This morning I saw a Scion iA for the first time in the wild. My first thought was, “Hey it’s a Mazda3. Mazda sure does make a good looking ca...wait a minute. Is that a Scion badge?” After catching up to it, I realized yes, the Scion iA looks exactly like a Mazda. It looks like Toyota took Mazda designers prisoner at a black site and made them design the side and rear of the iA, while the committee who designed the Prius came up with its ugly mug on the other side of the world, oblivious to what the Mazda designers were doing. The two designs were then grafted together, and the Mazda designers were taken into the desert with black bags on their heads and released.
You can see where I could be confused, right?
In reality, this isn’t too far from the truth, as @MidnightDorifto let me know on Twitter this morning. Turns out, the Scion iA is the Mazda2 we don’t get with a grill designed by the committee responsible for the Prius on the other side of the world, oblivious to what the Mazda designers were doing. Basically the same situation, minus the coercion by threat of death.
If you look at the iA’s interior, the realization that this is a re-badged Mazda sets in even more. This is a Scion iA’s interior next to a Mazda CX-3’s interior (which is basically a Mazda2 crossover).
Let’s play “Can You Spot the Differences Between These Two Pictures?”
It’s the same car. Toyota put zero effort into making this their own vehicle. But hey, we can’t fault Toyota for choosing the Mazda2 to be the captive import for the new face of Scion. Mazda has been hitting home runs with every single thing they make these days. Toyota on the other hand seems to have lost any ability to make a car enjoyable to drive, so now they must partner with other companies who do, like Subaru or BMW.
So unsurprisingly, the Mazda iA handles like a Mazda. According to Car and Driver, it’s “spry.” They also found it efficient, which is because it uses the 1.5l Skyactiv Mazda engine. They also say that it’s a good value at $16,495 for the manual, and $17,595 for the automatic. That sounds nice, but this car has a grand total of one hundred and six horsepower.
Look, I’m not someone who has “NO REPLACEMENT FOR DISPLACEMENT” tattooed across his back, and I do not feel like everything needs to be built for land speed records, but 106 HP is incredibly low, even for a car that weighs a bit more than a Miata. The only non-hybrid cars available in America with less gumption than this are the Fiat 500 (101 hp), Smart ForTwo (89 hp), Chevy Spark (84 hp), and Mitsubishi Mirage (74 hp). Even the Nissan Versa has more power than the iA, with 109 ponies under the hood . With the fashionable Fiat as the outlier, all of those cars I previously mentioned beat the Scion on MSRP by about $2,000-$4,000 before incentives.
I don’t think there’s a way you could possibly say that’s a good deal, and yet people keep saying exactly that. Car and Driver rationalized that it was kind of fun going absolutely flat out everywhere they went. On the Scion iA’s product site, it’s one of the first things you see, right next to $17,595. Everyone keeps saying it’s well equipped with push button start, USB/Aux inputs, the same touch screen you get in other Mazdas, a backup camera, and oh Lord almighty, cruise control.
Excuse me while I quiver in anticipation.
Okay, so it’s neat that it has a big ol’ touchscreen and push button start, but these days, it’s more rare for a car to not have Bluetooth, media inputs, and cruise control. As for backup cameras, every single new car on the market will be required to have one come this time next year, so can we stop congratulating their implementation?
At $16,495, a stick shift subcompact with only 106 hp and is reasonably equipped is out of its element. When you add the $1,100 automatic, it gets even further out of it’s element. Sure, this car may handle well, but I don’t think that can overcome by the fact that it’s similarly powered and optioned competition is significantly cheaper. Right now on Autotrader, I’m seeing a multitude of brand new, similarly equipped and sized Nissan Versas, Ford Fiestas, and Chevy Sparks for sale in my area for less than $13,000. For less than $14,000, you can get a larger Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, or a Kia Soul. Right now, you can even a get 2016 Volkswagen Jetta S for $13,173 (of course this is due to some extenuating circumstances, but still, that’s $13,173 for an $18,000+ car).
Here’s the thing: with the exception of the Jetta, all of those deals can be had almost any day of the week, and at any time of the year because of dealer incentives. That price gap blows the Scion iA out of the water, no matter how nicely it handles. When you start looking in the price range that the iA sits in, you’re starting to compete with higher trim levels, you’re competing with Ecoboost Fiestas, well equipped Focuses, Fusions, Golfs, Fits, and more.
Am I missing something? Is there any justification for the Scion iA to be priced a couple thousand dollars above its similarly spec’d competition? I am really just not seeing it, but I am all ears.