“I had a big smile on my face as I buckled up to drive a Scion for the first time, but after driving their newest models, it turns out my favorite of the two —is actually a Mazda”
Last week I had the unique opportunity to head out to Grand Rapids, Michigan to test some bright and funky pre-production models of the upcoming Scion iM and iA, and believe it or not, it was my very first time driving a Scion —so I jumped in and went at it with a completely open mind.
The always pleasant powerpoint introduction was over, and I found myself circling over the iM on display checking out its bits and pieces. It wasn’t long until some fellow journalists brought me up to speed about the iM’s European background as the Toyota “Auris”, which has been on sale in Europe since 2006, and even earlier under different names in other parts of the world. Still, being new to the Scion brand, all I knew was that it looked really cool, and I couldn’t wait to drive it.
The next morning came around and I found myself in what seemed like a “Skittles” commercial, surrounded by twelve spunky little Scions, six iM’s and six iA’s —”taste the rainbow.” After fighting to get our Skittle of choice with two superstar journalists from two very important publications, my driving partner whom I shall refer to as “Ford Authority” and I hopped into the “Spring Green Metallic” Scion iM. (coolest color ever)
Driving the iM was entertaining but not necessarily a blast, although the somewhat dull driving route set by Scion didn’t do the iM any favors and may be to blame as we constantly encountered traffic, restricted speed-limit areas, and even a college campus and some rather unusual neighborhoods. On the road the iM feels neutral and stable, but with only 135-hp it’s somewhat reluctant to speed up at cruising speeds. The brakes manage to do the job but are nothing to rave about, and the steering is light and surprisingly communicative and definitely the dynamic highlight of the iM.
Although the iM may not be the sharp sports car its looks make it out to be, it certainly makes up for it in the convenience side of things. Open up the rear hatch and discover the best feature a hatchback has to offer —cargo space. The iM offers 20.8-cubic ft. of rear cargo space with the rear seats up, which is nearly identical to the much more expensive Volkswagen Golf.
Even with its average driving characteristics, I expect the Scion iM to be competitive in its segment, as it is styled and priced aggressively to capture the attention of its target audience. An estimated 28-city, 37-highway and 32mpg-combined, and relatively cheap price tag of $18,460 the iM most likely to be the hip choice of many first-time buyers.
When I first laid eyes on the iA, I thought… Ohhh. Not necessarily in disapproval, but also not in acceptance. The rear end I was fine with, it was the front end that made me think of a droopy whale shark, or even worse —the face Richard Hammond makes to mock frumpy cars.
Then it was time to switch cars and hop out of the iM and into the iA, and I was wise enough to let “Mr. Ford Authority” drive first, as it allowed me to acclimate to the iA’s interiors and understand the whole concept.
I’m no expert on the matter, but it’s hard to ignore the iA’s similarity to the Mazda 2, but it wasn’t until I was inside the car that I realized it wasn’t just some similarity, it was an actual Mazda 2 with Scion badges. But trust me, that’s a really good thing, and for the following reasons…
Sit in the iA and everything from the dash, to the armrests, shifter, steering wheel, and even 7-inch multimedia screen feel superb and much more premium than you’d expect from an economy sedan starting at $15,700. But the real value doesn’t shine through until you hop on the highway and notice it’s relatively quiet, not German quiet, but definitely above segment average.
Driving the iA is best described as sprightly, and charming, and it even tackles highways and back roads with that silly and droopy smile on its face. The mighty machine under the Scion/Mazda-baby produces a whopping 106-hp which you’d expect to be obnoxiously slow, but it isn’t, and even the brakes are firm and playful like in a Mazda.
Need one more reason to like the iA? It’s rated at 31-city, 41-highway, and 35mpg-combined.
I left Grand Rapids with a solid feeling about the iM and iA, and while it’s impossible to not compare the two when driven back to back, it must be noted that these Scions aren’t designed to compete against each other, or even chase after the same demographic. Regardless, the combination of great styling, affordable quality, and a 2-year/25,000-mile No-Cost Maintenance plan should really help these little Scions stand above the rest.
The Scion iA along with the iM will be on sale nationwide on September 1st.