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2016 Scion iM

2016 Scion iM

The gorilla in the room here, at least the room I’m in, is Scion’s habit of un-namey names for its cars. First came the quirky, toaster-like xB (Disclaimer: a quirky, toaster-like xB currently resides in the YAK home garage), the tC, xA, and xD... and now the new iM and iA (somehow the FR-S, in ALL-CAPS, snuck in there a couple of years back). Love the cars (well, dunno about that xD); not so much the names.

That being said, the new iM might be one of the best small-car bargains out there right now if you’re looking for a sharply-styled, well-equipped, fun to drive five-door hatchback for under 20 grand. (Note to whoever wrote the model descriptions for Automobile magazine’s 2016 new car issue: the iM does NOT replace the xB in Scion’s lineup. I thought this was strange when I read it, but it’s untrue as the not-quite-so-boxy second generation xB is still available for 2016.)

Northtown Scion’s Greg Achramovitch told me last Saturday that I’d have a ball on my test drive, and the iM didn’t let me down at all. For a small car the passenger compartment is surprisingly roomy. Maybe not as spacious as my 2006 xB, but plenty of head and leg room both front and back. Behind the 60/40 folding rear seat is a good-sized (for a compact) cargo area. The dash is well organized and audio and HVAC controls are logically placed and easy to use. The test car had a Black Sand Pearl paint job and a black cloth interior. On the dash and door panels were splashes of piano black trim; and in addition the lower portion of the right two-thirds of the dash had a section of light gray material which looked rather leather-like. It helped break up the monotony of so much black. The steering wheel was surprisingly wrapped in black leather, which added an extra feel of comfort.

In the center of the dash sits a seven-inch touchscreen display which is used for both the audio system and the standard backup camera (which comes in handy with the iM’s small rear windscreen).

The test drive consisted of a bunch of twisty back roads, the highly-travelled highways around UB’s north campus, and the I-990. The back roads were where the iM shined, as its double wishbone rear suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars kept it firmly planted on the roadway. Interstate travel wasn’t a problem at all, as the iM had plenty of power to keep up with (and pass if need be) all kinds of traffic.

All iMs are powered by Toyota’s 1.8L DOHC 4-cylinder engine (What? Oh, surely you already knew that Scions are Toyotas, and are marketed as such in other parts of the world, where the iM is a Toyota Auris). Standard transmission is a six-speed manual, while a CVT automatic is optional. The test car came with the CVT which I thought performed well. It can also be manually shifted with seven stepped shift points. But, who does that? The iM has a sport driving mode button on the console, which I’ll admit to leaving turned on for most of the test drive. The sport mode changes shift points and the steering programming, and also provides different accelerator responsiveness. In other words, it’s more fun to drive but probably uses a tad more fuel. Speaking of which the iM is EPA-rated at 28/37 mpg city/highway with the CVT, and 27/36 with the stick.

Starting prices are: $19,200 for the automatic, and $18,460 for the manual (add delivery charge for both). Included as standard on all iMs: leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel; backup camera; 17-inch alloy wheels; heated, power-folding outside rearview mirrors w/LED turn signal indicators; rear window washer and wiper; chrome-tipped exhaust; Pioneer HD radio with the Aha app (which provides Facebook and Twitter feeds, and access to over 100,000 internet radio choices. Yikes!); daytime running lights; and yes, a lot of other stuff. There really aren’t a lot of options once you get past the transmission and the color choices. No muss, no fuss shopping.

Now if it were only just a bit more quirky and toaster-like...

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