The Scion brand had just crossed into its teen years when parent company Toyota announced in February that the brand would be disbanded by August and the cars rebranded for Toyota.
Loyalists may feel abandoned, but Scion’s lineup was just a variation of existing Toyota models. The brand was launched in 2003 as an edgy upstart to reach the booming market of millennials getting ready to leave the nest and get real jobs.
The recession took its toll on that plan. That’s because several years later, millennials weren’t interested in cheap, edgy cars. They had become pragmatic — with an appetite for the finer things.
So much for youths going against the grain. But that still leaves the Scion FR-S sporty coupe, the subcompact iA sedan (by Mazda) and the five-door iM hatchback, today’s test car. All three will be rebranded Toyotas for the 2017 model year. The current tC coupe will have a final release series edition and end production in August. And the C-HR, which debuted at the L.A. Auto Show, will be added to the Toyota lineup.
The iM is essentially a Toyota Corolla hatchback that is sold in other parts of the world. It is a youthful car with fast styling, zippy drivability and room for friends or making the move into a new apartment. Starting prices are doable for a gainfully employed young person: $19,255 with six-speed manual or $19,995 with a continuously variable automatic transmission; pricing includes the $795 freight charge from Japan.
To sweeten the package, Scion fattened the standard equipment list. It includes 17-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, four-wheel disc brakes, a body kit for that low and wide look, power heated and folding side mirrors with turn signals, eight air bags, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for cruise and audio, dual-zone air-conditioning, rearview camera, 60/40 split folding rear bench seat, eight cup or bottle holders, and a six-speaker Pioneer audio system with seven-inch touch screen that has Bluetooth and app connectivity.
And from there, the buyer can add a la carte accessories, such as a navigation system, a rear spoiler or diffuser. And there is a line of Toyota Racing Development extras, such as lowering springs, sway bar or billet oil cap.
The 137-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine has fuel economy ratings of 28 miles per gallon city, 37 highway and 32 miles per gallon combined, but I was averaging only about 28.6 miles per gallon in a week of driving. The 14-gallon tank allows a wide cruising range.
I’m not a fan of continuously variable transmissions in sporty cars, but I like how this one replicates seven shift points. It launches quickly when needed without a howl of motor boating noise as the engine and transmission catch up with each other. My fuel economy suffered, no doubt, because I drove in Sport mode most of the time and enjoyed the car’s snarky attitude. Weighing a modest 3,031 pounds, there was easy playtime with the iM (front-wheel drive) and it is quite forgiving in its handling.
Ride quality is firm, not harsh, but there is highway road noise. That’s when the Pioneer audio system comes in handy.
It is a roomy cabin with 39.7 inches of front headroom. The front-seat area is functional with bolstered sport seats with short bottoms and firm padding. The front passenger seat has no height adjustment, which has an isolating effect looking across the expansive dashboard.
The first things to be seen and touched are appealing, such as the hefty steering wheel with neat baseball stitching. There is trendy piano-black trim pieces and fabric door inserts, but look deeper and there is a lot of basic plastic that other brands do better.
The center stack in the instrument panel includes buttons and switches for heat-vent-AC, which are safe access points, rather than touch screen controls that usually take eyes from the road. I also liked the manual parking brake lever at the shifter console (it’s just easy to use) and the charging bin ahead of the shifter. Vinyl visors have covered and lighted mirrors.
There are lots of small storage areas, including in the center armrest console, a large (nonlocking) glove box and in the door panels.
There’s not much in the way of back seat legroom — 32.7 inches — but the bench is raised with a fold-down armrest and there is a very low center tunnel hump, which will help three-across footroom.
The cargo area is compact — about 38 1/2 inches wide by 55 inches long — but the opening is shallow at 27 inches for loading bulky items or bikes.
The iM may not be the most sophisticated compact, but it is true to its Scion mantra to be simple and cheap to own.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage