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2016 Scion iA

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Overview (Final Score: A)
The 2016 Scion iA is a brand new sedan for the entry-level compact class. It was introduced this year along with the new Scion iM as the latest in the lineup of compact offerings from Toyota's youth brand. The Scion iA offers what we consider a best-in-class all around package for driving, interior comfort, and fuel economy. The fact that it's a Top Safety Pick+ choice by the IIHS is also a big deal for the compact class.

What We Loved About the 2016 Scion iA

  • Excellent interior with quality materials and standards-setting comfort.

  • Unusually high amount of infotainment as standard equipment.

  • Highest safety rating you can get from the IIHS.

What We Didn't Love About the 2016 Scion iA

  • Back seat is cramped.

  • Reliability is unproven.

  • Automatic transmission can be sluggish.

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Exterior View (8/10 relative to market)
The Scion iA is a good-looking car, but it doesn't necessarily stand out in the compact car segment. It does have a good look overall. The front grille is wide with a low-sloping hood coming down to it. The diamond-head shaped grille is flanked by wide, long-slanted headlights flowing back into the fenders.

The bodywork of the Scion iA is simple, but effective in its flow. The rounded hood and front fenders turn back into the beltline to curve downward and then back up for the rear fenderwork below the fastback roofline. Below that, on the doors, is a, upward-moving line. The rear end of the iA has a rounded look with a squared edge.

If the body design of the 2016 Scion iA looks familiar, it's because the car is a Mazda2 rebadged as a Scion under the Toyota-Mazda agreement made last year.

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Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (10/10)
In the compact sedan class of entry-level cars, the interiors are often where the price is paid for the lower sticker on the window. Not so with the 2016 Scion iA. The interior is very well done and much more comfortable and upscale than the car's price might suggest. As have others in the Mazda line of vehicles, the iA under the Scion badge has set new standards with one of the best interiors you'll find in the segment.

Seating in front is very comfortable, with quality bolstering and excellent materials. Materials throughout the cabin are very good, in fact. The seating adjustments are as good as would be expected in this segment, though the quality of the seats means that those movements mean more for comfort. One caveat is the steering wheel tilt-telescope, which does not pull out very far and thus might not be long enough for taller drivers.

The driver's controls are well-placed and make the Scion iA one of the most driver-centric cars you'll find in the compact class. Although the iA is not a sports car, it might feel like one to some when sitting in that driver's cockpit. For the front passenger, comfort is very good as well and the high dashboard design and modern look have a lot of appeal (and legroom).

In the back, the seating is cramped, as would be expected in a compact sedan, but not unmanageable. Smaller passengers and children in safety seats will have no trouble, but full-sized adults and taller folks will find it cramped. This is accented by the higher beltline and sloping rear roofline, which impedes both headroom and the feeling of spaciousness back there. Again, this is typical for the class, so we don't knock the iA for it.

As for the trunk, it's very large for the class. At 13.5 cubic feet, the cargo area in the 2016 iA is better than most and its low-built design makes it easier to load and unload. Unusual for the entry-level class is the remote seatback release to drop the split-fold seating for added space. With most compact cars, moving around to open a rear door and manually pull the seat down is required.

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Technology (10/10)
Outside of a couple of contenders in the compact segment - which are all more expensive than the Scion iA - there are few that can boast the kind of technology to be had in the iA. A 7-inch touchscreen with a command-style knob below the shifter are standard equipment in the iA and make its base-level offering much better than nearly all rivals.

The interface is crisp and easy to use; and while simple, it's very robust for the market. Basic offerings for infotainment include music control, Bluetooth connectivity, a six-speaker audio system, Internet radio options, voice recognition, and a USB and AUX plug. Navigation is an optional upgrade. These are all more than just about everyone else in the segment offers. One downside is that satellite radio is not offered at all, though it is a dealership upgrade option.

The infotainment system is easy to use, with the central knob acting as a slider. Turn it one way or the other to rotate through the screen options, press down to select. Easy to do, even when driving. Quick buttons make jumping to specific menus like music or navigation faster.

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Fuel Economy (10/10)
Fuel economy in the 2016 Scion iA is almost best-in-class. The EPA rates the Scion iA at 37 mpg combined, with 33 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway for the automatic transmission. We drove the manual, which is rated at 35 mpg combined with 31 in the city and 41 on the highway. We achieved 36 mpg in total during our week with the car, which was heavy on highway usage.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (8/10)
Because the Scion iA is all-new, there are no metrics for measuring reliability beyond knowing its build quality and manufacturers' reputations. Scion as a brand has an average expectation for quality, but Mazda as a brand is higher up the expectation chart for quality. There have been no recalls for the iA and the warranty offered by Scion is average for the class (3 years, 36,000 miles).

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Safety (10/10)
The 2016 iA has not been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it has received the best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). A TSP+ rating in the entry-level compact class is very unsuual. The iA achieved the best possible "Good" result on all crash tests, including the small-overlap front test.

The 2016 Scion iA includes a low-speed forward collision warning system with active braking, something that most in the class don't even offer as an option and which is responsible for the "+" rating on the TSP given by the IIHS.

Performance (8/10)
Most compact cars fall into one of two categories when it comes to performance. They're either sporty and performance-focused or they're dead fish bent on maximizing fuel economy. The Scion iA is unusual in that it isn't quite either of these. It's not sporty, though the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine does produce a good amount of torque for initial takeoffs. Yet it's not dead either as that engine's 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque are more than enough to propel the little iA with some zest.

Transmission choices include a six-speed automatic, which is an optional upgrade. That automatic, which we drove at a Scion-hosted event earlier this year, is well-done, but sometimes hesitant to downshift when the throttle is pressed.

For our week in the iA, we drove the six-speed manual transmission which adds a lot of fun factor to the iA's drive. Shifting is very simple, with a nicely-tuned and easy clutch and a fast throw. The Scion will even tell you when to move the lever via indicators on the instrument cluster. This makes even the most novice of manual transmission drivers become quick experts in this car.

On the road, the 2016 Scion iA is not going to win any checkered flags, but it won't come in last either. Compared to others, like the fuel-conscious Nissan Versa or the speed-happy Ford Fiesta, the Scion iA is a lovely middle-ground driver. It passes on the highway without much struggle and remains relatively quiet while doing so. It's also solid in the corners, so long as speeds are not excessive, and its natural understeer is easy to compensate for.

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Pricing and Value (10/10)
The starting price for the 2016 Scion iA is around $16,000 and comes with a lot of included features. Scion's "one trim fits all" approach is welcome to new car buyers who have little interest in shopping for options and trying to convince dealers to give them better prices for more stuff. With few upgrade options and a lot of standard inclusions, the iA is a simple shopping choice.

Excellent fuel economy and a top-shelf interior experience with a good highway drive are more reasons to consider the 2016 iA a great choice. All of these things add up to our top score for value with this car.

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (74/80, 92.5%)
There are several competitors to the iA, of course, with the compact sedan market being fairly robust right now. The most compelling of those competitors is the Ford Fiesta, which has similar looks and a more sporty nature, but which lacks the interior refinement at the same price point as the Scion. The Nissan Versa is the best-seller in this segment, offering a very low cost of entry but not much in the way of amenities to go with that. Price-compared with similar options, the Scion iA wins out for its better drive experience and superior interior.

In many ways, the new 2016 Scion iA sets new standards for the compact sedan segment. Of course, in the compact class, the hatchback is king right now and for that, there's the new Scion iM, reviewed separately. For sedans, though, none can rival the 2016 iA in our minds. It's well-built, nicely accoutered, and a solid drive at all levels.

2016 Scion iA Trims

Trim Engine Drive Train MSRP
4dr Sedan 6A 4 Cylinder FWD 16800
4dr Sedan 6M 4 Cylinder FWD 15700

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