Monday, May 23, 2016

This is what the Toyota Matrix should have been

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If you only did a casual look-through of the 2016 Scion iM, you might be impressed. This little hatchback looks pretty good, gets pretty good gas mileage, and is packed full of features. But as you get closer, that twinkle starts to fade.

      To start things off, it isn't quite as exciting as the styling would suggest. It shares its underpinnings with the Toyota Corolla, and while it is more fun to drive than its' cousin, it falls short of sharper compact hatches, like the Ford Focus. Performance is also a major factor. Not only is it slower than most of the competition, but the fuel economy numbers are also not really anything to note.

      On the plus side, the iM does deliver a comfortable ride without being to firm or soft. The front seats also earn honorable mention for the comfort they  provide on longer trips. While the overall cargo space isn't very remarkable, there are plenty of smaller spaces to put smaller items. As such, the iM is more suited to the more active, urban dwelling crowd that need a daily driver that can handle a random road trip.

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      The 2016 Scion iM comes in one well appointed trim level. Standard features include things like 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic headlamps, power folding heated mirrors, full power accessories, keyless entry and ignition, dual zone auto a/c, a tilt and telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seats, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, 7-inch touchscreen and 6-speaker sound system.

      Options include a navigation system, ambient interior lighting, and various sporty body enhancements. You can also get performance enhancements that include an air filter, stiffer sway bars, and lowering springs.

      Powering the 2016 Scion iM is a 1.8 liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 137 horsepower and 126 lb. ft of torque. Power is delivered to the front wheels via either a 6-speed manual transmission, or a CVT. In performance testing, my CVT equipped iM did the run to 60 mph in about 10 seconds, which puts it with the likes of the Fiat 500. Fuel economy numbers are 31 mpg combined for the manual transmission, and and 32 mpg combined for the CVT.

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Standard safety features for the 2016 iM include anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, and a front passenger seat cushion airbag. In brake testing, the iM stops from 60 mph in 123 feet.

      The interior of the Scion iM is competitive in terms of design and material quality, and is truly better than anything that has worn the Scion badge. There are plenty of soft touch areas, with the center console featuring a leather padded portion for the driver's knee. I'm also a fan of the 7-inch touchscreen, which is easy to reach, as well as very easy to use. The standard dual zone auto a/c is also a nice touch.

      If you are taller, you can appreciate the head and leg room, the some extra steering wheel telescoping would be nice. The rear seat isn't quite as nice, but there is a good amount of headroom, and legroom falls below average for the class. Cargo capacity is also smaller than others in the class, with only 20.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats. However, the wide opening makes upright hatch design provides useful space.

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      Despite the sporty styling, the iM has performance that is just adequate. The 4-cylinder engine is rather thrashy and almost gutless, and the acceleration is poor, as expected. The competition is not only more powerful, but better on gas as well. The only bright spot would be the CVT, which does a good job of selecting the proper ratio without being a burden.

      I am also impressed with the ride quality of the iM, which soaks up the bumps, but still has enough firmness to inspire confidence in the twisty bits. However, there is plenty of body-roll, and the steering is devoid of almost any feeling. Overall, it falls short of the standard set by other compact hatchbacks, but I can see why it made the jump to Toyota after the closing of Scion was announced.

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