Scion iA a snazzy low-cost small sedan
Rarely has so little felt like so much.
Scion delivers possibly the highest value car for the entry-level market and does it with a good looking small sedan that is value priced and yet looks and feels much more like a mid-priced compact sedan.
The new iA, and we could quibble about the name, is a delight. Based on the Mazda2 platform, the iA delivers much more than the Mazda, which is a small hatchback. While I love hatchbacks for their usefulness, this sedan simply feels like it can take on and beat the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent and Chevy Sonic, to name a few competitors.
I expected less, but got a lot more than I’d anticipated.
First, the iA feels well built, no rattles, good fit and finish. That shouldn’t be surprising as Scion is Toyota’s low-cost brand aimed at young buyers, hence the funky naming convention. Toyota is betting an i-anything will sell. But Scion has a history of alphabet soup models, its earlier models being the tC, xA and xB. (Remember when x-everything was hot?)A new hatchback I’ll review shortly is the iM. Enough about initials, the message is look beyond the name.
While the Mazda2 hatch rides on a 98-inch wheelbase and is just 155.5 inches long, Scion’s iA extends the wheelbase to 101.2 inches and overall dimensions to 171.7 inches in length. That translates to a lot more room in a small car, and makes it pretty darned comfortable.
Handling is the car’s strongpoint. At just 2,416 lbs. the iA is light and lithe. Its steering is responsive and you can move the car around in traffic like a fancy go-kart. This isn’t a racer, naturally, so there’s a little body lean in tight corners, but the car is fun to drive.
The 106-horsepower 1.5-liter I4 engine is no racehorse either. Linked to a 6-speed automatic, the iA offers modest acceleration normally, featuring 103 ft.-lbs. of torque. But you don’t have to lollygag. If you need more get-up-and-go, just toggle the Sport mode button on the console near the shifter and bingo, you’re in business. Now the iA will accelerate quicker, holding the lower gears longer to boost the revs and provide more oomph. Better yet, get to about 40 mph and then toggle back to keep the revs low and gas mileage high.
The EPA says you should get 33 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. I got a quite satisfactory 35.9 mpg in about 60% city driving. Would I have liked a few more horses and a bit more torque, sure, but these numbers make you feel pretty good when you can fill up the car after a week’s drive and get change back from your $20 bill!
Even at 101 inches, the wheelbase isn’t long, but it creates a relatively comfortable ride around town and on the highway until you hit the worst cement streets with large expansion joints. Then the ride can turn a bit jittery, but certainly for its size the iA rides well and is competitive with other small entry-level cars.
As much fun as I had driving the iA, its interior was possibly more impressive. No cheap plastic look and feel here.
The graphite gray (dark metallic gray) test car featured a black and blue cloth interior with what looked like black leather trim on the dash. In any case it added softness to the dash, which is black textured plastic with a softer feel than most entry-level cars. The seats had blue stitching and the cloths seats included blue in the seating pattern to give the car a bit of style and subtle color inside. Trim included fake carbon fiber on the driver’s armrest and steering wheel hub.
Seats are manually adjusted, but comfortable and well-shaped with the driver’s seat having a pump handle to adjust seat height. Granted I’m a shorty, but we got three adults in the car and no one complained about leg or headroom. If a driver were tall, that could compromise legroom behind that seat.
Dash design is clean. I wish more dashes were this simple and well laid out. Only the radio/nav screen extended up from mid-dash, otherwise it was wide and uncluttered with three round air vents adding a bit of style. While the test car had no nav system, the radio was simple to figure out and work, despite controls being mainly a sort-of mouse on the console.
The speedometer had a techy look with a digital pod next to that, push button start and a tilt steering wheel. I’d like one that also telescoped, but I did not have any trouble getting comfortable behind this wheel. The hub did include cruise control, phone buttons and others to access info from the trip computer. Six airbags also are standard in the iA.
Climate controls were three big round knobs – easy to figure out and use. The iA also comes with multiple electrical outlets for your electronic toys, phone, etc. And the trunk is huge, although Scion gives no dimensions for it. I’d guess it at 13.5-14 cubic feet. Rear seats split and fold.
This one had no extras on it either, so the base price of $16,800 and $770 delivery means a new car for $17,570. That’s darned attractive in today’s marketplace. You can go a bit cheaper by selecting the iA with 6-speed manual transmission, which lists at $16,495, plus the delivery fee.
By comparison, a Mazda2 Sport, its base hatch, starts at $15,515 and has less horsepower, less torque, less room, one fewer gears in the gearbox and rides on 15-inch vs. 16-inch tires for the Scion. Even upgrading to an automatic in the Mazda gets you just four speeds vs. six in the Scion gearbox.
Value, comfort and a bit of fun factor make the Scion iA a solid choice for a first-time car buyer. Darn if I don’t like this little sedan!
STATS: 2016 Scion iA
Hits: Good looks for inexpensive sedan, low price, great gas mileage, nice handling and peppy in Sport mode. Comfy seats, handsome and clean dash and interior with many electrical outlets, big trunk and will carry four adults.
Misses: Ride can be a bit jittery at times.
Made in: Salamanca, Mexico
Engine: 1.5-liter, I4, 106 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 2,416 lbs.
Length: 171.7 in.
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
MPG: 33/42 (EPA)
MPG: 35.9 (tested)
Base Price: $16,800
Dealer’s Price: $16,755 (includes delivery)
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $17,570
Sources: Scion, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Mark Savage