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2016 Scion iA Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Scion iA was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 8.2

Several automotive journalists agree that the new 2016 Scion iA has sporty handling and communicative steering that make it fun to drive. The iA is based on the Mazda2 (now sold overseas), and while most think the iA lives up to Mazda's reputation for building fun cars, a few critics think it doesn't handle with as much agility as it should. According to test drivers, the iA has plenty of pep for driving around town but could use more power for climbing hills. The iA's fuel economy is outstanding for a subcompact car.

  • "So the Scion iA is our only access to the new Mazda 2 in any form. And it's a car that, as it turns out, is every bit as sweet to drive as we could have hoped." -- Car and Driver
  • Where the Scion iA should set itself apart is from behind the wheel. But unfortunately, that isn't totally the case. It's really no better than a Fiesta in terms of driver engagement, and Ford offers a lot more stuff to attract buyers." -- Autoblog
  • "Wheeling the iA displayed a ride quality that was very well composed with good road feel that communicated conditions with us very easily." -- Left Lane News
  • "But the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta have proven that it's possible to deliver a good driving experience at this price point, and the Scion iA joins the club." -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Scion iA is powered by 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is available. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 33/42 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission, which is outstanding for a subcompact car.

Most reviewers say the iA has sufficient power in stop-and-go traffic but doesn't feel very fast and labors when climbing steep hills. They note that the manual transmission has a precise shifter and light clutch and that the automatic is responsive and shifts promptly when more power is needed.

  • With the automatic transmission, the iA can easily keep up with traffic, though flooring the throttle from a stop doesn't seem to encourage much more urgency than a quarter-throttle stab. … On the positive side, the transmission kicks down quickly for decent around-town passing response, though the car seems to run out of breath at about 60 mph." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The best news by far is how well the iA drives thanks to the Mazda 2 mechanicals. Those include its 106-hp 1.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder, which we wouldn't consider muscular, yet it makes easy work of scooting the roughly 2400-pound iA through traffic. The engine feels sinewy and smooth. … Unsurprisingly, we prefer the six-speed manual on account of its short throws, precise gates, and light clutch. But we can't fault those who choose the excellent six-speed automatic. …" -- Car and Driver
  • On the canyon roads near Malibu, CA, we're putting pedal to the metal; uphill acceleration is unsurprisingly poor for a car with meager output numbers like these. Around town, 106 hp and 103 lb-ft is perfectly fine for the 2,385-pound iA." -- Autoblog
  • "With the engine pumping 106 horsepower from the 1.5-liter I-4 direct injected mill, it is no breaker of land speed records, but it is perfect for around town travel excursions." -- Left Lane News

Handling and Braking

The 2016 iA has front-wheel drive. Most test drivers find the Scion iA fun to drive, with confident handling in turns and lots of steering feedback. Still, a few critics think the iA doesn't seem as composed or fun to drive as you might expect from a car engineered by Mazda. Some say that the ride comfort is good, but others note that the iA's ride sometimes feels a bit unsettled over imperfect roads.

  • "There's an imprecise feel to the nose when turning into a bend. It doesn't wash out into understeer too soon, but the iA is not the sharp, darting corner-taker one might hope for, given its Mazda roots. On the other side of the sporty/comfy coin, the short wheelbase contributes to a jittery ride at times." -- AutoTrader
  • "Feedback pours through the iA's small-diameter steering wheel, and turn-in is crisp but never darty. The brakes, too, bite with supreme confidence. We noticed none of the noise or harshness that can sometimes accompany twist-beam rear axles like the one in this Scion." -- Car and Driver
  • Behind the wheel in the automatic (not a CVT) the car feels really plodding. Once you step on it, however, it shows its Mazda Zoom Zoom and responds with stable and predictable understeer on twisty mountain two-lanes. We are reminded that we liked driving the Mazda2, too." -- AutoWeek
  • "While the iA is hardly a sporting machine from a dynamic standpoint, it's certainly capable enough. The suspension and tires soak up smaller bumps quite well, though larger ones … were more noticed. Even with their suspensions set to 'compliant,' small, light cars such as this can still feel quite nimble and tossable in the twisties (which we found aplenty), and the iA proved the rule by carving through corners with assurance and stability if not record-setting speed." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The steering is well-weighted and accurate, and most importantly gives ample feedback so you can tell exactly what the front tires are doing." -- Cars.com

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