If you only did a casual inspection of the all-new 2016 Scion iM, you’d probably come away impressed. This little hatchback looks pretty sharp, gets good fuel economy and comes packed with features. But once you examine the iM in detail, its appeal diminishes.
First off, it’s not nearly as exciting to drive as its styling suggests. It shares its underpinnings with the Toyota Corolla, and although it is more engaging to drive than its popular sibling, it falls far short of top compact hatchbacks. Performance is a contributing factor. The iM is not only considerably slower than its rivals, it’s in a virtual tie for class slowest. At the same time, fuel economy is certainly thrifty but also comparatively unremarkable.
The 2016 Scion iM certainly looks sporty, but that’s not exactly how it drives.
On the upside, the iM delivers a comfortable ride without being overly soft or wallowy. The front seats are also noteworthy for their lateral and long-distance support, boasting greater comfort than those of the Corolla and many competitors. Its cargo-carrying abilities are unremarkable, but there are plenty of places to store smaller items and drinks. As such, the iM is best suited to urban-dwelling singles or young couples in need of a daily commuter car that can handle the odd weekend road trip.
Another benefit of the iM is that it comes with two years of free initial scheduled maintenance, which is unheard of for economy cars. It also provides more standard equipment than similarly priced competitors. In the end, though, we gave the iM a “B” rating and think you can ultimately do better given the other entrants in the compact sedan and hatchback segment. The Edmunds “A”-rated Mazda 3 is as good as hatchbacks get, closely followed by the always popular and highly refined Volkswagen Golf. To lesser degrees, the Ford Focus and Kia Forte 5 represent solid choices, too. When considering the iM, we recommend that you check out any of these alternatives in the process.
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The 2016 Scion iM is a five-passenger hatchback that is offered in one well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic headlights, power-folding heated mirrors, full power accessories, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping column with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, 60/40-split folding rear seats, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker stereo with HD radio, Aha streaming Internet radio and a USB interface.
This slick-looking touchscreen interface comes standard on every 2016 Scion iM.
Options include a navigation system, interior ambient lighting and various sport body enhancements. Also available are performance upgrades from TRD (Toyota Racing Development) that include an air filter, stiffer sway bars and lowering springs.
Powering the Scion iM is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 137 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). In Edmunds performance testing, a CVT-equipped iM sauntered from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds, making it one of the slowest in the segment and off the pace by quite a lot.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 31 mpg combined (27 city/36 highway) for the manual and 32 mpg combined (28 city/37 highway) for the CVT. These figures are good, but top rivals are even thriftier.
Standard safety features for the 2016 Scion iM include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a front passenger seat cushion airbag.
In Edmunds brake testing, an iM stopped from 60 mph in a class-average 122 feet.
The Scion iM’s interior is competitive with other hatchbacks in terms of contemporary design and materials quality, and is indeed far superior to anything that has previously worn the Scion badge. There are plenty of soft-touch and padded surfaces, with the center console in particular featuring a cushioned area for the driver’s leg covered in simulated leather. We’re also fans of the standard 7-inch touchscreen that is easy to reach, features sensible menus and is very quick to react. Standard dual-zone automatic climate control is another nice touch.
Taller drivers will have enough head- and legroom, though some extra steering wheel telescoping reach would be appreciated. The rear seat isn’t as welcoming, as there’s merely sufficient headroom, and legroom that falls below average for the segment. Cargo capacity is also a bit smaller than other hatchbacks in this class, with only 20.8 cubic feet available behind the rear seats. But the cargo area is usefully wide, and the upright hatch provides enhanced space for bulkier items.
Forward visibility is good thanks to a raked-back windshield and narrow roof pillars, but the small rear hatch window is tiny and forces heavy reliance on the rearview camera. There are no blind-spot mirrors or warning systems available, nor any other driver warning systems.
Despite its sporty styling, the iM’s performance is barely adequate. The four-cylinder engine is thrashy and gutless, and resulting acceleration is quite simply worst in the class. Competitors are not only more powerful, but more efficient as well. The only bright spot is the CVT, which actually does a pretty good job of unobtrusively selecting the ideal engine rpm for a given driving condition.
The 2016 Scion iM provides a comfortable yet controlled ride.
We’re also impressed with the iM’s ride quality, which demonstrates plenty of bump-soaking compliance while still maintaining a sense of composure and control. But go around some turns and it all goes downhill. The car’s abundance of top-heavy body roll saps the driver’s confidence, and its steering is so devoid of feel it might as well have been jabbed by a big needle full of Novocaine. Overall, the 2016 iM falls well short of the standard set by other hatchbacks in this regard.