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10 Secret Things to Like About the 2016 Scion iA

Cherise Threewitt
by Cherise Threewitt
November 9, 2015
5 min. Reading Time

The 2016 Scion iA is the latest addition to the lineup for the entry-level Japanese brand. In some ways, the iA doesn't seem too different from the brand's previous offerings. It's small. It comes in bright colors that accentuate its playful styling. It's got a modest engine and a two-letter moniker. And, like other recent Scion models, parent company Toyota-sourced the iA from a competing auto manufacturer. 

Though the new Scion iA follows an established pattern, that's not to say that this model is more of the same. In fact, there are some key differences that help distinguish the iA from the rest of the Scion lineup, and it's harder to spot the differences than it is to see the similarities. Let's take a look at some interesting features of the 2016 Scion iA, to see what makes the brand's latest affordable compact stand out from the pack.

1) It's Actually a Mazda2

It's an interesting development, it appears that the 2016 Scion iA is actually a rebadged Mazda2 sedan. That's because the last Mazda2 we saw in the United States was the 2014 hatchback model, which was based on the same platform as the Ford Fiesta (there hasn't been a Mazda2 sedan in the United States before). The only differences between the U.S.-market Scion iA and the rest-of-the-world-market Mazda2 are subtle and superficial. 

The headlights, taillights, front fascia and badges have been replaced or tweaked. Lift the hood and the engine will be wearing a Scion shell rather than a Mazda one, but the mechanical components are otherwise unaltered. Mazda and Scion's new alliance is good news for everybody. Both brands get some exposure, and the Mazda2 is a known quantity, which doesn't carry the same risks as a totally new model. Best of all, the Scion lineup will enjoy a breath of fresh air.


2) It's the Only Way to Get a Mazda2 in the United States

If you were a fan of the previous generation Mazda2, or were eyeing the global market redesign, you might want to pick up a 2016 Scion iA. The Scion and Mazda partnership turns out to be even better news for Scion because Mazda doesn't plan to export the 2016 Mazda2 to the United States. To be fair, the previous generation of the Mazda2 wasn't an especially good seller Stateside. It went head-to-head with Ford's popular Fiesta, with which it shared a platform and lots of mechanical elements (they even looked similar). 

However, people bought the 2014 Fiesta over the 2014 Mazda2 at a ratio of about 4 to 1. Besides that, the affordable compact segment has a lot of other competition. So Mazda made the decision to pull the Mazda2 from the States after just a few years. Scion now has exclusive access to the sedan version, while no one will be selling the hatch. Now that people can't have it, people claim to want it. Your turn, Scion.


3) It's the Second Scion Vehicle That Isn't Based on a Toyota

First came the Scion xA and xB in 2002. These were the Scion brand’s first cars, which were Toyota models exclusive to Japan, rebadged and repackaged for the American market. They did okay, although not as well as Toyota had hoped. That may be why Toyota began to consider other strategies for the Scion brand. Scion came out with a few more cars on its own, but in 2013 came the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ. This pair of sports cars were developed in a joint partnership between Toyota and Subaru, although the design and engineering lean much more heavily toward Subaru. Critics and consumers are, overall, happy with the FR-S, which may have inspired Toyota to seek another outside source for Scion’s next model, hoping to replicate the formula that allows a car to be both affordable and desirable.


4) This Is a Smart Strategy on Toyota's Part

It’s time-consuming and expensive to develop a new car from the ground up, which should surprise absolutely no one. And if the result of that time and energy spent is too expensive, than the car manufacturer can’t sell it affordably. Scion is supposed to be an affordable brand, which means Toyota can’t spend too much money to adapt its global cars to American tastes, and it can’t spend too much money making cars for a brand that caters to one market. Partnering with other brands might seem, to some, like a cheap way out. It might seem, to some, that Scion is a brand that shouldn’t be taken seriously. But Toyota’s doing it right, by developing the partnerships to bring in proven vehicles with trustworthy manufacturers at affordable prices. And, hey, we get a Mazda2 out of the deal.

 Photo by Scion

Photo by Scion

5) The iA Is the Scion Brand's First Sedan

The early years of Scion operated as follows: if you wanted something sporty, there were always a couple of coupe models from which to choose. If you were in need of something a little more practical, but still affordable and still sporty-looking, there were hatchbacks and mini-wagons. There were already a lot of compact sedans kicking around in the affordable small call category, and Scion really didn’t seem interested in entering the fray until now.

The 2016 Scion iA marks the first time the Scion brand is offering a sedan, which may be overdue. Or, it may be just the right time. After all, Scion’s original target market is getting on in years. In any case, diversifying the Scion lineup is a welcome change. Adding a sedan option makes the brand seem more practical and more mature.


6) It's Some of the Most Fun You Can Have With 106 Horsepower

The 2016 Scion iA comes powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making 106 horsepower, that’s straight from Mazda. The only thing different about it is the Scion-branded engine cover. And Mazda knows small sports cars (just look at the success of the Miata). 

To be fair, the Scion iA can’t provide the same experience as a small roadster, nor does it aspire to. Nevertheless, thanks to Mazda’s engineering, it’s difficult to find another vehicle in the compact car segment, at a comparable price, that offers a similar driving experience. So though the Scion iA makes a modest amount of horsepower, it’s still possible to make it enjoyable.


7) It Takes 9 Seconds to Reach 60mph, but That's Okay

The point of the 2016 Scion iA is not to drive fast in a straight line, or to get the best highway speeds. The Scion iA gets good gas mileage, up to 33 mpg city and 42 mpg highway, so if it’s being used as a long-haul commuter, don’t sacrifice its efficiency in a vain attempt at speed. It might be best, however, to think of it as a city car, easy to maneuver. Acceleration is good when the light turns green, or for snagging the last parking spot. The point is, the Scion iA isn’t suffering an identity crisis, and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.


8) There's Only One Trim Level

The Scion brand was established on a few key principles. In addition to the cars’ affordability, Scion wanted to make it easy to select and buy a car. No intimidation tactics, no confusion. So to that end, Scion keeps its cars simple. Options are kept to a minimum, and though customization is highly encouraged, it’s accomplished through add-on accessories and aesthetic touches sold through the dealership. These extras don’t change the car’s model name or trim designation, unlike the confusing naming methods used by so many other brands. If you want a 2016 Scion iA, it’s that simple, and no one else’s will be better than yours.


9) In Fact, There's Only One Factory Option

The 2016 Scion iA comes with a six-speed manual transmission, and frankly, that’s the best way to enjoy driving the new iA. (Again, it goes back to Mazda’s understanding of how to maximize the experience of a car with modest power.) That said, a manual transmission isn’t ideal for every buyer, and it can make things a little more complicated in environments with heavy traffic. To make the Scion iA more appealing for some customers, Scion offers up a six-speed automatic transmission for just $1,100, bringing the price to $17,595. It’s the only factory option, and the only opportunity to change the Scion iA experience.


10) The Scion iA Comes Fully Loaded for Under $20k

The 2016 Scion iA comes with a manual transmission for $16,495, or with an automatic transmission for $17,595. Granted, the iA is not overburdened with complicated features or confusing equipment, but the car’s amenities certainly cover the basics, and then some. Buyers who have a couple grand more in the budget, and feel the need for personalization, can peruse the Scion dealership accessories department, where items such as navigation systems, cargo carriers and door sill plates can customize and enhance the new iA’s looks and functionality. The numerous extended service plan options cost a bit more, of course, but provide valuable peace of mind.



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