First Drive: 2016 Scion iA and iM [Review]

Scion expands its brand with its first sedan and a capable hatchback.

A newfound maturity is making its way through Toyota's Scion brand, as seen with the introduction of two new vehicles. Starting with the first sedan in the lineup, the new iA, and carrying on with the more mature appearing iM, it's clear that Scion is intent on spreading its wings and exposure into the marketplace.

Partnerships and High-Zoot rootsPartnerships are nothing new to Toyota, and its Scion scion, that in the past has joined Subaru to introduce the FR-S, the kissing cousin of the Subie BRZ. History repeats itself with Scion's collaboration with Mazda and its Mazda2-based iA. In the case of the iM, it shares humble beginnings with its tC sibling and its higher-dollar Lexus cousin, the CT200h Hybrid.

With Scion set up as an entry portal into that of its Toyota - and by extension, Lexus -parentage, the iA and iM are the latest in monospec vehicles from the brand, at least before a dealer gets a hold on them to add such "features” (read: profit enhancements) as VIN window etchings, Polyglycoat paint sealant and nitrogen tire inflations, not to mention every type of body kit and spoiler package imaginable. These new Scions are set to be sold in a no-haggle, one price sales experience that won't wear down the buyer, at least according to Scion officials who intend to shorten the sales process from an average four hours down to one lap around the clock.

What are they selling? Let's take a look.

What's an iA?The Scion iA is the brand's first sedan offering and is based on a Mazda2 platform. It features a 1.5-liter direct-injection engine that produces 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. This four-cylinder naturally-aspirated engine is available with a buyer's choice of six speed manual transmission or a six speed automatic gearbox. It is essentially the same as Mazda's Skyactiv protocol for tuning both engine and transmission, but will not be marketed as such by Scion.

The iA rides on a sport-tuned McPherson strut front suspension and brings up the rear with a rather old school torsion beam axle. While we did not get a chance to drive the 2,416-pound six-speed automatic transmission, which Toyota estimates will achieve 33 city/42 highway with 37 mpg combined, we had a go with the iA in six-speed manual transmission form. Toyota says this 2,385-pounder is good for 31 city/41 highway, with 35 mpg combined. The iA has an overall length of 171.7-inches and a wheelbase of 101.2-inches.

Creased looksThe sharply styled iA, if truth be told, looks like a miniaturized version of the Mazda6 midsize sedan. That is of course until you get to the front side of the program. In a departure move from other Scion styles, the iA features a large-ish trapezoidal maw with a piano black panel that cuts through the middle of it. Scoup-y from every angle, it takes on a late 1970's supersonic look, that was popular and offered optimism for a different era. Included in its $15,700 base price are16-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch audio display, and a backup camera, which are only available on such competitors as the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, and Nissan Versa S, via extra cost packages, if at all.Two-year/25,000 mile no-cost maintenance is included in the price of the vehicle.

A wheelie good showWheeling the iA displayed a ride quality that was very well composed with good road feel that communicated conditions with us very easily. The surroundings were very Mazda-ish and included a center console multimedia controller that looks like it belongs in one of those Zoom-Zoom cars. Fun to drive, though it tended to display long clutch travel, its short throw shifter still offered the perfect demonstration of the old saying that "it's better to drive a slow car fast, rather than a fast car slow.” With the engine pumping 106 horsepower from the 1.5-liter I-4 direct injected mill, it is no breaker of land speed records, but it is perfect for around town travel excursions.

Be aware though, the iA's short wheelbase means rear seat legroom was only tolerable for short stretches of about ten minutes or so.

What's an iM?Based on the European Toyota Auris, the Scion iM is one of the more upscale offerings from the Toyota brand's upstart little brother. The iM receives its motivation from a Toyota 1.8-liter fuel-injected Valvematic four-cylinder that produces 137 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque. Scion is offering the iM with a buyer's choice of a six-speed manual transmission, or in the case of the tester we drove, a CVTi-S automatic transmission that simulates seven conventional gears. Equipped with Sports Sequential Shiftmatic Mode, it allowed us to move the shift lever into a manumatic gate enabling us to row it ourselves.

Scion officials state that the six-speed manual transmission can achieve 27 City/36 highway and 31 combined, While the CVT seven-speed transmission is capable of 28 City/37 highway with a combined 32 miles per gallon.

The iM rides on a front McPherson strut and rear double wishbone suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends. An electric power steering system helps to guide this five-door hatchback on its way.

Sleek and cleanThe Scion iM is truly one of the more mainstream-looking vehicles ever offered by the brand, with a sleek sense of style that has it appearing hunkered down with ground effects side skirts and spoiler-like trim pieces at front and rear. Like the iA, it is offered in monospec styling, and includes LED daytime running lights, projector beam headlamps, heated and folding sideview mirrors, LED taillights and 17-inch alloy wheels.

A nicely turned out interior includes a 4.2-inch color multi-information display that resides between gauges on the instrument panel along with a standard 7-inch Pioneer touch screen display audio system. Using a paired smartphone, drivers are able to listen to Bluetooth streaming audio, and through the Aha app, can access around 100,000 Internet radio options. Other class-above features include dual zone automatic climate control, a leather trimmed tilt & telescopic steering wheel with redundant controls, eight cupholders and 60/40 fold down rear seats. As with other Scions, where personality is the name of the game, there are many available options including navigation, cargo trays, interior lighting kits and other items to personalize your iM.

Drive time in the iMNot like a product from the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, the Scion iM still manages to provide a satisfying ride experience, if you really hoof the engine into the sweet spot on the powerband. We like the fact that the CVT provide seven "geared detents” to simulate actual gear changes.

The multi control steering wheel offered good road feel, sometimes too good, especially on choppy road surfaces. Still, it was a compliant ride that matches up nicely with its competition from the Mazda3, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and VW Golf.

Leftlane's bottom lineBorrowing from within and outside the brand, Scion grows its lineup by two more vehicles, which are worthy additions to its ranks. While the iA may appeal to the entry-level set, we think the iM may also bring some more mature hipsters to the brand as well.

2016 Scion iA base price: $15,700 M/T; $16,800 A/T2016 Scion iM base price: $18,460 M/T; $19,200 A/T Destination, $795.

Photos by Mark Elias. Additional photography by David Dewhurst/Scion.

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