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William Maley

First Drive: 2016 Scion iA

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Scion appears to be growing up. The brand which launched in 2003 with non-mainstream vehicles, a unique buying process, and a marketing campaign aimed at young buyers was a breath of fresh air. But the industry collapse back in 2008 and an aging lineup has seen Scion lose their key audience and drift into obscurity. So what does a brand aimed at young people that is treading water do? For Scion, it was time to get creative and work somewhat outside the box. Thus at New York, Scion introduced the iA and iM. What makes both of these vehicles different is they are actually rebadged version of other models. The iA is the sedan version of the new Mazda2, while the iM is the European Toyota Auris. So how do both of these new models stack up? First up is the 2016 Scion iA.


For the most part, the iA is quite the sleek looking vehicle with sharp lines and a distinctive profile. This is due to the Scion iA being a slightly restyled Mazda2, which itself is quite the good looking subcompact. The one part where Scion had responsibility in the design was creating a unique front fascia. It looks like Scion squished the tC's front clip into the space for the front fascia. Many journalists who saw the iA thought it was ugly. But Scion explained they wanted something that was polarizing to stand out in a somewhat crowded class. They got that with the Scion iA for better or worse.


2016 Scion IA 6

Inside, the Scion iA is pure Mazda. This means we’re treated to a simple dashboard design with a fine mix of hard plastics, paired with soft-touch materials and stitching on the dashboard.. Also, the iA gets Mazda’s latest seven-inch infotainment system with a screen on top of the dash and set of controls on the center console. This system is easy to use and simple to navigate around.


In terms of seating, the front passengers get a set of supportive bucket seats. The back seat is standard for the class with enough head and legroom for most passengers. However, you should tell your passengers to put the seat rests up Otherwise, they’ll be wondering why the backseat is trying to eat their back.


Power comes from a 1.5L four-cylinder with 106 horsepower and 101 pound-feet of torque. There is a choice of either six-speed manual or automatic. In terms of fuel economy, the iA is rated by the EPA at 31 City/41 Highway/35 Combined for the manual, and 33 City/42 Highway/37 Combined for the automatic.


For the suspension, the iA employs a McPherson strut front suspension and a torsion-beam axle in the rear. As for braking, the iA uses disc brakes around.


On to the drive!


The Scion iA seems perfectly suited for the city as the 1.5L engine is more than capable of getting up speed at a decent rate. On the expressway and country roads, the engine struggles to get up to speed. This is somewhat surprising when you take into account the iA's curb weight of 2,416 pounds for the automatic. At least the six-speed automatic is smooth and quick. But the iA begins to redeem itself when it comes to ride and handling. Ride quality was very composed and was rarely unsettled by any potholes or bumps. Handling reveals a bit of Mazda influence with iA feeling planted when pushed. The steering has a good feel and weight when you are hustling around.


2016 Scion IA 5

Like other Scions, the iA will be offered in what the brand calls ‘Mono spec’ - which means there is one configuration that boasts a lot of standard equipment including air conditioning, Bluetooth, the seven-inch infotainment system, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a low-speed pre-collision system. The only things a buyer needs to pick is whether to go with the manual or automatic transmission, color, and whether or not to go for the optional navigation system. Pricing starts at $16,495 for the manual, and $17,595 for the automatic (prices include a $795 destination charge).


Scion appears to be going in gracefully with maturing if the 2016 iA is any indication. Teaming up with Mazda to build this subcompact sedan proved to be right call since a lot this vehicle just works and drives pretty well. If you can get over the front end, then the Scion iA is worth a look.



Disclaimer: Scion Invited Cheers & Gears to a Two-Day Driving Event In Grand Rapids


Year: 2016
Make: Scion
Model: iA
Trim: N/A
Engine: 1.5L DOHC, Direct-Injected, 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive; Six-Speed Manual, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 106 @ 6000
Torque @ RPM: 103 @ 4000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 31/41/35 (Manual), 33/42/37 (Automatic)
Curb Weight: 2,385 lbs (Manual), 2,416 lbs (Automatic)
Prices: $16,495 (Manual), $17,595 (Automatic) - Prices includes a $795 Destination Charge
On Sale: September 1st

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I just do not get this brand. I get the Idea that they wanted a cheap entry way for people in Highschool and college to get an auto and then move up to Toyota and then to Lexus. So I get this thought process.


What I do not get is just how ugly, Cheap looking these autos are. The interior is one of the worst right there with Yugo. I could get far better options from Ford, GM or Dodge.

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I really like the Mazda 2 (we get the hatch only over here), so I'm really surprised that Toyota could have uglyfied the car to this degree.....

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They may sell more as scions than Mazda

Front end = ugly

I know it gets good mpg but they might sell a few more with an upgraded engine option.

Price is not out of line like I expected.

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    • By William Maley
      When I go back and look at the various Kia Optimas I have driven for Cheers & Gears, there has been one variant that I haven’t driven, the 2.0L turbo-four. But this changed back over the summer when a 2016 Kia Optima SXL came into the Cheers & Gears’ Detroit bureau for a week-long evaluation. The SXL serves as the Optima’s flagship trim with more premium materials and the turbo-four.
      As I mentioned in my Optima EX review from earlier this year, the redesigned Optima looks familiar to the previous model. But that isn’t a bad thing per say. It is still as sharp looking as the previous model and the changes done such as a new trunk lid, LED taillights, a smaller grille, and reshaped headlights. The SXL takes it a step further with a set of 18-inch alloy wheels, Turbo badging on the fender vents, and a little bit more chrome. Finished in a dark blue, the Optima SXL is damn good looking midsize sedan. You won’t find many differences in the SXL’s interior compared to other Optima’s. The key one is the seats being wrapped Nappa leather with a quilted pattern. If I am being honest, I can’t really tell difference between the Nappa leather and the standard leather used on other Kia models.  But what I can tell the difference with is the materials used in the SXL’s interior. Kia swaps the soft-touch plastic used on the dash and door panels for stitched leatherette. This is to give the impression that you’re in something more expensive and it works very well. The Optima SXL’s backseat is slightly tighter than the one found in the Optima EX. Why? The SXL comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard, which eats into headroom. Let’s talk about the engine. The SXL features a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder with 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. Leaving a stop, it takes a moment for the engine to fully wake up and you can’t help but wonder where is the power. At first, I thought this new 2.0L developed a bad case of turbo-lag. But I soon realized that it was a lazy throttle that was causing this issue. This is something we have been noticing in recent Hyundai and Kia models equipped with the turbo engine. Once you get over the lazy throttle, the engine moves the Optima with some authority. Merging onto a freeway or making a pass is no problem as the turbo quickly spools up and gives the necessary thrust. It doesn’t hurt the engine is very refined. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 22 City/32 Highway/25 Combined. I achieved a not too shabby 26.1 mpg average for the week. One of my biggest complaints about the last Optima I drove was the uncomfortable ride. The tuning on the EX model let in more bumps and road imperfections inside than what I was expecting. To my surprise, the SXL featured a more comfortable ride. Despite featuring larger wheels, the SXL was able to iron out most bumps and imperfections. I can’t explain why there is a vast difference in terms of ride quality between the two trims at this time. The SXL does retain the sharp handling that we liked in the Optima EX. Body motions are kept in check and the steering provides a nice heft when turning. Some will lament that the steering doesn’t have the same feel as something like the Mazda6, but this has to be Kia’s best effort yet.  The Optima SXL begins at $35,790 and that includes every option available on the Optima as standard equipment - 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, a Harman/Kardon audio system, navigation, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, surround view camera system, and much more. Some might balk at the price. But considering what the SXL brings to the table, along with its improved ride quality, it is very much worth the price. Plus, you might be able to work out a deal to where you’ll be able to cut the price. We’ve seen dealers cutting about $2,000 to $4,000 off Optima SXLs in an effort improve sales of the midsize sedan. Who knows, you might be able to get one of best equipped and decent driving midsize sedans at a surprising price. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Optima SXL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Kia
      Model: Optima
      Trim: SXL
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 245 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,350-4,000 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/32/25
      Curb Weight: 3,594 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: West Point, Georgia
      Base Price: $35,790
      As Tested Price: $36,615 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge)

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