2017 Corolla lineup gains small hatch­back with ad­di­tion of Scion iM

The Maui News - - AUTO - By CAREY RUSS

Toy­ota’s Scion di­vi­sion may be his­tory, but its fi­nal prod­uct lineup is still ex­tant. Only the names have been changed, and of course the badg­ing. Case in point: the 2017 Toy­ota Corolla iM. The Toy­ota “T” re­places the Scion “S,” and that’s about it for changes. Which is a ma­jor non-is­sue. The iM re­mains a frisky, fun, and use­ful four-door hatch­back that is a bit more up­scale in spec­i­fi­ca­tion and equip­ment than ex­pected. It has al­ways been a Corolla in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, so we now join the an­tipodeans.

Power is from a 137-horse­power 1.8-liter twin­cam four, driv­ing the front wheels through ei­ther a six-speed stick or CVT au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Bar­gain base­ment-spec rear tor­sion beam axle and drum brakes are not found here; sus­pen­sion is fully-in­de­pen­dent and discs are found at all four cor­ners. As be­fore, stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes heated power fold­ing out­side mir­rors with LED turn sig­nal in­di­ca­tors, LED run­ning lights and tail lights, auto-off head­lights, 17inch al­loy wheels, a sporty-look­ing aero kit, dual-zone au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, a leather-trimmed steer­ing wheel ad­justable for both tilt and reach, cruise con­trol, a backup cam­era, a 60/40 fold­ing rear seat­back, a height-ad­justable driver’s seat, and sixs­peaker Pi­o­neer au­dio sys­tem and more. Up­scale safety fea­tures like Lane De­par­ture Alert, au­to­matic high beams, and a pre-col­li­sion sys­tem are also stan­dard. Sim­plic­ity is still the con­cept, with one trim level, no op­tion pack­ages that re­quire pur­chase of un­wanted “fea­tures” in or­der to get what you want, and a wide va­ri­ety of port- or dealer-in­stalled ex­te­rior, in­te­rior, se­cu­rity and per­for­mance ac­ces­sories. My CVT-equipped test car had car­pet floor and cargo mats, wheel locks, front paint pro­tec­tion film (a clear cov­er­ing against rock and de­bris chips), a “univer­sal tablet holder” for rear pas­sen­ger en­ter­tain­ment, and a “rear wind de­flec­tor,” oth­er­wise known as a small wing spoiler at the trail­ing edge of the roof. There is more, in­clud­ing other pro­tec­tive cov­er­ings, in­te­rior light­ing and a TRD spring kit.

So-out­fit­ted, the Corolla iM is more “sporty” than “sports,” but still en­ter­tain­ing, fun to drive, and fru­gal on un­leaded reg­u­lar to the tune of 32 mpg for my week. I’d per­son­ally pre­fer the stick (and save a lit­tle cash do­ing so), but the en­gine is a typ­i­cal Toy­ota, with torque, torque, torque and no need to get ac­quainted with the rev lim­iter. “Sport” mode keeps in vir­tual lower “gears” for quicker ac­cel­er­a­tion when de­sired, with nor­mal mode for town and highway with im­proved fuel economy. The only neg­a­tive I found wasn’t from Toy­ota. The Toyo Proxes tires were the same as on the Scion iM I tested about a year ago. That was a dry week. This was a wet week, with plenty of stand­ing wa­ter on lo­cal high­ways. The tires have an “m+s” rat­ing but were not con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing in wet con­di­tions. That can be eas­ily reme­died, bet­ter-than-stock tires be­ing one of the sim­plest per­for­mance and/or safety up­grades. With its hatch­back func­tion­al­ity and good fuel economy and per­for­mance, the Corolla iM es­tab­lishes Toy­ota in the com­pact hatch­back class.

AP­PEAR­ANCE: Ex­ter­nal changes from the Scion iM? The Toy­ota logo re­places Scion in the nose and on the tail­gate. That’s it. It’s iden­ti­fi­ably a Toy­ota, but with sim­pler lines than most other cur­rent mod­els, not sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing its Euro­pean and an­tipodean sales. The “aero kit” lower bumper and sill ex­ten­sions, with large front faux brake ducts, is stan­dard fare for a sporty look —î but clear­ance is still good. LED run­ning and tail lights are un­usual in this class, as are the heated and power-fold­ing out­side mir­rors. The only chrome is in the badg­ing, as all ex­te­rior trim is ei­ther flat or gloss black.

COM­FORT: The price point may be low, but the de­sign, ex­e­cu­tion and ma­te­ri­als are not. Noth­ing inside feels or looks “cheap,” and fit and fin­ish are as ex­pected from Toy­ota. The color scheme is any color you want as long as it’s black, but tex­tured soft-touch up­per ma­te­ri­als, gloss “pi­ano black” pan­els, back­lit in­stru­ments, a tilt- and tele­scope-ad­justable steer­ing wheel with a stitched leather rim with au­dio, cruise, and in­for­ma­tion con­trols, and a touch­screen-based au­dio sys­tem with AM/FM/USB/jack/ and Blue­tooth stream­ing in­puts are far above “bot­tom-feeder” sta­tus. Ditto dual-zone cli­mate con­trol. Front seat com­fort is sur­pris­ingly good, and the driver’s cush­ion is height-ad­justable. Rear seat use­ful­ness is en­hanced by a low cen­tral tun­nel, al­though three-across works best if all are small — no dif­fer­ently than in any other small “five-pas­sen­ger” car or cross­over. The rear seat folds 60/40 for ex­tra cargo space. Rear doors plus the hatch mean pas­sen­ger and cargo load­ing and ac­cess are great. There’s a space-saver spare un­der the rear load floor.

SAFETY: The 2017 Corolla iM has Toy­ota’s Star Safety Sys­tem with Ve­hi­cle Sta­bil­ity Con­trol, Trac­tion Con­trol, and an­tilock brakes with Elec­tronic Brake Force Dis­tri­bu­tion, Brake As­sist, and Smart Stop Tech­nol­ogy. It also has the Safety Sense C suite of Lane De­par­ture Alert, Au­to­matic High Beams, and Pre-Col­li­sion Sys­tem. There are front, front seat-mounted side, full-length side cur­tain, and driver’s knee and front pas­sen­ger seat cush­ion airbags. Plus safety har­nesses and a tire-pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem.

RIDE AND HAN­DLING: A fully-in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, with MacPher­son struts in front and a dou­ble-wish­bone sys­tem in the rear, dis­tin­guishes the Corolla iM in the small hatch class. It’s well-de­vel­oped and tuned, giv­ing a mod­er­ately firm ride and rea­son­able com­pe­tence in the cor­ners in stock form, at least on dry pave­ment. Want sportier? Up­grade the tires first. If you’re se­ri­ous, there are TRD (Toy­ota Rac­ing De­vel­op­ment) kits avail­able with springs, sway bars and shocks that will stiffen and lower the car. I’ve spent some time in an iM soe­quipped. On poorly-main­tained roads it’s out of its el­e­ment. On a smooth sur­face, just keep in be­tween the cones and have fun! Brakes are four-wheel disc, no rear drums here.

PER­FOR­MANCE: In­ter­est­ingly, the iM uses a slightly-mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Valve­matic 1.8-liter four-cylin­der en­gine found in the Corolla LE Eco model, not the reg­u­lar VVT-i ver­sion. Valve­matic is sim­pler, and uses vari­a­tion in in­take valve lift in­stead of but­ter­fly or slide valves for throt­tle con­trol. It’s also a bit more ef­fi­cient. The re­sult is 137 horse­power (at 6,100 rpm) and 126 lb-ft of torque (at 4,000 rpm). And plenty of torque lower than that for easy driv­ing with ei­ther trans­mis­sion. The stick is more fun, but for com­mute duty the CVT will be less stress­ful. Its con­trol elec­tron­ics are set up to sim­u­late shift­ing in D, which makes it feel more like a reg­u­lar torque-con­verter au­to­matic and also re­duced the “rub­ber band” feel­ing that CVTs can have as you wait for your throt­tle pedal in­put to be trans­lated to for­ward mo­tion. EPA rat­ings are 28 mpg city, 37 highway, 31 over­all. Some­how I man­aged to get 32 for the week, so no com­plaint.

CON­CLU­SIONS: With the demise of the Scion brand, the iM joins Toy­ota’s Corolla lineup and gives Toy­ota a very good small hatch­back.

2017 Toy­ota Corolla iM Base price: $19,490 | Price as tested: $21,498

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