By Frank S. Washington
NNPA Columnist

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NNPA) – It’s been more than 36 months since Scion has introduced a new product. That’s light years for an automotive brand to go without new sheet metal. Yes, there were reasons: a tsunami in Japan, a nuclear power plant meltdown there and the effort to get the volume brand, Toyota, stabilized.

Now it is Scion’s turn because that sort of lull can spell trouble for an automotive brand that has been around for only 12 years. Scion was created to attract new and younger customers and that requires distinctive products. We came here to test two: the 2016 Scion iA and 2016 Scion iM.

Both subcompacts are aimed at buyers less than 35 years old, one is a hatchback while the other is a sedan. And they look nothing alike. The iA sedan had a familiar face with the distinctive hexagon lower grille and sharp-eyed headlights that made it stand out. It also had a piano black bumper treatment, chrome grille surround and chrome tailpipe

The iA had 16-inch alloy wheels, a piano black grille, reflector headlamps, a chrome tipped exhaust and side view mirrors with LED turn signal indicators.

The sedan, it was the smaller of the two cars, had push button start, a low-speed collision avoidance system, a 7-inch touch screen, two USB jacks, Bluetooth, voice recognition and power windows, doors and locks. The car was well equipped, especially for its price point.

It had a base price of $15,700 and $16,800 for the six speed manual gear box and the six speed automatic transmission, respectively. The $795 freight charge is not included.

Those transmissions were mated to a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that made 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. With a manual transmission, the car got 31 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway and 35 mpg combined. Equipped with the automatic the numbers were 33 mpg in the city, 42 mpg on the highway and 37 combined.

What was surprising about the iA was the interior. The material on the dash was high quality and it had a nice feel. What’s more, the entire dash was soft touch. In a place where the car could have really looked cheap, Scion went in the opposite direction and gave the iA a top-notch interior. However, the plastic template on the overhead console needs to be changed because it did look inexpensive.

On the road, the iA was quiet and stable. The engine provided enough power for everyday use. Our test vehicle had an automatic transmission which was capable and smooth shifting.

The iM too had a piano black grille and projector headlamps. Moving it a bit upstream, it had heated power folding side view mirrors with LED turn signals. It had a sport body kit, shark fin antenna, and LED taillights with guide design and 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there was a 4.2-inch TFT information screen, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio, informational and handless phone controls.

The car was powered by a 1.8-liter four cylinder engine that made 137 horsepower. Like the iA, there were two transmission choices. A six-speed manual and a CVT with a 7-step shifting program. The manual transmission got 27 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway and the 31 mpg combined. We didn’t get the chance to test drive the CVT but Scion said it was rated at 28 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined.

The manual had a base price of $18,460 while the CVT was based priced at $19,200. Neither price included the $795 freight charge.

Our car was stable on the road, it had a high seating position and there was plenty of space, headroom included, for two grown men in the front seats. We tried the back seat and that, too, was spacious and comfortable.

There was a high rev point for the clutch to engage. We got used to that quickly and there was virtually no engine revving to find the gear. This car was smooth shifting and very docile on the road.

The only cautionary note is that Scion plans a dual launch of the cars. They didn’t have any examples of advertising, thus, at this point we cannot make a judgment. But either or, the iA and the iM seemed to be pretty good urban everyday drivers.

Frank S. Washington is editor of


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