This Forgotten Toyota Might Be The Best Commuter Car For Under $15,000

Photo: Toyota

There is a bit of excitement right now about the all-new 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback, a stylish small car that is fun to drive—and even available with a manual transmission. However, the new Corolla hatch starts at $21,000 and maxes out around $24,000, which can make it a tough sell against the Mazda 3 and Honda Civic that bring a little more performance to the table. But a lot of folks forget that there was another Corolla hatch on the market and it came from the now-defunct Scion brand—the Corolla iM.

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Recently I’ve been getting a lot of requests for affordable hatchbacks. While there are plenty of quality cars to choose from, this particular five-door with a funny letter combination from Toyota fell off my radar only to reemerge as what may be the be the best combination of reliable, safe, and budget-friendly.

The iM came out under Scion at a time when the brand really didn’t know what it was trying to be. When we drove the iM back in 2016 we found it to be a “good” car, but not terribly exciting and not really a replacement for the original Scion xB hatchback. Though as Jason Torchinsky pointed out, the “M” in iM is a call back to the Toyota Matrix that we remember fondly.

The Scion brand got folded into the Toyota lineup and the badges and names were changed on a few cars like the iM and the FR-S (now called the 86). Due to the iM’s odd status, it took a hit in the second-hand market that is uncharacteristic of a Japanese car and now lightly used examples can be had for very reasonable prices.

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I focused that search on the 2017 model, as that was the year that Toyota made standard its safety sense suite that includes pre-collision intervention and lane-keeping assist. Those are features that are often requested but difficult to find at this price point.

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The iM may not have been the most exciting hatchback, you could get it with a manual transmission, but if you are looking for a package that has the reliability you expect from a Corolla combined with solid fuel economy, modern technology, an available manual and a bit more practicality than a small sedan, it’s an impressive value.

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About the author

Tom McParland

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)