Last week I jumped into a Scion iA sports sedan. Although I’d been promised a lot I looked at the MSRP (just $15,700 as I was in a manual) and noted that it had 106 horsepower and thought I’d talk about how you don’t need much in Los Angeles because traffic sucks anyhow and it doesn’t matter that the car doesn’t handle well. I mean, I really did expect nothing. Less than nothing. The colors are playful, the pricepoint is low and it’s meant to be a first new car.
I was wrong.
We pulled out of the parking lot near the Malibu Pier and anyone who has seen that stretch of PCH knows that you’ve got to get moving quickly. The iA handled nicely and we immediately drove through a fast food place to get a soda (this is a good time to judge me). Now I know you think this doesn’t matter but it does. After grabbing a couple of drinks we put them in the drink holders and took off through some of Malibu’s windiest roads. I had the iA close to the redline for more miles than I’m guessing Scion would have liked but it handled beautifully.
You know what else worked beautifully? The drinks. You see in real life when you drive a car you have sodas and water bottles and purses and all sorts of things hanging around the front seat with you and if you’re driving a stick shift the chances of one of these items being in the way is sadly very high. The cup holders in the iA are far enough back that you can still drive safely and comfortably.
And safe driving is what I did.
I safely drove the iA through hairpin turns, uphill with nothing next to me except a sheer cliff. There was never a moment where the car felt like it would slip, tip or slide. The steering was tight, the acceleration was not indicitive of a 1.5 liter 106hp engine. Perhaps the firmness of the ride and the acceleration are due to the fact that the car comes in at a svelte 2,385 pounds for the manual transmission. Also, to be completely honest it’s 106hp at 6,000 rpm and I’m feeling like we lingered at 6,000 rpm for a good long while. It’s not recommended city driving but I wanted to make sure it was fun.
It was fun.
The iA comes standard with the following exterior features:
• 16-inch alloy wheels, 185/60R16 All-Season Tires SM I AE TN RN I AX
• Chrome grille surround
• Chrome tailpipe
• Piano black bumper treatment
• Keyless entry
• Multi-reflector halogen headlamps
• Power Outside Mirrors with LED Turn Signal Indicators
• Variable Front Windshield Wipers
• Rear Window Defogger
• Daytime Running Lights
Interior standard features are:
• Air conditioning
• Rear-view back up camera
• Power Windows w/ Driver-Side Auto Up/Down and Jam Protection
• Power Door Locks
• Remote Keyless Entry System w/ Push Button Start
• Engine Immobilizer
• Digital clock
• Analog Speedometer
• Trip Meter
• Tilt/Telescopic Steering Wheel with Audio Controls
• Cruise Control
• Sport Front Bucket Seats
• Height Adjustable Driver Seat
• 60/40 Split Fold-Flat rear Seats
• Dual Sun Visors with Vanity Mirrors
• 7-in. Display Audio with touch screen
• Integrated AM/FM Antenna
• 6 speakers and remote interface
• Hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology
• AhaTM, Pandora®, StitcherTM
• Voice Recognition
• USB ports and AUX audio jack
• Low-speed pre-collision safety system <- THIS MATTERS
• Brake Override System
• Driver and Front Passenger Airbag System
• Driver and Front Passenger Seat-Mounted Side Airbags
• Front and Rear Side Curtain Airbags
• 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions. Driver-side belts feature emergency locking mode & automatic/emergency locking mode on all passenger belts
• LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) includes lower anchors on outboard rear seats and tether anchors on all rear seats
• Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS)
• First Aid Kit
I like the car a lot. When I drove it I imagined myself buying my first new vehicle and thought it would be a very exciting purchase, that the iA would have enough style and substance to make me feel good about ownership and the price point is unbeatable. If the car reminds you of a Mazda 2 you aren’t imagining things, the Scion iA and the Mazda 2 share a platform.
The safety ratings haven’t come out yet on the iA and it’s extremely difficult for a subcompact like this to get the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus rating but it’s important that you note what IIHS has to say about the iA for a couple different reasons. First of all someone you love will be in that car, it’s the perfect price-point to pick one up for your teenage driver. Secondly, the higher the safety rating from IIHS, the lower the car insurance and we all know that younger drivers have higher premiums. It doesn’t do you any good to save money on cars when you can’t afford the insurance. The buzz around the iA is good and I’m looking forward to updating this with the IIHS ratings.
One thing that must be noted, besides the soda holding capabilities, joyful handling and fun colors is pre-collision safety system. Had my own personal car been equipped with this system I wouldn’t have had an accident in January. The low speed pre-collision safety system stops your car when you’re traveling at low speeds when there is an object (think car, child, dog, trash bin) in your way. So many accidents happen at these low speeds and they’re expensive and annoying at best, tragic (think pedestrian or dog) at their worst. In buying a child’s first car I’d be very excited to have this feature.
The interior styling is impressive with a generously sized navigation screen. The navigation was not everything I’d hoped it would be but I do know that sometimes it takes a few days of use to get comfortable with a new system. Again, this is an entry level vehicle and there’s nothing you can add to get it to $20,000 so the fact that the dash isn’t swimming in plastic is beyond impressive.
I was so confident driving this that I pulled the CHP over.
The 32.2 foot curb to curb turning diameter made U Turning out of this a breeze.