I’ve been a fan of the iM since it launched and its rebranding from Scion to a Toyota is a great excuse to revisit this underrated five-door. In the automotive world, a nameplate change only hurts the innocent, which in this case is the fantastic Corolla iM and I think this will only serve to confuse consumers for a little while. It’s unfortunate because this car is so darn good.

You may be asking yourself, what’s this guy doing singing the praises of a 137-horsepower, 1,300-kilogram hatchback? For starters, it ticks all of the boxes for most car buyers – value, safety, reliability, and economy – all of the things your typical non-enthusiast buyer is looking for, but it’s actually a little fun to drive and remarkably quiet for a car costing less than $25,000.

It’s also spacious, comfortable, easy to live with, and, personally, I think it looks like it was transplanted straight from the streets of Tokyo. In the bold colours that are available, it looks striking in the blue or green. My choice would be black, but that’s another story.

 

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As you know, Toyota is a very global company and in other markets their vehicles are product planned to suit local tastes. The thing is that in North America, we get only the top spec version of this car. That means our Corolla iM comes with the good looking body kit, big wheels, and most importantly, the good chassis. Good chassis, you ask? Yes, indeed. Our Corolla iM is the version of this car with the independent rear suspension and dynamically that gives it a lot of composure as well as a fun to drive factor.

With 137 horsepower and 126 pounds of torque, it’s not going to win races any time soon, but shifting through the gears of the six speed manual gearbox is actually enjoyable. That driving engagement combined with the competent chassis will on occasion paint a smile on your face.

There is a continuously variable transmission available – which costs an additional $835 – but I’ve only driven the manual, thankfully, because it’s so good. Since my testing is typically done in dense, urban traffic, there are a couple of things I should note. The ratio for first gear is a little short and the ratio for second is a little tall, so if you need to hustle the iM, you’ve got to run first pretty far up the rev range before shifting to second and keep that momentum going. Short shifts from first to second, which is my natural driving style, will leave you wanting for a bit more power.

As well, the stoplight-to-stoplight driving that I do is the worst way to gauge fuel consumption (pun intended). During my test, I averaged 10.8 (the iM is rated at 8.8 city), however, that’s mostly due to the lead in my right foot. On the highway, the iM was consuming fuel well into the 7s, so the 6.8 highway rating is entirely plausible.

 

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Peace of mind is important to buyers in this segment and Toyota covers the Corolla iM with a 3 year, 60,000km comprehensive warranty as well as a 5 year, 100,000km powertrain warranty.

For the 2017 model year, the iM gets a bump in content. Toyota’s added forward collision warning (they call it Pre Collision System), as well as lane departure warning and automatic high beams. They also added one key creature comfort – heated front seats – which I used every day during my cold, late autumn test. The set-it-and-forget-it standard automatic climate control is a great feature.

Adding to the Corolla iM’s driving enjoyment is that it’s nearly as quiet as a Lexus inside. At city or highway speeds, road and engine noise is subdued, even while rolling on winter tires, as our test car was. Toyota’s done a superb job keeping the cabin quiet, which is difficult with a hatchback configuration.

While you’ll never mistake the iM for a crossover, cargo room under the hatch is ample enough for a grocery run and on those occasions when you can drop the rear seats, you can carry plenty of stuff – bikes, boards, or boxes – and the large hatch opening makes loading a breeze.

When friends are looking at vehicles in this segment, the Corolla iM is one of our top recommendations because, like I said earlier, it ticks all of those boxes buyers are looking for. It’s got great value, Toyota reliability and safety, reasonable operating costs, a fun to drive factor, and even good looks.

2017 Toyota Corolla iM
Base Price: $22,540
As Tested: $22,540
Notable Options: Freight and delivery is an additional $1,590
Drivetrain: 1.8-litre four cylinder, 137 hp, 125 lb-ft, six-speed manual transmission
Performance: 10.8 litres per 100 km in pure city driving
VVUZZ Recommended: Tops in reliability, value, and safety, and a even little bit fun to drive. The unsung, underrated hatchback hero.

 

Images courtesy of Toyota.

Published on Dec 20, 2016