I’m not saying I’m remotely serious in looking at these, but they do satisfy the gaping hole in Toyota USA’s lineup which includes exactly one hatchback, that is both a hybrid and a Lexus. The Toyota Matrix (known as the Corolla Matrix in other countries) was discontinued due to poor sales, yet here we are two years later with a “new” hatchback.
This is basically an Australian Corolla. It is a rebadged Toyota Auris, which is also offered in wagon form, but of course we don’t get that, with some scion badges.
“You never buy wagons, so you don’t get wagons.”
A reasonable question is, will this work? Will people buy these? What’s the appeal compared to other hatchbacks? Is this better than a used Matrix? I guess it depends, but what they’re going for on this one is making it cheaper and more efficient (here’s a spec sheet http://www.scion.com/cars/iM2016/sp… ). Fuel economy comparable to a Yaris, and a starting MSRP of under $18,500, allegedly (before all the “fees” and crap). I spec’d one up to $19,995 with a 6MT and some alloy wheels... But see, I passed on everything else, which I don’t anticipate your average consumer would do (who the hell pays for nav on a scion... You already have to pay for your smart phone, yeah I said it). It’s cheap and efficient because it will not have AWD as an option like the Matrix, it has only one engine, and it’s a Scion, so it will run forever, perhaps even against the owner’s wishes. What about general appeal? Is it even better looking than a Matrix? I’m not so sure...
It’s actually kind of amusing to me. Toyota and Lexus buyers tend to be thought of as practical. The Lexus shopper wants a tiny bit of status and a lot of comfort but no “surprises” associated with some other luxury brands, and Toyota... I mean, nothing epitomizes the path of least resistance than the Camry. Resale value, reliability, affordability, and soullessness: that is what a person is looking for when they shop for a new Camry. “It does what I needs and that’s alls I needs.” Yet Toyota can’t get a normal hatchback to sell in the US Market, and to me, a hatchback or wagon is way more practical than a sedan or cramped crossover. But that sentence proves that I am not inline with the typical consumer, so perhaps I should pound sand.
Next: competition. What is the iM going up against? It’s not a performance hatch, nor is it priced as one, so it will not have to face off against a higher-trim Golf, FiST, or FoST. And since it’s the size of a Corolla (because it IS a Corolla), it might not go up against the Fit or its little brother Auris. So what do I shop this against? A Focus SE? Maybe a base Fiesta? The other problem is that a Forte5 can be had for a similar price and an Accent hatchback can be spec’d down to damn near peanuts if you can tolerate a brand new car with nothing in it. It seems that the iM will have basically only three things to lean on: brand reliability reputation, improved fuel economy, and competitive pricing. But if you care quite a bit about fuel economy, you can just pick up a new Prius C for about the same price.
The other thing I wonder is: who is going to buy this car in general? If you have 20k to burn or finance, do you buy a new Scion? Why not buy a used FoST? Or a slightly damaged WRX? Or 40 Geo Metros? Why not splurge the extra few grand and splurge on a lower-trim crossover that still has some bells and whistles as standard? As an example, an acquaintance of mine was shopping for a new car. She wanted a hatchback at first, but figured out she could get a new Escape spec’d to her preference for just under $26 Gs. Another victim falls to the crossover appeal. But how can one blame her?
I do wish Toyota the best of luck with this, as the iM and the Maz— I mean, iA, seeming to be a sort of last gasp attempt to justify Scion’s existence. But if this fails completely, I will be patiently waiting to pick one up on the used market at a steep discount, and then hypocritically wonder, “Why can’t Toyota make a new hatchback sell?”