There’s nothing that defines a scenic, exhilarating drive quite like a trip through the Malibu Canyons and along the Pacific Coast. Some classify it as the quintessential convertible cruise portrayed by adverts and the general public alike. However, I wasn’t in a convertible. Instead I shared seat time between two newly introduced vehicles by Scion, the iA and iM. The brand, defined as fun and quirky, had invited us out to Santa Monica, CA where we spent a few days learning about the brand, their direction and the newly designed sedan and hatchback offerings.
Upon arrival, the day was focused on getting to know the Scion representatives and the busy city that is Santa Monica. For those that flew in early, the afternoon was filled with activities designed to appeal to the Scion demographic such as surfing and a short walk along Venice Beach. The relaxing afternoon was followed by a group dinner and product presentation session. This was the first chance we had at getting up close and personal with the new cars. Located in a community work center, brand and product details were delivered by a series of Scion employees ranging from marketers to engineers. This offered a very in-depth analysis of why and how the brand planned at capturing the younger, emotional buyers that were both environmentally and quality concise.
As Scion focused on attracting tech-savvy individuals, they made a strong effort at providing the most standard options in the segment. Without doubt, they’ve achieved a great deal for the price point. Features such as backup cameras and full media interfaces, these definitely make for a case against other entry levels vehicles in their segments. Complementing the available features and fixed price points made for easy buying, the styling was simple yet attractive. Though both the iA and iM are independently unique, I find the hatchback iM edging out the iA in the looks department. Reason being, the iA shares many characteristics and a platform with Mazda detracting from a true Scion design as seen in previous models.
As styling can be subjective, it’s important (and more entertaining) to detail the driving experience. Considering the small segment vehicles, both aren’t quick on paper, but that doesn’t necessarily define the overall driving experience. The combination of narrow tires, slightly stiffer suspension and surprisingly direct steering, this combination created a recipe for cars that are happy to attack corners. The pre-defined driving experience in the Malibu Canyons offered a multitude of varied corners and speeds. Aside from the occasional slow traffic, taking corners at exciting speeds became a test of confidence. Slowly building throughout the day, I became increasingly sure-footed as we sped along the tops of the deep ravines. Eventually, all of the excitement was brought to a slow journey along the ocean. Despite this seeming like a poorly planned route choice, it offered a chance to enjoy the cabin.
Inside both models, the dash and center console are wrapped in dark fabrics and piano-black plastics. Also, both models are considerably roomy for both driver and passengers, front and back. As expected in most vehicles targeted at a younger generation, the media experience was positive. The speakers were right on target when it was time to enjoy a few California themed songs. Considering the sub-$20K price points, Scion has created a truly comfortable place when crawling through traffic.
To my surprise, Scion has created a competitive car for both the hatchback and small sedan categories. They might not offer every option one might want in a vehicle, but it’s hard to argue against what is available for the price. It becomes an especially compelling argument when you get behind the wheel and enjoy these cars at speed. The driving experience, no doubt amplified by the great views and challenging roads, left me wanting a few more days full of driving. For anyone wanting a practical and efficient yet still full to drive small-scale car, it’s about time to consider Scion.