Review of: 2017 Toyota Corolla iM 4dr HB CVT
2017 Toyota Corolla iM: Not bad, but not great
By Jil McIntosh
Jan. 23, 2017
When Toyota dropped its Scion brand last year, a decision had to be made on the cars that carried the badge. Models like the xB and tC were old and weren’t renewed, but the FR-S and iM were new enough to keep and rebrand as Toyotas. The FR-S, built in partnership with Subaru, took on the “86” name it wore in other markets, while the iM emerged as the Corolla iM.
Like most Scion models, it was a repackaged version of a global-market car, in this case the Corolla-based Auris hatchback. It came to us as an all-new Scion model for 2016, and now marks its second year in Canada but as a Toyota.
Scion’s business model was to offer a single trim level, and the iM still carries through with that. Your only choices are colour, and whether you prefer a six-speed manual or CVT.
The manual-equipped iM will set you back $22,540, while my tester, the iM with CVT, is $23,375. That represents a rise of $1,375 and $1,385, respectively, over the Scion version, but along with the new badge, the iM also received heated seats and a Safety Sense package of pre-collision system, lane departure alert, and automatic high-beam headlamps that weren’t included before.
Pros & Cons
- + Front seat space
- + Practicality
- + Fit and finish
- - Artificial driving feel
- - Off-the-line responsiveness
- - Brake feel
The iM is nose-heavy when viewed head-on, but otherwise, it’s a fairly generic hatchback design with a few angular lines at the rear. The front fascia blends well into the heavily-sculpted nose, but the matching side skirts look a bit cheap and tacked-on.
The Scion version came fully-kitted, and it retains those top-trim items that it previously wore, such as its 17-inch alloy wheels: all other Corolla models wear 15- or 16-inchers as standard equipment. Heated mirrors are included, as are variable intermittent wipers and automatic headlamps, although you get projector-beam headlights and not the LED lamps that all other Corolla models receive. As before, though, the daytime running lights and brake lamps are LED.
The cabin design is a bit busy, but it’s put together well, and it definitely looks more mature and upscale than most of the funkier Scion models with which it originally shared its badge. The climate control is of the dual-zone automatic variety, and it’s straightforward and easy to use. The aforementioned heated seats are a little tougher to operate, since they use dials located deep inside a lidded cubby under the centre stack.
The cloth-clad seats have a bit of a bolster to them—they’re listed as “sport” seats—and they’re comfortable on the butt. That said, they’re manually adjustable and I had difficulty finding my ideal seating position, and the tall rear head restraints cut into my rearward visibility. (They flip forward and out of the way when no one’s riding coach. — Ed.) Everyone is different and that perfect position varies with each, of course, but be sure you can find yours.
The rear seats aren’t quite up to the front-chair comfort standards with their flat cushions, but legroom isn’t bad, given that there’s space under the front seats to slip one’s feet. That said, be cautious if you’re regularly transporting rear-seat passengers who are older or who have limited mobility. There’s a wide sill that may be a bit tougher for those who can’t easily lift their feet over it.
At 588 litres, the iM’s cargo space is a little smaller than some of its competitors, but the 60/40 split rear seat folds virtually flat, and very easily, to increase its capacity.
While other Corolla models get a 6.1-inch touch screen, the iM’s stretches across seven inches of centre-stack real estate. It includes the Bluetooth wireless audio streaming and a USB port as its siblings do, but while it uniquely includes Aha Radio, it lacks the Siri Eyes Free function found on all the rest. A rearview camera is included.
I had the opportunity to drive the iM against several of its competitors, and when cranking up the tunes (okay, yeah, I know, I listen to opera, but bear with me), I thought the iM’s actually had the best sound of all of them.
The iM includes Toyota’s Safety Sense-C system, which adds a pre-collision system, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlights as standard equipment. But while I find blind spot monitoring a useful feature, it’s not possible to add it as well.
The iM uses a 1.8-litre four-cylinder that produces 137 horsepower and 126 lb.-ft. of torque, and on my tester, was mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). It’s not a lot of power and the iM can get pretty wheezy when you ask it to perform. Be sure to map out your passing schedules carefully, because you could find yourself in a situation where it’s not going to deliver what you’re expecting.
That said, if you accelerate smoothly, the iM builds up its momentum without any issues, and it has no difficulty reaching and maintaining highway speeds without any fuss. The CVT doesn’t feel too rubber-bandy, but don’t bother with the “Sport” mode, which just keeps the engine revving higher and making more noise without any noticeable performance improvement. The brakes stop fine, but the pedal springs back with a cheap-sounding “twang” once you take your foot off it.
Handling is nowhere near the sharpness of competitors such as the Mazda3 or Volkswagen Golf. Don’t expect steering feedback, and there’s a bit of dead air around the on-centre point. As you’d expect, it’s more about commuting than hitting the curves.
It’s officially marked by Natural Resources Canada as 8.3 L/100 km in the city, and 6.5 on the highway. In a week of very cold, snowy weather, I couldn’t get anywhere near that, finishing up with an average of 9.2 L/100 km.
The iM’s all-in figure of $23,375 is higher than most hatchback competitors such as the Volkswagen Golf, Kia Forte5, Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback, or Honda Civic Hatchback, but the starting prices of those don’t include as many features as the iM contains. Even so, moving up into higher trim levels in some other hatchbacks can still make them comparable to many of the iM’s features, and with more power.
The iM definitely isn’t a bad car, but it doesn’t stack up to more-powerful hatches in the segment. Still, Toyota fans who loved the defunct Matrix now have another choice from Toyota. It’s not a direct replacement, but for many, it might just fill the bill.