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Scion Scores First Sedan: 2016 iA

By Sue Mead, July 11th, 2015

Scion, Toyota's brand for young and active buyers, brings its first sedan offering to the North American market when the 2016 Scion iA goes on sale in September.

Manufacturer photo: Scion's first sedan enters the marketplace with serious style
Manufacturer photo: Scion's first sedan enters the marketplace with serious style

Scion debuted in 2002 with a hatchback and wagon, followed by a sports coupe and compact city car. Scion developed a "one-trim, simplified purchase process" and concentrated its advertising efforts on unique, quirky, and offbeat marketing. Its vehicles are identified with an unusual alphabet-based nomenclature, so the 2016 iA joins the xB, tC, and iQ.

While the new iA is badged a Scion, and has been trimmed front and rear with Scion-designed parts, the compact sedan is actually based on the Mazda2 five-door platform, and is built in Mazda's Mexico plant.

The partnership between Toyota and Mazda benefits Scion, bestowing the lineup with a sporty "zoom zoom" model that seats five. Mazda will sell a CX-3 version of this platform as a hatch only.

The iA starts at $15,700 with a manual transmission and $16,800 for an automatic, plus a $795 delivery charge. The iA competes in the subcompact class against the Chevy Sonic, the Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, and Ford Fiesta.

Manufacturer photo: Scion's first sedan enters the marketplace with serious style

The newest Scion features standout styling, especially from the front, where it wears a large hexagonal grille that encompasses the lower and upper air intakes. Noteworthy are the stylish power outside mirrors with LED turn-signal indicators, as well as power windows and locks.

The four-door's side profile is rounded with an arched roof that channels a bit of the VW Beetle; it slopes to a rear shape that is slightly upturned, adorned with attractive taillamps and punctuated by a standard chrome exhaust tip. Although the sedan's wheelbase is 101.2 inches, its length stretches to 171.7 inches; it rides on 16-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels.

Slipping inside, we find an appealing but not over-adorned interior with some chrome touches and pleasant materials. A driver focal point is the large, center-mounted speedometer, with a tachometer, gauges, and an information screen that flank it. The front seats are nicely bolstered and the back seat is a 60/40 split that folds flat.

Standard are remote keyless entry with push-button start; a 7-inch touchscreen display audio with AM/FM/HD radio with six speakers, Bluetooth streaming audio and telephone, voice recognition along with Pandora, Aha and Stitcher radio; an integrated rear-view camera; plus two USB ports and auxiliary jack.

Under the hood is a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 106 horsepower and 103 lb.-ft. of torque. The available six-speed automatic comes with a sport mode that elongates the shift points for more spirited driving and sport performance, for more of a sporty, manual feel. The sedan posts impressive EPA fuel economy ratings of 31/41/35 mpg city/highway/combined for the manual and 33/42/37 for the automatic.

Manufacturer photo: Scion's first sedan enters the marketplace with serious style

One of the most impressive attributes of the new iA is the long list of standard safety features, which includes front airbags, front-seat-mounted side airbags, and front and rear side curtain airbags. The safety system also boasts a laser-based low-speed pre-collision system that operates at slow speeds and helps drivers avoid or minimize a front collision as well as a secondary collision reduction system that adds braking when the vehicle is hit from the rear, in order to reduce the risk of a further impacts. Other safety attributes add dynamic stability control, traction control, LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system for child seats, a tire pressure monitor system, and a first aid kit.

We drove the new sedan in Southern California, along scenic Malibu highways and twisty two-lanes in the Santa Monica mountains. Although we tried out both transmissions, we concentrated our review on the manual model, with a base price and long list of standard features that wowed us.

Powered by Mazda's zippy SkyActiv engine, the iA boasts plenty of mojo on tap and an enjoyable "short-throw" shifter that makes changing gears easy and fun. Notable features include a nicely weighted height-adjustable steering wheel, snugly bolstered and comfortable front seats, and a sport-tuned rear suspension that aids in taking tight corners.

Steering is electric power, while the braking system bundles ABS and electronic brake distribution for confident stopping. The roofline lends itself to drivers of all heights; however the rear seat does not comfortably accommodate three large adults and would be better served for two passengers and/or gear. Gear and goods can also be stowed securely in the iA's trunk.

Also, of note, is Scion's two years or 25,000 miles no-cost maintenance and two years of 24-hour roadside maintenance.

Specifications

Base price $15,700 (as tested: $16,495)
Curb weight 2,385 lbs.
Displacement 1.5-liter
Engine type 16-valve DOHC 4-cyl. w/DI
Epa mileage rating 31 mpg city, 41 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 11.6 gal.
Horsepower (net) 106 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 171.7 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 103 at 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD subcompact sedan
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