- Sporty appearance
- Well-equipped for the price
- Hatchback versatility
- Good fuel economy
- Cramped rear seat and cargo area
- Unappealing manual transmission
- Lack of steering feel
- Jittery ride
The 2016 Scion iM looks the part of the youth-oriented sporty hatchback, but doesn't drive the part.
Until recently, the only hatchback this size at Toyota and Scion dealerships was the now-discontinued Matrix, a model that perhaps clung too closely to its Corolla roots. Now, with the iM, Scion reaches overseas, to some of the pedigree of the European-market Toyota Auris for some more performance flavor throughout.
With the 2016 iM, Toyota dealerships at last get a sporty compact hatchback to tangle—and tango—with the likes of the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, and Volkswagen Golf.
If only it hit that European stride, the iM would fare better in our ratings. The Scion's drivetrain is still pretty close to what you'd find in a some variants of the Toyota Corolla. This includes a 1.8-liter inline-4 that makes 137 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. It's paired to a 6-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that features a sport mode and manual control over seven programmed ratios. Hill start assist will keep the iM from rolling for two seconds.
The problem? The iM weighs around 3,000 pounds and has less power than many of its rivals, and can't be called quick with either transmission.
It has a sporty flavor, though, with standard 17-inch wheels and relatively wide tires—at least, generous for a somewhat efficiency-minded small car. MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone layout at the rear work with stabilizer bars in front and in back to deliver better handling than for the Corolla, and the four-wheel disc brakes acquit themselves well. The iM's electric power steering, on the other hand, doesn't communicate much road feel, and the ride quality can feel jittery.
With a length of about 171 inches, the iM's size is similar to other compact hatchbacks like the Golf, Focus, or Mazda 3. The iM has generously bolstered front sport seats that are a step above the small-car norm, and the driver’s seat is height adjustable. The rear seats are split 60/40, and they fold flat for an expanded cargo floor. By the numbers for cargo and passenger space, the iM is right in the middle of its segment. The rear seat is strangely short on headroom, though, and there isn't much space in the cargo area when the seat backs are up.
Interior material choice is a bit of a mixed bag. Materials used to upholstery seats and doors has a fairly cheap look and feel. The dashboard, on the other hand, is covered in a massive swath of piano black trim that probably appeals to the iM's target audience but cannot be touched with noticeable smudging. The iM includes an acoustic windshield and extra floor-silencing measures to cut wind noise and road roar, but noise is still a constant presence, if not always loud.
Safety-wise, a rearview camera is standard on the iM, as is a driver-seat knee bag, in addition to the expected roster of airbags, stability control and anti-lock braking systems. A first-aid kit is included, and LATCH connectors for child seats are offered in outboard rear seats, with tether connections for all three seating positions. The iM isn’t close enough to the Corolla (or any other Toyota or Scion model) for us to extend safety results, but the latest Corolla has performed very well in crash tests and in Euro NCAP tests for Europe, the Auris on which the iM is based, has performed very well.
The iM's mono-spec feature set might be more impressive than that of base model rivals. All versions include a 4.2-inch color multi-information display in the instrument panel—the first such appearance in a Scion. A navigation system is available with an upgrade kit.
Other standard features in the iM's single well-equipped trim level include power-folding heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, and keyless entry, and Bluetooth, and the infotainment system includes Pioneer audio with six speakers, a USB port, and auxiliary input.
Scion doesn't offer any options from the factory, but buyers can customize their iM with dealer-installed accessories like a roof rack, cargo accessories, and a pet carrier, as well as performance upgrades like anti-roll bars, lowered springs, and an air intake system from TRD (Toyota Racing Development).
The EPA rates the iM at 27 mpg city, 36 highway, 31 combined with the manual shifter; 28/37/32 mpg with the CVT.