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The Scion iA: A Cheap, Catfish-Faced Sedan That May Just Be Fun

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What is it about four-door sedans? How are these still, somehow, more desirable in America than a smart, practical, 5-door hatch? Well, they are, there’s nothing we can do about it, and since Scion seems to want to sell cars, they need one. So here it is: the Scion iA.

The iA will be the first four-door sedan sold under the Scion nameplate, but since Scion is really just Toyota and doesn’t even really exist outside of North America, that’s much less of a big deal than you’d think. Just to make things nice and confusing, though, this iA is actually more Mazda than Toyota, based on Mazda’s SkyActiv platform and sharing a lot of its guts with the new Mazda 2.


Actually, looking at it, it shares more than guts with the Mazda. Hell, this looks like a Mazda.


It’s built for Toyota/Scion in a new Mazda plant in Mexico. So, it’s a Japanese brand owned by Toyota but built by Mazda in Mexico, and sold almost exclusively in the US. I’m dizzy.

A good way to think about the iA is that it’s what should help Scion to keep making the relatively low-volume selling FR-S, which is a car I genuinely love to drive. This is Scion’s play for a truly mass-market car, and as such it’s likely to be targeted at that vast and powerful group of car-buyers: people who barely give a shit about cars.

That said, for what this car is, it may not be bad at all — Mazda’s been making some pretty engaging entry-level cars lately, and this one can at least be had with a 6-speed manual, so that’s something.


Let’s see what the press release has to say:

The new sans-hatch Scion will arrive in dealerships this fall for an estimated MSRP in the $16,000-range. That’s for a mono-spec model equipped with standard Low-speed Pre-collision safety system and 7-inch multi-media system with voice activation. Because Scion has a no hassle, no haggle Pure Price, customers walk out the door with the same price they saw posted in the dealership.

“Dramatic” could be an understatement when describing the visual impact of the 2016 Scion iA. Beneath the daringly curved sheetmetal lies a tight, agile machine that re-defines “entry level.” Call the design “class above,” a term that applies throughout the car.


See that? “Sans-hatch!” Just in case you forgot, hatchbackphobes, you’re safe here!

“’Dramatic’ could be an understatement when describing the visual impact of the 2016 Scion iA.” You know, it could also be an overstatement, too. It looks sort of like someone took Mazda’s basic design language, made a little sedan with it, and then slapped on a Ford Focus grille that’s about two sizes too big.


I like the general profile, and the rising beltline, but that grille, with its outer-edge creases that look like jowls, make the whole front end look a bit to pissed-off-catfish for my tastes. I think Scion was trying to go for a large grille=status sort of thing, but I feel like it’s all way too overdone and heavy for the rest of the car. Fuck it, I just have to say it: it’s got an ugly face.


The iA has a 1.5L four making 106 HP (it’s probably the same basic engine from the Mazda2) and is said to get 42 MPG on the highway, 33 in the city, and 37 combined. That’s pretty good. It can have 6 speeds in your choice of manual or auto, and Scion spends a lot of time in their press release trying to convince me that the car is agile and fun:

The MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension are tuned for a just-right balance of sporty handling and comfortable ride not normally associated with this segment. Steering and brake system tuning, in particular, received attention more befitting of a sport sedan than an “economy car.” The Scion iA uses a rigid steering mount, which provides a direct yet light feel also unexpected in low-priced, high-MPG models. Progressive braking feel comes to the fore when cornering. Entering the curve, the pedal provides smooth operation, then progresses to a more rigid feel as G-force rises.


I have a soft spot for crappy little low-end cars, so who knows? Maybe this thing will be a blast to drive. I can see how it might be a cheap, fun little commuter that a determined driver could wring out into a pretty good time. I’m actually looking forward to whipping one of these around.

So, first impressions: Scion’s got a cheap little butterfaced sedan here with decent (for the money) equipment and interior. Since it’s actually a Mazda, I’m hopeful that it won’t be a history lecture about drywall to drive. And, as the body type that so many people think they absolutely have to have, Scion may finally have a real volume car on their hands.


I thought I’d like this thing a lot less when I started writing this, I’ll be honest. I really am a sucker for cheap-ass little cars.