The all-new 2016 Scion iA is a four-door subcompact sedan.
At 172 inches long, 67 inches wide and 58.5 inches high, the Scion iA is about the same dimensions as the Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta, and Nissan Versa. It uses the same wheelbase of 101 inches as the new Mazda CX-3. Scion iA also competes with the Mazda 2 and Toyota Yaris, which have new models coming before the middle of 2016.
The new Scion iA is powered by a 1.5-liter engine making 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. Despite the fact that Scion is a Toyota brand, the Scion iA does not use the same 1.5-liter engine as in the Toyota Yaris. The iA engine is made by Mazda, using direct injection with a high 12:1 compression ratio. It’s tuned for fuel mileage, with an EPA rating of 31/41 mpg City/Highway with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, or 33/42 mpg with the available 6-speed automatic.
Acceleration performance is lackluster, but both the automatic and manual transmissions work well, especially the manual.
It’s quite light at 2400 pounds, but a strong structure brings a good ride and handling. Handling is athletic and lively yet the iA rides smoothly over bumps, noteworthy given that the suspension is relatively unsophisticated.
Standard safety equipment includes front and rear side-curtain bags and a rearview camera.
With Mazda as a partner for this car, it’s no surprise the Scion iA looks like a Mazda, with a bold trapezoidal grille and blacked-out front fascia that sweeps out and down. It also looks like a small version of the Kia Forte. The nose might be the most aggressive of any subcompact. The headlamps and taillights look more Scion, while the chrome and black piano trim looks trendy.
The profile, too, looks Mazda-like. The sculpted fenders flow in arcs over the wheels to the rear end, which brings the trapezoid shape back.
Inside, the Scion looks more like a Mercedes-Benz, with circular vents and an upright touchscreen like in the CLA-Class. Overall, the narrow cabin feels more like a cockpit than other subcompacts, and is definitely posh for such a low-cost car, with good fit and finish, and soft-touch trim. However, the upholstery material looks cheap.
Tall drivers benefit from a driver’s seat that adjusts up and down and slides forward and back a full 10 inches.
No surprise, the back seat is cramped for two adults, though there are three seatbelts. The good news in back is that the flat-folding rear seat opens to a large trunk.
Some of Mazda’s mission from Scion was to make the iA feel sporty. That mission was limited by cost, however, stuck with the basic suspension of MacPherson struts in front and torsion beam in rear, with drum brakes. But if anyone can make such a car fun to drive it’s Mazda, and they have.
The iA feels lively and light, with only 2400 pounds to toss around on 16-inch alloy wheels. The handling is athletic, and the electric power steering feels good.
The composed ride makes the iA feel like a bigger and more expensive car. Even over bumps at higher speeds, it’s smooth.
The acceleration from a standing start sure won’t knock your socks off, but it gets better as it goes (with only 2400 pounds to carry).
The 6-speed automatic has a sport mode that does a good job of keeping rpm at 4000 for spirited driving. Too bad the digital tachometer is small and gimmicky, almost unreadable with a gray display at the edges.
The 6-speed manual gearbox is delightful, with short throws and precise shifts. However, only 10 percent of buyers will go out of their way to choose it, and fuel economy is lower.
It’s hard to go wrong with the iA for the price of less than $17,000. Great powertrain, four doors, fun handling, and generous standard equipment.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. Sam Moses contributed to this report.