The all-new 2016 Scion iM is part of a big new-product push from Scion: the iM hatchback and much smaller iA sedan replace the boxy xD and xB.
Why so normal and conventional from Toyota's youth brand this year?
Following buyer trends, of course! Extensive research on how to resonate with today's 35-and-under car shoppers shows a big shift in preferences. Perhaps feeling the crunch of a slower global economy on their hipster jeans, first-time new car buyers want a car with more evergreen appeal than the once-trendy Scion box cars.
The iM hopes to ace the 2016 buyer mood with an advanced chassis, chiseled sheetmetal, standard LEDs and sporty TRD handling upgrades. All this modern glitz is balanced by ridiculously affordable pricing and one loaded specification to deliver VW Golf or Ford Focus space at Fiesta or Kia Rio prices. At the same time, the iM must lure in people who are terminally bored by humdrum econoboxes like the Honda Fit or the Chevy Sonic.
So the iM is no flash in the pan: this new Scion is a core vehicle for the brand's next half decade.
Will this anti-Corolla succeed?
A fun floored drive around Michigan last week reveals the good, great and so-so aspects of the new iM. Let's dive in with Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary headings.
2016 Scion iM Review
The iM makes its first impression thanks to a very fresh nose and tail: with the standard bodykit extending deep down to hug the pavement. The silver test car pictured here features even more ground-hugging stance via its optional TRD lowering springs and TRD rear sway bar.
The combination really works: this is clearly a fresh new model and one that looks pricier than its $19k all-in price suggests. The lower nose pieces are our favorites: they extend forward like a performance splitter, while their interior elements are gloss black air vanes. The glossy black intakes recall the E63 AMG a bit, which is a rare achievement for a car costing 20-percent of that supersaloon's sticker.
That body kit is fantastic for the style of the iM, but the nose and tail are ultramodern and crisp all on their own as well. Standard LED DRLs up front are pipes of white light in the upper edge of the lamps. A bundle of extra LEDs lives in the inner headlamp to provide great visibility inside -- and cars seeing you from the outside.
The low and highbeams both live in a single projector beam on the outer edge of each cheekbone. The end result is a very chic overall lighting setup.
Out back, the sharp LED style train stays on track with slim, horizontally stretched brake light elements. The LED taillamp detail lives in the top of the lamp as a sharp, red-lit crease unlike anything else on the market. A multi-faceted bumper and tailgate is busy with many intersecting surfaces. It would feel sloppy except for the ultra sharp lines and details throughout. As it stands, the tail of the iM is sexier than the Focus ST or Golf TSI, if not the Golf R.
The sharp lines from out back originate in the beveled beltline running up the doors. This interesting detail has a solid inch of pure horizontal metal that feels strong and chic. Above and below this structural-looking shape, the beltline crease flows smoothly into the soft style of the main door panels.
Another accessory on both pictured iM's is less cool: the door scuff guards. While body colored, these interrupt the pure flow of the lower doors in a pretty geeky way.
Down below the accessory bodyside moldings, the lower sill extension has a cool twist. This slightly Lexus IS-like look is very cool and sexy; joining an inverted pinch in the rear doors to create some surface tension in the metal.
In pure profile, the iM is less of a hit to our eyes. The overall proportions are good, but the tall upper hood and raked windshield look pretty dull in profile. Similarly, the glasshouse has nice dark pillars and an up-flipped rear window. If this were the first time we'd seen this, it might be cooler. But after a decade of the Toyota Matrix humming around with a very-similar look, the iM's style suffers.
Is that a dealbreaker? Not at all for most people. The standard dark-star alloys and extra sporty details will be fresh and chic enough for this 2016 iM to look current even in 2020.
The cabin of the iM is absolutely stellar. It feels comfortable, chic, well-made and well-equipped. A wide front cabin and gloss-black center stack avoid the elbow-bump of the Golf or the intrusive, claustrophobic dash and doors of the Focus.
This iM feels big and premium. The only option inside is to upgrade the standard 7-inch display audio touchscreen with Navigation.
On the road, the iM interior keeps improving and impressing. A smooth ride belies how much grip the iM has around corners.
Fling the iM around a tight bend as fast as you dare........ and come out alive and grinning on the other side!
The steering is light but feelsome, while the whole car feels extremely rigid and trustworthy in hard driving. No doubt enhanced by those TRD springs, the iM still loves bends in its stock spec. Double wishbones in back are a treat at these prices -- helping every dynamic move the iM makes to be sharp and free of handling slop.
Most compacts are good in the bends, of course, thanks to their light weights and playful handling. This is extra true for the Golf and Focus, which are two of the sportiest base models in the car business.
Where most compacts do not excel, however, is one place the iM has locked up: on the highway. The iM does not have much extra oomph to make onramps like launch pads, but once up to speed the new Scion is extremely quiet and smooth. The steering weights up notably around 70 mph, tracking dead true to the straight-ahead like few front-drive cars can.
Out back, the iM has a big 20.8 cubic feet of luggage area with the seats up, and more than double that with them folded flat.
The only mechanical choice when speccing a Scion iM is the transmission. The standard six-speed manual will be the speed-demon's choice, and also saves $800 or so bucks versus the CVTi-S automatic option.
Here is where there is tough news to deliver. But there's a silver lining.
The Scion iM's 137-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is heavily tilted in favor of fuel economy versus performance. The engine needs to be truly flogged to make good speed, especially on the highway and for mid-speed passing. Big downshifts of a few gears and frequent trips to the redline will be familiar when you are in a fiesty drive mood.
The seven-speed automatic might be better for multi-tasking commuters to make the most of the engine's grunt. Weird as that is to say from a manual fanboy, the iM automatic also beats the manual on fuel economy, if only by one MPG each in all tallies.
2016 Scion iM - EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined MPG)
--- 6-Speed M/T 27/36/31
--- CVTi-S 7-Speed A/T 28/37/32
So the power is diluted by the iM's impressive economy. When driven hard, the iM does sound good humming up its tachometer. It will easily break away the front tires for some wheelspin, like we demo in the video above.
The six-speed's shift action is light and snicky like the best, with the clutch also very light and easy in traffic. As on the tC, the iM has one weird quirk: the clutch engagement point is really high up in the pedal travel. This becomes normal after a block or two, but you might stall it before that.
The iM's rallybred emergency brake handle was also tested (in the name of thoroughness...) with flying colors. Flying black tire marks, that is!
Thanks to a shared platform with the tC sport coupe, nearly all of the tC's performance parts from Scion (or the aftermarket) also fit the iM.