash prevention systems as "Advanced." Those have resulted in a coveted Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS.

Driver assists are limited to a low-speed pre-collision safety system that gives drivers an audible alert as they approach an obstacle and—eventually—applies the brakes if the driver doesn't.

There are front and rear side curtain airbags, while the driver and front passenger have airbags and seat-mounted side airbags.

Outboard rear seats have lower anchors for child safety seats, while there are tether anchors for all three rear seats.

The iA also has a monitor for tire pressure, and a temporary spare tire in the trunk.

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2016 Scion iA

Features

Features like standard Bluetooth and a rearview camera are welcome in a price-sensitive sedan like the Scion iA.

The iA is offered as a mono-spec model without any options except for transmission type and paint color. But it's particularly well-equipped for its segment and price.

Power windows, locks, and mirrors join air conditioning on the standard equipment list, as do more premium features like a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control, keyless ignition, and a rearview camera.

Mounted atop the dash, a large 7.0-inch touchscreen serves as the hub for a multimedia system with six speakers, two USB ports and an auxiliary input. Pandora, Aha, and Stitcher are also standard. Drivers can also control the system through buttons on the steering wheel and voice recognition.

Every iA comes with Scion Service Boost, which covers normal scheduled maintenance for two years or 24,000 miles (whichever comes first) and provides roadside assistance for two years.

Scion also offers a host of customization accessories at the dealer—this includes a navigation system.

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2016 Scion iA

Fuel Economy

Highway fuel economy in the mid-30s puts the iA in the thick of its class, even if it's off the pace set by some larger four-doors.

Logic would dictate that subcompact cars should get the best fuel economy, but logic is often wrong, as it is in the case of the Scion iA. Its fuel efficiency is very good, but it's outpaced by some larger cars that benefit from better aerodynamics.

EPA fuel economy is rated at 31 mpg city, 41 highway, 35 combined for the manual version, and 33/42/37 mpg with the automatic.

By comparison, the Ford Fiesta's best ratings for a special 3-cylinder version hit 43 mpg highway; the Chevy Sonic tops out at 40 mpg highway for its most efficient version.

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March 4, 2017
2016 Scion iA 4-Door Sedan Automatic (SE)

Inexpensive, but not cheap

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I've had this car about a year now, and although it's not a luxury car and it looks ridiculous, it gets the job done. It gets good mileage, has bluetooth, has a nice map that shows you how busy the freeways... + More »
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July 27, 2016
2016 Scion iA 4-Door Sedan Automatic (Natl)

Never Again

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I do not like this car one bit. I only use it to run around town in and a few times on the highway. I guess I've been spoiled by cars that have many more features. This car only has one back seat pocket. No AC... + More »
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April 11, 2016
2016 Scion iA 4-Door Sedan Automatic (Natl)

Great riding, comfortable commuter car (only 1 week old) with superior safety features plus a HD radio w/7in display and 6 speakers that no other subcompact car can come close to!

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I love it. It comes standard with 16 in allow wheels, keyless entry and push button start, forward collision and breaking. Cruise control, radio and Bluetooth control are located on steering wheel plus a round... + More »
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Styling 7.0
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