The Scion iM... Has Toyota really learned from the Matrix?

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.

Advertisement

“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.

Advertisement

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?

Advertisement

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?”

Share This Story