First Drive Review: The All-New Scion iA

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2016 Scion iA Profile

The Scion iA is one of two all-new models Scion launched for 2016. The iM is a small hatchback while the iA is a compact sedan. The iA is built on the Mazda2 platform in a joint venture with Mazda, which sets up the expectation that it will bring some Mazda-ness to the endeavor. It does, but not as much as hoped.

Styling on the Scion iA includes a gaping front grille that is a love it or hate it proposition. It puts all the emphasis on the front of the car overwhelming the rest of the design. It’s set off by daytime running lamps, halogen headlamps, 16″ alloy wheels, and a chrome tipped exhaust in the rear. The effect leans heavily towards being a sedan rather than something sporty and fun.

2016 Scion iA Front

The Scion brand targets a younger demographic, so cost was a huge consideration in choosing what to include as standard features. This is a big deal because Scion vehicles are mono-spec. That means there is one and only one trim rather than a slew of trims with varying levels of features and pricing. You get to choose only your color and either a manual for $16,945 or automatic for $17,595. Those low prices don’t mean the Scion iA is stripped down to nothing.

Standard features include backup camera, power windows and doors, remote keyless entry, push button start, tilt/telescopic steering with audio controls, and cruise control. There are sport front seats that are height adjustable for the driver, rear seats that split 60/40, and a trunk with 13.49 cubic feet for cargo. The seats are comfortable with only the tallest passengers feeling cramped and then only if they’re sitting in back. You can fit three back there in reasonable comfort, but it’s best suited to two for longer trips.

2016 Scion iA Interior

While the front end of the car may not be everyone’s thing, the inside is truly very nice. The materials look and feel good, nothing appears cheap, and it looks like it should cost a bit more. There’s a 7″ touchscreen for infotainment with AM/FM/HD radio, voice recognition, SMS text messaging, and a decent 6-speaker sound system. There is also one auxiliary jack and two USB ports. Again, there’s more here than you’d expect for the price which is something Scion does very well.

Under the hood is a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. Those are small numbers and it shows with acceleration that is fine on city streets, but lacking on uphill stretches and getting up to speed on the highway. The plus side is EPA fuel economy of 33/42/37 mpg city/high/combined for the automatic with slightly lower numbers for the manual. This is perfect for the budget-conscious set that is this car’s market. Saving money at the pump is more of a priority than driving dynamics behind the wheel.

2016 Scion iA Rear

Despite the lackluster acceleration, steering is solid and on center with plenty of feedback that made it fun to take through twisting roads outside Philadelphia. A little more power is all the iA needs to edge it into some truly wonderful territory.

The all-new 2016 Scion iA is an entry-level compact sedan with plenty of appeal. It has unique exterior styling, a beautiful, well-equipped interior, and a price that puts it in reach for those who might not be able to afford other similarly equipped cars.