The closure of Scion last year was mourned by many as it offered something different from the plain jane vehicles on the market. But those who kept a close watch on the industry were not surprised, due to its lack of new product announcements. Before departing into the great parking lot in the sky, Scion introduced two new vehicles for 2016: the subcompact iA sedan and the compact iM hatchback. As the parent company, Toyota decided to bring these models along with the FR-S into their lineup for 2017, and the vehicle initially known as the Scion iM has been renamed the Toyota Corolla iM.
The only significant change for the 2017 Corolla iM’s exterior is a badge swap— otherwise, it retains the sharp and distinctive looks praised by critics at its introduction. A sloping front end comes with a dual mesh grille setup and sporty bumper, and for the rear, Toyota keeps the distinctly styled tailgate and large taillights. A set of 17-inch alloy wheels adds a nice final touch.
It’s a shame that we cannot say the same about the Corolla iM’s interior, however. Like the Corolla sedan, the Corolla iM features a plain-looking cabin with black trimming that makes the interior feel smaller than it actually is. Surprisingly, the Corolla iM is slightly nicer than the Corolla sedan in terms of material quality, with more soft-touch plastics at key touch points. The intuitive and accessible layout is a highlight as well, with many controls located within easy reach for both the driver and front passenger. All Corolla iMs come with a 7-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and voice recognition, although Toyota still doesn’t offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Finding a comfortable position in the Corolla iM isn’t too hard, thanks to the 6-way manual seat adjustments and tilt-telescoping steering wheel. However, the seats lack the support needed for long-distance trips, and legroom for rear passengers is towards the bottom the class (although headroom is above average). But the Corolla iM does redeem itself when it comes to cargo space, as it offers 20.8 cubic feet behind the rear, beating a number of competitors.
Under the Corolla iM’s hood is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine offering up 137 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. Performance is underwhelming, and its 0-to-60 time of 10 seconds places it alongside the Nissan Sentra as the slowest two models in the class. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available as an option. The manual transmission is preferred by reviewers over the CVT—the manual feels more in tune with the engine’s characteristics, while the CVT doesn’t mesh well with the engine and seems to only make more noise. Low power figures typically mean impressive fuel-economy numbers, although not in the Corolla iM. The EPA rates it at 27 mpg city, 35 highway, and 30 combined for the manual and 28, 36, and 31 for the CVT, putting it towards the bottom of the pack.
While it might not have the sporting charm of the Mazda Mazda3 or the Volkswagen Golf, the Corolla iM does offer competent handling characteristics. Entering a corner, it exhibits nimbleness and little body roll, although the somewhat lifeless and numb steering will disappoint some and put off the idea of enthusiastic driving. For the daily grind, however, the Corolla iM does just fine, and its suspension provides one of the smoothest rides in the class.
The Corolla iM does give many of its competitors a run for their money when it comes to safety features. All models are equipped with Toyota Safety Sense C, which includes a pre-collision warning system with automatic braking, lane-departure alert, and automatic high beams. Oddly, the Corolla iM doesn’t offer radar cruise control like the Corolla sedan, although it does come standard with 8 airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and tire-pressure monitoring.
As for pricing, the 2017 Corolla iM begins at $18,750 with the 6-speed manual transmission and $19,490 with the CVT.
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