“The 2016 Scion iA is based on the Mazda2 (and is the only way U.S. buyers can get their hands on that car, which Mazda is not offering here). It’s easy to be dismissive of a carmaker that doesn’t actually make its own cars, but it’s difficult to fault Scion for this particular move. The Scion iA is likely far better to drive than anything Toyota would have built to take its place. Smoother and quieter than Mazda’s larger four-cylinder engines, the 1.5-liter in the iA spins happily to redline, although you’ll have to shift by sound, as the chintzy digital tachometer is too small to read and washes out in sunlight. With just 106 horsepower onboard, the iA needs a full nine seconds to reach 60 mph. Consequently, we drove everywhere with the gas pedal flat, lifting only to kick in the perfectly weighted clutch pedal and shift the sweet six-speed manual gearbox. This may sound like the definition of a penalty box, but actually, driving the iA hard is a riot.”
Scion iM, iA: Snazzy, practical and a pleasant surprise behind the wheel
“The iA’s fuel economy also ranks high. The EPA rates it at 33 m.p.g. in the city, 42 on the highway and 37 combined. The combined number beats all competitors. The fuel-economy win is important, because the iA isn’t likely to win any sprints or slaloms. At about 2,416 pounds, the car I tested is lighter than all competitors but the Yaris, but acceleration is a major challenge. The transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, but the engine labors. The steering is predictable and responsive, except for a pronounced tendency to wander on grooved pavement. The suspension is tuned for comfort. There’s plenty of body roll in fast turns. Tires that were chosen for fuel economy, not grip, hold the road adequately, but the iA won’t generate much interest from the tuner set. That, of course, will delight parents considering an iA for their kids. The roomy, comfortable front seat should please them, as will a back seat that’s serviceable but unlikely to host many teenage trysts.”
“The Mazda DNA can be appreciated in the responsive steering and capable road holding that make the iA more fun to drive than its peers, like the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Toyota Yaris. Ride quality is decent for the class, having poise on rough surfaces, although on some pavement, a taut rebound can be felt. The driver’s space is narrow, with tight pedal placement and an intruding center stack that risks forming a knee callus from rubbing. The front bucket seats are fairly supportive. Controls are straightforward, aside from the Mazda touch screen perched atop the dashboard like an iPad Mini tablet. The screen-based controls, such as for audio and navigation ($419 option), require a practiced hand on a rotary knob positioned between the seats. The mode selection buttons that flank the controller require one’s eyes to move far, far away from the task at hand: driving. The cabin inside the 2016 Scion iA is nicely finished with a sprinkling of soft-touch elements and tasteful accents that visually separate the iA from some rivals. Backseat space is intimate with limited head room, aggravated by the sloped roof and intrusive head rests. For the class, some standard equipment serves as a welcomed treat, including low-speed pre-collision system, backup camera, and keyless ignition. Active safety systems are appreciated at this price category, and, frankly, are rare even on many mainstream models. This may especially benefit the youthful drivers this car targets.”
“The iM is certainly not a breakthrough of any sort, not like the xB was a generation ago when it put Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion brand on the automotive map. Rather, it’s just the essence of what it takes to win with any product these days, a good value and, as we saw in the hills near Los Angeles, fun to drive. On a drive through the mountains around Malibu, the iM performed admirably. It whipped through corners and its 137-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine just purred along. We dared to try one with the six-speed manual transmission, fun but only about 10% of buyers will opt for the manual. That said, the short-throw shifter and the clutch were both a little stiff, which appeals to enthusiasts but might be a bit too much to novices. None of that will matter to the expected 90% who are expected to embrace the CVT. The CVT version is rated at 28 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg overall. The city and highway rating are 1 mpg higher than the stick-shift version. All in all, Scion’s new iM comes across as a stylish value play, a step up from today’s humdrum economy cars. It's sweet spot is sure to be those who want a dependable small car that still has some panache.”
“Considering the two cars’ circuitous lineages, they’re both surprisingly stable and even responsive to drive, at least by the standards of their individual classes.
“The iM is remarkably quiet in seemingly all circumstances. We didn’t run a dB meter in it or anything, but we’ll guess it’s as quiet as sedans a class or two up. CVT transmissions are getting better all the time, and this is certainly one of the better examples of that increasingly popular technology. For just tooling around town, you might not even know it’s a CVT, despite Scion’s programming in seven of those fake “steps” in the shifting algorithm. Step sternly on the throttle and you might notice some higher-revving whine from the 1.8-liter four -- peak output of 137 hp comes well up on the tach at 6,100 rpm, so to really make it move you’ll need some revs. Torque peak of 126 lb-ft also comes higher up on the scale too, at 4,000 rpm. Those numbers will move the 2,943-pound manual iM and 3,031-pound automatic around the city at respectable, if not impressive, rates. The six-speed manual clutch engages fairly high up in the pedal travel, which means a little more work for the driver. Inside, there is plenty of room for adults both front and back. There’s not a lot of luggage space behind the second-row folding seats, but overall -- especially considering its $19,255 starting sticker -- it’s a perfectly competent competitor in the class. The question is how many buyers will want this over a Mazda 3 iTouring, Focus SE, Elantra GT or Golf S, the competitors Scion lists for it.
“The iA, meanwhile ... well, Scion says that, of the focus groupers who liked it, style was one of the things they liked most. So there you go. Behind the wheel in the automatic (not a CVT), the car feels really plodding. Once you step on it, however, it shows its Mazda Zoom Zoom and responds with stable and predictable understeer on twisty mountain two-lanes. We are reminded that we liked driving the Mazda 2, too. The manual transmission is no short-throw Miata, though, requiring lengthy pulls to change gears and, again, longer clutch-pedal takeup before engagement. But if you’re feeling like your iA is too slow, that’s only in the lower rev ranges -- just stomp on the throttle, and it’ll rise nicely to the occasion. The tiny 1.5-liter manages only 106 hp total and 1 mpg more peak highway mileage than the 1.8 in the iM, though, another potential hit on iA sales. Still, 42 mpg highway is pretty darn good. And sticker price starts at $16,495, which is downright affordable.”