2016 Scion iM Review: The good, the bad, the bottom line

2016 Scion iM

A former Scion fills a gap in Toyota’s lineup


Are we looking at a future entry into the Concours d’ Elegance 2033?

Will Scion ever go down as a collectible brand? Probably not, but if it does, the iM will have a special spot on Pebble Beach’s 18th green as the last of the ‘real’ Scions to roll off the line before the brand was euthanized in early 2016 and only a few key models were saved in the transition to Toyota. Scion as a brand will be remembered for its youth oriented and quirky vehicle lineup that was popular amongst shoppers much older than the targeted demographics had forecasted. Mostly, it will be remembered as a very expensive experiment that didn’t pan out.

Can the iM be thought of as a continuation of the Matrix legacy?

The Matrix (and corporate twin, the Pontiac Vibe) gave shoppers who loved the Corolla’s dirty bits but needed a more practical hatchback something that would fill that niche. Locally, they were fairly popular- from 2003 to 2014 many of these found their way onto Canadian roads. These cars were known not only for their ability to carry more stuff than a similarly sized sedan but also for their nearly flawless record of durability. The option of all-wheel drive broadened their appeal even further. When Toyota announced that Matrix production would cease at the nearby Cambridge assembly plant, a gaping hole was left in the lineup. Because we’re talking about Toyota, they didn’t have to head back to the drawing board and set to work on a costly replacement- rather, they just plucked the Corolla wagon (known as the Auris throughout the world) from their myriad of overseas offerings and slapped a Scion badge on the grille, which will in turn shortly be ditched in favor of Toyota’s logo.

What’s the good news?

The main reason to celebrate the iM is that you have full access to all the goodness you’ll find on a Corolla but packaged in such a way that might encourage you to take up an active lifestyle, or maybe get a dog. Whether you choose an active role over a sedentary one, you will have more space to schlepp stuff around. Moreover, all occupants will appreciate the roomy feel afforded by the iM’s cabin. Taller rear seat passengers will have to scooch down a bit to keep the top of their heads from brushing the rear headliner as a result of the plunging roofline. As those along for the journey appreciate their commodious surroundings, they’ll also no doubt appreciate the interior noise levels, or lack thereof. It’s no Lexus, but Toyota has gone to greater lengths than usual to keep unwelcome noises at bay with a healthy amount of sound deadening and a trick acoustic windshield. Perhaps the iM’s greatest virtue is its handling abilities, no doubt aided by an independent double wishbone rear suspension, which is a whole lot more sophisticated than the Corolla’s humble twist beam setup. Throwing the iM into a series of sinewy curves and expecting great things to happen will ultimately result in a letdown- the resident sports car in this portfolio is the rear-drive FR-S (er, we mean the 86) just down the hall. But ease up on the pace a bit and the iM impresses with precise steering, a competent chassis that feels like it could handle much more power coupled to a low curb weight allow you to shed the doldrums of mindless commuting now and then.

And what of the bad news?

Out of one corner of our mouths we praise the chassis inherent goodness, and now we’re going to send out some negative vibes towards the drivetrain out of the other. Toyota missed an opportunity to put something with a little more zing under the hood- of the tops of our heads, the four banger from the Camry would have worked well, or even some left over engines from the tC program- and mated it to a transmission whose main purpose in life is to aid and abet commuting and nothing else. The Corolla’s 1.8 litre mill lashed to a similar CVT can be charitably described as anemic. The iM never feels in a rush to achieve highways speeds even if your right foot is pegged to the firewall, engine mooing noisily away in protest. And while earlier we sang the praises of the iM’s roomy interior, those kudos don’t extend to the cargo area; it’s quite small back there. The only other miscues come from stuff the iM doesn’t have, namely the option for all-wheel drive and heated seats- two things that could have been major assets in the Canadian market.

Noted. So then…why buy an iM?

Not everyone puts forth a big effort when shopping for their next car. They want something that is easy on the eyes, has room for their stuff and just simply works, day in and day out. For them, the iM is a good bet. That’s a good segue into discussing other redeeming traits of the soon-to-be-Toyota, and that is rock solid dependability and of course, value. Our tester’s price of $23,817 is quite reasonable for what you get. And it’s not like you can inflate the car’s price any more that what you see on the monroney- the only thing buyers have any say over is colour and transmission; we’d make ours Spring Green with the manual gearbox, if anyone wants to know. The only complaint we have is that Toyota could have made a much bigger splash with the iM, and most of that could be achieved by simply raiding the vast parts bin they have at their disposal. Toyota Grand Poohbah Akio Toyoda has made a mandate to re-establish the era when his company built cars that were fun and engaging to drive, not just reliable. If a second generation is in the cards for this Scion transplant, we look forward to seeing what Toyota can do.

2016 Scion iM— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $23,817
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger hatchback
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Engine:  1.8-litre inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  137 @ 6,100 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 126 @ 4,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,335 kg (2,943 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 9.1L/100km (26 mpg)