In an official press release during the 2015 New York International Motor Show, Scion announced that with “Five Doors, a Hatch and Room for Adventure: [The] All-New 2016 Scion iM [is] Ready to Fire Up the Fun Hatch Segment.” These are big words coming from a company that has seen limited success with recent sales, and continues to struggle with a line-up that is as mixed-up as a bowl of Lucky Charms. But who knows? Maybe Scion could have a hit on its hands with this one and can finally snag some sales from Honda, whose Fit continues to kick every single compact hatchback’s butt according to a report by U.S. News.
With an expected MSRP of under $20,000 for a fully equipped “mono-spec model,” the iM does come with a lot of functionality for the money. Its 1.8 liter Corolla engine gets an estimated 37 miles per gallon on the highway, buyers have the choice of either a six-speed stick shift or an advanced CVTi-S transmission with seven-step shifting choices, LED daytime running lights and taillights come standard, and one of our favorite features on the manual version is that it comes standard with what Scion calls “Hill Start Assist,” which is supposed to prevent the car from rolling backward when on a steep incline.
Our opinion of the car continued to improve as we learned that the iM comes equipped with tons of clever standard features right out of the lift-gate. Scion says it has spruced up the forever-uninspired CVT transmission with a version that’s been tuned to have a sport mode that in turn ties into seven manual shifting points. The iM also sports double-wishbone rear suspension, which improves both cargo room and handling, and once paired with those 17-inch alloy wheels, the handling characteristics of the car are sure to shine. Another set of nice standard features are found in the iM’s use of an acoustic layered windshield, foam insulation, and floor silencer sheets, which are usually reserved for the high-end luxury market.
At this point we have are convinced that Scion has really thought this one out, and that the company has been diligently stacking the cards in their favor as the iM joins forces with the 2016 Scion iA sedan for what they call a “one-two punch in the subcompact and compact segments.”
Scion didn’t even try to hide the fact that they are going after the Generation Z market with great gusto, calling the iM “the answer for young buyers looking for a sporty hatchback, but who still need to pay for things like rent, food, school loans and weekend fun with friends.” And while being straight forward is incredibly admirable in certain ways, the question still remains a painfully simple one: Will the car actually sell?
We think the iM has a good chance of selling well, just as long there aren’t any major recalls or fuel economy issues. And while it may not usurp the Fit from its throne, the iM certainly has the ability to give other compacts a solid run for their money with its armada of standard amenities. On paper, the car certainly doesn’t seem to have any issues with safety either, sporting eight standard airbags that include a driver’s knee airbag and a front passenger seat cushion airbag. It also is designed to be quite hospitable for furry companions like dogs and cats. These options include a pet harness and tether, doggy door guards, a seat pet barrier, and a grass pad, which supposedly discourages pets from standing on the center console.
Another angle that we think Scion surely capitalize upon is Gen Z’s uninhibited love affair with all things tech, and the iM starts things off on the right foot with a multi-media system that comes standard and a six-speaker Pioneer sound system which can tap into iPods along with a wide variety of other electronic devices. The previously mentioned 7-inch Pioneer touchscreen comes equipped with HD Radio, and can both control the beat and double as a standard-issued backup camera screen.
Other noticeable niceties include a dual-zone automatic A/C system, heated power-folding mirrors, and auto on/off headlamps that surprisingly come standard as well. As this all begins to add up it might be safe to say that the iM, with its $20,000 price tag is officially starting to look appealing at this point. And with finishing touches that are both simple and functional wrapping things up, we cannot help but admire the genuine leather-wrapped steering wheel and how it showcases a handful of switches for controlling the audio, multi-info display system, and Bluetooth phone calls.
So what’s the big hang-up if we are slated to receive all of these amazing standard options in a car that we know is sure to be both reliable and affordable? Well, if we have to put it into one word it would undoubtedly be “style.” The car isn’t a dog by any means, it just doesn’t make us want to jump off the couch and run out and buy one. And from a styling standpoint, the iM we see today at the NYIAS is a far cry from the far more aggressive-looking version we were teased with a few months back at the L.A. Auto Show. Do we really need massive four-pot piston calipers, an aggressive aero kit, fully adjustable race suspension, and forged wheels on an economy car? No. But it sure would be nice to have them available to us along with all those other nifty knick-knacks Scion offers. Maybe then we will stop referring to the iM as just an updated version of the Toyota Matrix.
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