6-speed standard gearbox or 7-speed CVTi-S automatic transmission is the question you need to ask if you are in the market for a Scion iM. We’ve test driven both the iA and the iM hatchback with a manual and we’ve decided it ultimately comes down to what you are looking for in a city runabout. Both are sporty and fun to drive, so we see only three things left: price, fuel mileage, and once again, personal preference.
This week we test drove the all-new 2016 Scion iM automatic 5-Door hatch to try and get to the bottom of it ourselves.
What’s New For 2016?
The 2016 Scion iM 5-Door Hatchback is an all-new compact for Scion. If looks count, the iM wins with a raked front end, black grille, sloped rear hatch, and 17-inch wheels.
Features & Options
The 2016 Scion iM 5-Door hatchback automatic ($19,200) comes in one trim level but with many standard features for the price. It features 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic headlights, power-folding heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping column with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 60/40-split folding rear seats, with a rearview camera.
Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker stereo with HD radio, Aha streaming Internet radio, and a USB interface complete the list of connectivity technology.
Our tester also came with floormats and a cargo mat ($185), wheel locks ($65), and rear bumper protector ($89).
Total MSRP including destination: $20,334.
The cabin of the Scion iM matches the outside with a contemporary design. A dash covered in fashionable piano black features swooping lines and round vents. There’s a lot of upscale, soft-touch trim throughout. The height-adjustable front seats are supportive and the upholstery is average for an economy compact. We liked the simple instrument layout, dual-zone climate control, and the standard 7-inch touchscreen is easy to reach and reacts quickly.
The backseat is not as roomy as the front and there’s not a lot of cargo room in back (20.8 cubic feet) when the rear seatbacks are up, but they’re still 60/40 and fold flat for some cargo carrying ability. The rearview camera is a welcome feature as the rear hatch window is small and visibility is limited when backing up.
Visibility out the front is good with the small pillars, raked hood, and big front windshield.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The Scion iM is powered by a high-revving, 1.8-liter four-cylinder that is shared with the Toyota Corolla. It produces 137 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. Our iM tester had the 7-speed CVTi-S automatic transmission that transfers power to the front wheels. Fuel economy is an EPA estimated 28/37 city/highway mpg and 32 combined with the CVTi-S.
You can also get the 6-speed gearbox that is standard on the Scion iM. The hatch comes with Scion’s Service Boost, which features free maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles.
Here’s where the difference lies with the 2016 Scion iM hatch. Should you get the optional 7-speed CVTi-S automatic transmission or the standard 6-speed manual gearbox? The iM automatic felt lively and light in the corners west of Denver as we tossed the subcompact around the tight mountain curves. When we took it on the open road, the automatic feels like any Continuously Variable Transmission and winds up tight when pushed it hard.
It’s not as enjoyable as the manual gearbox and it’s the price you pay for squeezing out an extra mile per gallon.
The Scion iM is a sporty compact but it’s not a sports hatch and it won’t blow the doors off with its acceleration, but it holds its own after you get up to speed. We dropped the 7-speed CVTi-S automatic into sport mode and kept the revs up for more spirited driving in the tight mountain curves. Where the automatic has a benefit over the manual is when we were in heavy, stop-and-go city traffic this week. It gets tiring when you have to continually push in the clutch to move a few feet forward.
In the city, we would choose the CVTi-S.
The six-speed manual gearbox dials up driver engagement and is higher on the fun-to-drive meter than the automatic, however. The manual shift is more a driver’s car than the automatic. The six-speed manual gearbox is made for driving enthusiasts but fuel economy is less than with the automatic.
We like the CVTi-S for an urban runabout and it gets one mpg better than the manual. The MSRP is $740 more for the automatic. That’s about 26 fill ups or 6-12 months depending on how much you drive to get back the one mpg savings. So it really comes down to driver preference whether you get the 7-speed CVTi-S automatic or the 6-speed manual.
Because the 6-speed manual dials up driver engagement and is higher on the fun-to-drive meter, we would choose to shift ourselves and have more fun driving the 2016 Scion iM 5-Door hatch.
Which transmission would you choose?
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy