After the Great Recession, Scion was in a bit of a situation. Their young, hip, funky looking cars hadn’t been updated in awhile, and the Millennials that they were targeted closed up their wallets and stopped spending. While most of the economy has recovered, Scion’s product line still hasn’t really changed much. Yes, they have the FR-S, but what about cars that appeal to more people? Enter the Scion iA.
(Editor’s Note: Scion invited me to Grand Rapids, Michigan and put me in a swanky hotel to drive their new tiny cars. The crème brûlée was pretty epic.)
The Scion iA is, without a doubt, my favorite subcompact car of the moment (that isn’t a hopped up car like the Fiesta ST). I like it better than my Ford Fiesta I currently own. I like it better than the Mazda 2 or the Chevrolet Spark. Basically, if you name a subcompact runabout, I’ll like the new Scion iA better than that.
There’s a few reasons why I think the Scion iA is so good. But the main one is that it’s actually a Mazda. Yes folks, the Scion iA is built on the second-generation Mazda 2 platform that isn’t currently available for sale in the United States. Per their agreement with Mazda, Scion will sell the sedan version and Mazda will sell the hatchback (assuming they decide to sell it here).
Mazda consulted with Toyota on design elements of the car, which means the interior materials are far nicer than were in the previous Mazda 2. While yes, it’s still an inexpensive car, it doesn’t look as cheap as it used to inside. Additionally, the rest of the car is Mazda-spec. That includes the engine, drivetrain, suspension, and infotainment.
If you get the car with the manual transmission, you get 6 forward gears. You can spec it with an automatic that isn’t terrible and also has 6 gears, but this car really benefits from the stick shift. There’s something to be said about the joy in driving a slow car fast, and this is a very, very good slow car.
The handling is borderline sublime, thanks to the extreme light weight of the car. If I’m not mistaken, the Scion iA is the lightest 4-door car currently on sale in the United States. It’s obvious in everything it does. It really is a delight to drive.
Thanks to the light weight and manual transmission gearing, the 106 hp engine really doesn’t feel that slow. Yes, it is on paper, but in driving experience it’s not bad. You can actually pull out and overtake another car if you want to.
The manual transmission itself is also a hoot to use. It’s not quite Miata snick-snick, but it is one of the better transmissions I’ve used. Plus, the 6th gear gives you better highway manners. Cars like the Ford Fiesta only have 5 gears in the manual transmission.
The level of standard equipment in the iA is also quite impressive. Air conditioning, cruise control, and satellite navigation are all standard. The infotainment system is also lifted straight from Mazda, and is respectfully better than other Scion infotainment systems we’ve used in the past. You can control it via a touch screen or through a control knob in the center console.
Bluetooth is available for both phone calls and audio, and Pandora support is also built in. It’s fast, it’s responsive, it’s useful, and it’s something you don’t find in a $16,000 car.
How fuel efficient is it? How is it to live with everyday? I have no idea, because an initial product introduction isn’t a long enough to to make those determinations. But we’ll be sure to get one in for a week long review so we can suss it out.
The Scion iA comes with two years of free scheduled maintenance, and a no haggle price structure. Also, as a buyer, you only choose transmission and color. Everything else comes standard.
The Scion iA starts at $15,700 for the manual transmission, and goes on sale September 1st, 2015. If you’re in the market for a small car that’s loaded with content and fun to drive, the Scion iA is the new benchmark in the subcompact segment.