2016 Scion iM First Drive Impressions

CarNewsCafe was invited to San Francisco, California to meet with Scion Group Vice President Doug Murtha and drive the new 2016 Scion iM. After only 12 years as a distinct brand of Toyota, Scion is once again pushing the limits to try and match the mindset of an ever-changing 18-34 buyer demographic.

2016 Scion iM 62The 2016 Scion iM will replace the aging and low-selling Scion xB, which will finish its sales run this year. The iM is a more contemporary, versatile, and less “in your face” hatchback than is the xB and thus, says Murtha, will better match today’s more pragmatic, less “look at me!” younger audience.

For the young urban buyer who needs versatility, fuel efficiency, and the ability to load up friends and their stuff for a weekend escape, the Scion iM is a great little car at a far more reasonable price point than might be expected.

The 2016 Scion iM is offered in one trim level with choice of automatic or standard transmission. The manual transmission begins at $18,640 and at $19,200 for the automatic. Upon questioning, we were assured that while marketing for the car will be “unusual,” it will not go the way of furry, four-legged mascots as some others have.

Exterior and Interior of the Scion iM

2016 Scion iM 66The iM borrows heavily from the Toyota Yaris and Corolla for its looks and underpinnings. Its unique hatchback appearance incorporates elements from these two vehicles well, making a shapely, but not over-sophisticated appeal that works well for the car. Observant onlookers will note the Yaris’ hoodline and the Corolla’s fascia and sheet metal. The most striking exterior component are the standard alloy wheels, which are beautiful on a car this size.

Inside, the iM is roomier than expected of a subcompact. Emphasis is on front row seating and rear cargo space, so the back seats are likely only to be used occasionally by adults and are more suited for children and safety seats. Knowing the intended market, this makes sense, as friends in the back are mainly for weekends with these buyers.

2016 Scion iM 73Front seating is excellent with plenty of room all around. The cargo space is large as well, with space for a couple of checked bags and a carry on or two. A week’s worth of groceries would easily fit there.

The overall interior impression, though, is not so much its roominess as it is its upscale appeal. The Scion iM has a much more sophisticated, modern look than might be expected from a sub-$20k car. Soft touch and quality materials are found throughout and though road noise is present, it’s better than many in this category can boast. The included (standard) infotainment touchscreen is also a surprise. Connectivity is the goal here and Scion has done well. The only upgrade is to add navigation or more stereo speakers.

Drive Dynamics in the 2016 iM

2016 Scion iM 84On the road, the 2016 Scion iM is adequate, but not sporty or fast paced. The same 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine found in the Corolla also powers this Scion. The iM can be had with a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission. We enjoyed the manual, which offers more control and peppier performance, but which is far less convenient to city drivers than is the CVT. The CVT includes Sport Sequential Shiftmatic Mode (shortened to CVTi-S). This allows a bit more control and does some engine throttling to allow for faster response times. It does make a difference in performance appeal, but the car still has the same lackluster suspension and road dynamic of the Toyota vehicles it’s based upon.

Knowing all of that, though, we feel that most buyers in this intended market will be happy with their choice in the 2016 iM. It’s not a sports car and is not intended to be. On twisting, winding roads, it’s easy to control, but not “fun” (unlike the iA sedan). Instead, the iM gives comfort rather than performance.

Our Overall First Impression of the iM

Our impression of the 2016 Scion iM was good. Its price point and value are excellent compared to much of the market, especially given its quieter ride and upscale interior. This is a practical, but not boring car that offers some of everything for the young, urban buyer in need of more space than the average subcompact will offer. The 2016 iM is a great new hatchback for the Scion brand.

Note: Scion provided airfare and accommodations for this introduction to the iA and iM. Full product specs for the 2016 Scion iM can be seen here (PDF).

Aaron Turpen
An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.