Driven

A Better Corolla? 2016 Scion iM

If Weird Al has taught us anything, it’s that a Toyota’s a Toyota…or is it? Sometimes a Toyota is a Scion. When the new Scion iM arrived, we wondered if it could be better than the Corolla S. After all, the iM is a 5-door Corolla variant, sharing the same engine and platform. Sitting inside, it’s not even hard to point out the similarities. But could Scion inject some individuality into this hatchback, or is a Toyota still just a Toyota?

Scion iM 1

From the outside, the iM is a great looking car. The styling department did well here, and the hatchback really stands out with its angular design. The iM was fairly new to showrooms when we drove it, and it turned some heads during the week. It’s Scion’s best design of the past few years, excluding the FR-S.

Scion iM 4

The iM’s interior is nearly identical to the Corolla. Overall the interior design is fairly drab, and it’s doubtful that it will be regarded as hip and fresh in the way that Scion hopes. A very easy to use center screen dominates the cabin, but the lack of satellite radio and navigation was a bit of a letdown. The seats were very comfortable but the driving position seemed a little high. The rear seats were small, but adult friendly. They also split fold in order to fit some more gardening materials if need be. The strong point for the Scion is its hatchback functionality. However, the space back there with the rear seats up is smaller than you’d expect, not quite as commodious as something like the Mazda 3. Despite this, the 5-door layout is far more practical than a sedan for storing cargo.

Scion has always been about cars that are fairly fun to drive with a funky demeanor and, in some ways, the iM borrows some of that. It handles pretty well, and the suspension allows the front wheel drive iM to cope with some aggressive mid corner bumps. The letdown, as always, is the motor and transmission. Our particular car came optioned with the CVT, which was even a complaint in the Corolla S. It’s completely gutless and doesn’t sound great either. You’re always searching for the power. The motor is a naturally aspirated 1.8L four cylinder that has 137 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Don’t worry; the front wheels will never break traction under acceleration. The engine just revs for what seems like an eternity but nothing happens. We don’t blame the engine, we blame the bowl of jello Toyota calls a transmission. The saving grace for the iM is that it can be optioned with a manual transmission to bring some more engagement to the driving experience.

Scion iM 2

So is the iM a better Corolla than the Corolla? The answer is no. As a matter of fact, it’s badged and sold as a Corolla in other markets around the world. Unfortunately, that means Scion didn’t have the opportunity to fix the Corolla’s shortcomings. The iM remains arguably cooler because it’s a hatchback, but you’ll be disappointed if you don’t opt for the manual transmission. In the end, Al was right about that Toyota.

-Scott Villeneuve

2016 Scion iM
$19,200
Carpeted Floor & Cargo Mats $185
Wheel Locks $65
Rear Bumper Protector $89
Destination Charges $795
As Tested MSRP $20,334

Related:
S is for Spirit: 2014 Toyota Corolla S
Square One: 2013 Scion FRS
Young Again: 2014 Scion tC
Beginning to End: A Driver’s Progression
Follow Up: 2015 Scion FRS Automatic

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