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2016 Scion iM review: 2016 Scion iM's sporty looks disguise surprisingly sensible shoes

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The Good With its racy yet utility-rich hatchback shape and a well-crafted, equipment-rich interior, the 2016 Scion iM should appeal to first-time buyers.

The Bad The iM's sporty bodywork promises a significantly more engaging drive than the humble 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission can deliver. Scion's mono-spec strategy means that you have no option choices beyond transmission, so if you want items like a sunroof or HID headlamps, you're out of luck.

The Bottom Line The 2016 Scion iM is an attractive, value-priced compact car with good space, but ultimately middling efficiency and underwhelming driving dynamics.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall

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Scion isn't even old enough to qualify as a teenager yet, but like any good adolescent, it's already gotten itself into quite a lot of trouble over its brief life.

Launched in 2003 to much fanfare, Toyota's youngest marque reached its sales zenith in 2006, and today, demand for its models is less than half of what it was at its peak. Once hailed as an incubator for risky designs and as a model for attracting younger, hipper customers, Scion has languished in recent years, in part due to a dearth of new products.

That changes starting right now, with the Scion iM hatchback shown here, along with an even less expensive new sedan sourced from Mazda dubbed iA. Both models hit showrooms this month, and they're the first tangible sign in years that Toyota hasn't given up on its experimental small-car brand. These cars are worth paying attention to, because they're well constructed and offer good value.

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In profile, the Scion iM recalls the defunct Toyota Matrix (that's not a bad thing).

Chris Paukert/CNET

The iM seen here isn't technically isn't a new model, it's just new to North America. The five-door hatchback is a lightly reworked version of Toyota's second-generation Auris, a European Corolla derivative that's been sold elsewhere since 2012. Despite already being a few years old, the iM looks and feels fresh, with a surprisingly aggressive visage, high content levels and smart packaging.

If you're eyeing the iM's rakish two-box form, aero kit and showy directional alloy wheels and thinking this is a hot hatch, what's under the hood should quickly disabuse you of that notion. Toyota's well-known 1.8-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder is the only engine offering. As a powerplant that's already seen millions of miles of road under the hood of the humdrum Corolla, it's a perfectly adequate method of motivation that's both smooth and reasonably quiet. But with just 137 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque, it's not exactly a recipe for excitement (unless you're the sort of person that gets breathless about reliability surveys).

Still reading? Good. Even if the iM isn't an enthusiast's budget-priced dream, the iM still has a lot to recommend. For one thing, it's inexpensive. Priced out-the-door at $19,255 with a manual transmission or $19,995 for the two-pedal model I drove, it's borderline cheap. It comes with lots of standard trimmings, including rearview camera, a decent-sounding Pioneer six-speaker touchscreen audio system, 17-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control.

Scion is not marketed in Australia or the UK.

Scion has decided to go with a "mono-spec" approach, meaning there are essentially no options beyond an available navigation system, so if you want items like HID headlamps, a moonroof or leather, you're out of luck. The aforementioned optional navigation unit comes across like an aftermarket system from a few years ago. Its controls are occasionally confusing (why push "MEDIA" in order to get to the navigation function?), its graphics aren't terribly crisp and it doesn't offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. However it will stream Pandora through your smartphone and it does have decent voice recognition software.

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