What is it: Technically a midsize car, the Corolla iM looks similar to a Chevy Cruze hatch and competes with it and every other similar sized hatchback. That's okay, but it still falls behind the Honda Civic hatchback in both looks and refinement. The iM doesn't have different trim levels to choose from, but I made do with the CVT, not the available six-speed manual.
Key Competitors: Honda Civic Hatchback LX, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra GT
Base Price: $20,485 As Tested Price: $21,359
Highlights: The Toyota Corolla iM is powered by a 1.8-liter naturally aspirated I4 hatchback in a buyer's market dominated by compact crossovers. Its 137 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque is on the low end of power output in class. The Corolla’s CVT is smooth and perfectly-rubber-band spec, without any jarring fake shifts. The iM tries to lean towards sporty with a multilink rear suspension and MacPherson struts up front.
Our Opinion: Scion died a few years ago, but in true zombie fashion, a few of its models live on, rolled into the Toyota lineup. Most notable is the Scion FRS, now called Toyota 86 in the States. The iM compact made the move too. Toyota stripped the hatch of its Scion legacy, now calling that version the Corolla iM Hatchback.
Still, that doesn’t mean that the revamped iM is unworthy of praise. The styling is among the best in Toyota’s current lineup to my eyes. The hatchback shape and the conservatively styled nose work well together. Sure, the shape reminds me of the Chevy Cruze and the rest of the modern hatchbacks, but physics and fuel efficiency are to blame for that, not the Toyota design team.
The suspension, too, is solid — the multilink rear and MacPherson struts up front do a great job at keeping the tires on the pavement. The light-effort steering wheel does an okay job at directing the front wheels where to go, but don't expect a Corolla iM to be your track weapon.
It also won't be your track weapon because of its uninspired powertrain. I’ve sung CVT praises in the past, namely on the latest Honda Civic and the Nissan Maxima, but combining a CVT with a naturally aspirated, weezy 1.8-liter I4 does not create any excitement. To be totally frank, this thing is slow, which is a shame considering how capable the suspension feels.
Brake feel is good enough in normal use, and their effectiveness shined thorugh when a fellow motorist turned when he shouldn’t have and caused me to stop as quickly as possible. The emergency braking session brought a lot of nose dive, but the car slowed quickly and straight — you can’t ask for more than that. Damage free, I went home and ate pepperoni pizza instead of dealing with a head-on collision.
It’ll be interesting to see how the next Corolla hatch compares to this renamed Scion. I would ask for a little more power, a TRD version perhaps, and a torque-converter automatic transmission. Then it could be a winning budget cruiser.
—Wes Wren, associate editor
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $20,485
As Tested Price: $21,359
Powertrain: 1.8-liter I4, FWD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 137 hp @ 6,100 rpm; 126 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,031 lb
Fuel Economy: 28/36/31 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: Interior light kit ($450), body-side moldings ($239), carpeted floor mats/cargo mat ($185)
Pros: Good, if slightly generic, styling; nice suspension tuning
Cons: Naturally aspirated I4 and CVT combo is uninspiring