Once forbidden fruit, the Toyota Auris will be available Stateside starting in September as the 2016 Scion iM, and it’s exactly what a Corolla hatchback should be: efficient, practical, and roomy. The iM fills the void once occupied by the Matrix hatchback but with a touch of Euro-chic flair, making it a little more interesting to drive and look at than current and previous compact Toyotas.
The iM is powered by a 1.8-liter I-4 also found in the Toyota Corolla Eco, rated here at 137 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. The CVT in our test car proved reasonably responsive, but activating Sport mode leads to simulated gear changes with seven preset CVT ratios and more lively throttle response. However, no matter what driving mode you’re in, the iM is not quick in a straight line.
At the track, the Scion iM’s lack of power became more apparent as our CVT-equipped hatch did the 0-60 mph sprint in 9.9 seconds and on to a 17.6-second quarter mile at 80.5 mph. Although the iM’s track-tested acceleration is on par with competitors such as the Nissan Sentra and the Scion’s sedan sibling, the Toyota Corolla, it’s significantly slower to 60 than sportier automatic-transmission entries such as the Ford Focus (8.4 seconds) and Mazda3 i (8.2 seconds). On the figure-eight course, our iM—which had installed $399 TRD lowering springs—pulled an average of 0.59 g and completed the course in 28.3 seconds. Again, numbers on par with the Toyota Corolla but off the pace of more sporting options and all five hatches in our Big Test comparison of 2014-2015 hatchbacks. The iM’s lateral acceleration was 0.85 g, which would have been a midpack performance in that comparison. Stopping from 60 took 125 feet, longer than all of the comparison hatchbacks but about even with a Sentra sedan we tested.
The iM’s four-wheel independent suspension gives it better handling than the Corolla and keeps it stable through twisty roads, allowing for some semi-enthusiastic driving. In terms of outright handling and agility, the Ford Focus and Mazda3 will leave the iM behind because of its nearly nonexistent steering feel even in Sport mode, making it less fun to pilot down your favorite twisty road.
Ride comfort, on the other hand, is surprisingly good. The independent suspension setup soaks up bumps and rough patches nicely and keeps road imperfections from shaking occupants’ innards to bits. Compared with its rivals, the iM splits the difference between comfort and sportiness but leans more toward the former, making it a viable commuter car. In addition, the cabin, which has plenty of insulation from exterior and powertrain noises, is a pleasant place to spend time.
The EPA fuel economy rating for the CVT-equipped 2016 iM is expected to be 28/37 mpg city/highway, on par with the rest of the compact class. In Real MPG testing, we were able to achieve 28.2/37.9 R-MPG, or better than every car in our Big Test of hatchbacks except the Ford Focus, which was good for 28/40 R-MPG. The iM’s 14-gallon fuel capacity is larger than most of its competitors, so it shouldn’t require frequent stops to fill up.
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Standard features on every 2016 Scion iM include a 4.2-inch TFT display, heated power-folding side mirrors, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a rearview camera, 17-inch alloys, and a six-speaker Pioneer audio system that sounds great for its class. The 7-inch touchscreen’s graphics were clear, but it isn’t the most modern unit out there. The available $900 dealer-installed navigation system is responsive and user-friendly, and it’s worth the extra charge. Controls for the infotainment system are relatively easy but could use some dedicated controls for navigation and entertainment rather than lumping everything together in the media button. Interior build quality is good for the class; the iM has plenty of soft-touch plastics throughout the cabin. Hard plastics are present in places that aren’t touch points, such as the lower part of the dash and doors.
The iM has generous passenger space, with plenty of head- and legroom up front and in the back, even for tall adults. The front seats in particular have generous side bolstering and good back support, even for mildly enthusiastic driving. In a pinch, a fifth passenger can fit in the rear center position, and the lack of a central hump in the second row means more legroom for occupants in the back. An expansive windshield and nicely sized side windows provide good visibility and keep the cabin from feeling claustrophobic. Rear visibility suffers, however, because of the small rear window and rear-seat headrests that block the driver’s view out the back.
Behind the 2016 iM’s split-folding rear seats is 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space, a tad more than in the Mazda3 hatch but less than in the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus hatch. With the second row up, a large check-in roller bag will easily fit, but one of the rear seatbacks need to be folded to accommodate more cargo.
Starting at $19,255 with a six-speed manual transmission and $19,995 for the CVT, the iM is priced to deliver maximum bang for your buck. The hatch is more interesting to drive than a Nissan Sentra or Hyundai Elantra, but the iM falls short of the sportier choices in the compact and compact hatch segments. Think of it as a value-oriented member of the Toyota Corolla family but with a hatch, a better ride, more standard equipment, and slightly improved driving dynamics.
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