The Scion iA and iM Deliver Premium Features in an Affordable Package

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Back in March we previewed two bold new additions to the Scion lineup, the 2016 iA and iM. Recently Freshness was invited to Southern California to experience the cars firsthand. Under warmer than usual conditions and brilliant blue skies, we took both the iA and iM for a spin through the winding roads that traverse the hills of Malibu, preceded and followed by a mercifully brief spots of congestion on the famed Pacific Coast Highway. Continue reading for our impressions.

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We start with the iM, a good-looking hatchback that may be familiar to European customers  (overseas, the car is more familiarly known as the Toyota Auris, which itself is based on the Toyota Corolla). And while the hatchback may go by different names depending on the continent you call home, it comes in just one spec (as do all Scion models) which means there’s a boatload of standard features. The exterior is virtually unchanged from the Auris, aside from the addition of a body kit and 17-inch wheels, while the interior is generously appointed in soft-touch surfaces, accented with contrast stitching and piano-black trim.

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Scion’s “mono-spec” take on trim levels means there’s no option to upgrade to a sunroof or leather seats, but that doesn’t mean the interior feels cheap. In addition to the leather-wrapped steering wheel, there’s dual-zone automatic climate control and a 6-speaker Pioneer sound system with Bluetooth. Audio is controlled through an intuitive 7-inch Pioneer Display Audio unit that also doubles as the screen for the standard rear backup camera. There are also all-weather floormats and heated power-folding exterior mirrors that will dispatch morning frost in a hurry.

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Under the hood is Toyota’s 1.8-liter inline-four, generating 137 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 126 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The power output is up to the task for moving the 2,960-pound hatchback. On the on-ramp to a surprisingly free-flowing 101 freeway, the iM merged into traffic with no difficulty, and the continuously variable transmission earned similarly positive marks, especially with the addition of a sport mode that revs the engine higher as it runs through the series of seven simulated gears. Fuel economy is rated at a respectable 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway for the six-speed manual, and 28/37 for the CVT.

Under Scion’s no-haggle pricing, customers can expect to shell out $1,8460 (plus a $795 destination fee) for the manual, and $19,200 for the CVTi-S. The bottom line? The 2016 Scion iM is a lot of car for the money, and you can expect the vehicle to arrive in showrooms in September 2015.

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Launching alongside the iM is the iA, Scion’s first ever sedan. You’d be forgiven for thinking the silhouette is distinctly Mazda-like, as the car is essentially a rebadged Mazda 2, built in Mazda’s Mexico factory through a joint venture with Toyota. Aside from the grille and bumper, the car is virtually unchanged from its antecedent, especially inside the cabin. We were fans of the straightforward setup, complete with the iDrive-like control dial in the center console and seven-inch stand-up infotainment screen with voice recognition. Push-button ignition, rear camera and a pre-collision safety system are all standard.

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The iA is deceptively roomy, and the comfort level for both the driver and passenger side seat was exceptional, especially after adjusting seat height and up to 10 inches of fore and aft positioning. The steering wheel offers tilt and telescoping as well, while out back, the trunk accommodates 13 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

As with the iM, the mono-spec trim means there’s only one engine on offer: Mazda’s 1.5-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine, generating 106 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 103 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Again, like the iM, the performance numbers don’t jump off the page, but they’re perfectly capable of propelling the 2,385-pound car. Fuel economy figures are as follows: 33 mpg in the city and 42 mpg highway with the six-speed automatic transmission; 31 city/ 41 highway with the six-speed manual.

According to Scion, the MacPherson strut front suspension and rear torsion beam axle are tuned to balance sporty handling and a comfortable ride, and it’s an assessment that we discovered was spot-on as we negotiated the canyons of Malibu. Mazda’s old Zoom Zoom tag line was alive and well, as the steering was crisp and attentive, and the brakes ultra-responsive, making the sedan surprisingly fun to drive.

The iA launches in September alongside the iM, with a sticker price of $16,495 for the manual transmission and $17,595 with the six-speed automatic.

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