I'm a sucker for a hatchback. So, even though Scion told us not to pick favorites during its recent regional launch of the all-new iA sedan and iM hatchback, I picked a winner before I even started driving.
Sorry, iA, you weren't it.
Of course, when you overhype something in your head before you experience it, there's always the chance that you'll be disappointed with reality.
Not so with the iM.
I liked it just as much as I thought I would - with one exception.
The manual transmission in this car stinks. The clutch point is super high, which is really annoying in stop-and-go traffic. So, it's a good thing that the automatic (a CVTi-S) is pretty awesome. In addition to being quick and smooth, it gets better fuel economy than the manual with an estimated 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The manual transmission drops 1 mpg across the board for 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the higway.
But, yeah, it adds more than $1K to the bottom line.
It's a trade off, but the automatic truly is that much better.
Overall, however, I found that the iM has a smooth and comfortable ride.
As Doug Murtha, group vice president of Scion, pointed out during the press preview, the reason for this is the target age and income of a prospective iM buyer is significantly lower than that of its competitors. With the iM, Scion hopes to hook someone who's about 35 years old, single and has a household income of around $55K.
This buyer will also be very socially connected and value experience over possessions. In effect, the iM will be the "enabler of fun."
So, it makes sense that one of the standard features on the iM includes app integration with Aha Radio, which has the ability to read you your Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds.
It also makes sense that the mono-spec interior includes a sturdy but attractive black material, up-level dash finishes and a 7-inch touch-screen audio display.
The iM actually has a lot of unique features that are either not standard or not available on its competitors, including LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, 17-inch alloy wheels, sport body kit, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8 airbags and a 2-year/25K no-cost maintenance program.
The iM also comes standard with a rear-view backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a USB port, leather-wrapped steering wheel and eight cup holders.
The engine in the iM is a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder that delivers 137 horsepower. I thought this was a really well-powered engine, and it performed the way it should in quick starts and passing modes. While I wouldn't jump out into traffic in front of a Lamborghini, the iM got up to speed on par with most cars on the road.
During our morning drive, I was able to spend time behind the wheel and in the front passenger seat, and I found both positions to be comfortable for long stretches. I had a great driving position and fully appreciated the simple and intuitive placement of all the gauges and dials.
Though the styling isn't as avant-garde as the iA, I still liked it - inside and out. The leather swath on the dash brings an up-level feel to a sub-$20K car, and the long, horizontal lines give it a masculine and athletic look.
I'm particularly fond of the rear profile with the diamond-shaped LED taillights and aggressive trapezoidal stance.
For a car in this segment, I fully appreciated how quiet it was inside. I didn't really hear any wind noise creeping into the cabin on the highway, and engine noise wasn't as omnipresent during hard acceleration.
We tested the Bluetooth connection on my husband, and he actually said that the quality from his end was better than a lot of luxury cars. Initially he heard some wind noise "pffting" into the microphone while the A/C was on, but when we shut that off he said the clarity was "crystal clear."
All in all, the iM totally lived up to my expectations. From the 20.8 cubic feet of cargo volume to the bevy of standard features, the iM lives up to its multifunction purpose. It's attractive, comfortable, easy to drive and totally worth checking out if you have a yen for a hatchback.
Even though I personally liked the iM better, both new entries from Scion are great little cars. And you can check them out yourself soon - both are available at dealers starting Sept. 1.