Style, a Hatch and Fuel Economy
Toyota closed the door on its youth-targeted sub-brand Scion at the end of 2016, but it saved the iM five-door hatchback from the crusher and slapped on a Toyota nameplate for the 2017 model year. Based on the same platform as the Corolla sedan, the sassy-styled Corolla iM is powered by Toyota’s 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with Valvematic continuously variable-valve timing. Developing 137 horsepower and 126 pounds-feet of torque, it can be paired with a standard six-speed manual or optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
While the four-banger is best described as sluggish with the CVT, the Toyota Corolla iM’s fuel economy is above-average for a non-hybrid compact car—28-mpg city/36 highway/31 combined per the EPA. Those numbers drop by one mpg with the manual transmission.
Using the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it.” the 2018 Corolla iM is unchanged from the 2017 model. Well, except for the price that starts at $19,745—$100 more than 2017—which remains a great value. The continuously variable automatic transmission is optional for an extra $740.
Styling Cuts a Fine Form
Stylistically, the Corolla iM is a bit flashy for Toyota. From the thrust of its nose to the slope of its tailgate, the iM’s design creates a sense of forward motion. A sweptback roofline, aggressive lower body panels and LED running lights and taillights suggest all the makings of a hot hatch. The piano black grille treatment is subtle, but effective, and the imposing presence of 17-inch alloy wheels enhances the iM’s sporty look.
While piano black trim inside the cabin makes a fashionable statement, the Toyota Corolla iM’s interior design is otherwise fairly straightforward. The audio and climate controls are as straightforward as they come, while symmetrical armrests and an adjustable steering column yield an appropriately neutral driving position. Power seats are not available, but the six-way front buckets leave nothing to be desired in comfort or lateral support. And while rear legroom can’t measure up to most rivals, rear quarters feel plenty roomy in the outboard seating positions.
The standard seven-inch touchscreen is easy to reach and reacts quickly. A 4.2-inch color information screen is tucked between the tach and the speedometer.
It Can Carry, Too
For those with little ones, installing car or booster seats is quite easy. When it’s cargo you’re carrying instead of people, there’s 20.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats. The split-folding rear seats give you the flexibility to haul larger items, and they fold nearly flat, providing a nice loading floor.
The Toyota Corolla iM is available in only one trim level. Your only basic options are color and transmission choice. As for the interior, you can have any color you want so long as it’s black.
Using the philosophy that some new car buyers just want it all at a good price, Toyota loads up the Corolla iM with features most competitors leave as options, which is why it is such a good value proposition. Every Corolla iM comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, power-folding/heated side mirrors, power windows and door locks, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, the seven-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and a USB port.
On the safety side, Toyota’s Safety Sense C driver-assist suite is standard with lane-departure alert, pre-collision braking and automatic high beams, as well as eight airbags including front-seat side, side-curtain and a driver’s-knee airbag.
Options are limited to a navigation system, the aHa Radio app and a few dealer-installed accessories such as body-side ground effects, side graphics and rear wind deflector. A deal breaker for some will be the absence of a moon roof, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and access to satellite radio.
Our Toyota Corolla iM came with floor and cargo mats, wheel locks and rear wind deflector. Total sticker price including destination charges: $21,598.
Corolla iM Performance, Ride and Handling
Overall, the cabin is not a bad place to be. It’s spacious enough for tall drivers, and adults can tolerate the rear seats for an hour or two. The front buckets are nicely bolstered, comfortable for cruising and supportive when hustling around a tight S-curve.
The engine has ample power for driving around town, but could use a can of spinach when pulling away from a stoplight or merging onto the highway. I’m not big CVT fan, but this one is more agreeable than most. It offers seven distinct ratios in Sport mode, and manual control is available via the shift lever. Automakers use CVTs to improve fuel economy; in this case, the payoff was 31 mpg after driving 236 miles on city streets, freeways and two-lane country roads.
I can’t rave about the Corolla iM’s handling and ride quality, but both are acceptable. The ride is comfortable over most road surfaces, and handling is composed on winding roads, the benefit of the iM’s independent rear suspension, a step up from the Corolla four-door’s beam axle. Agile in the corners with precise steering, our Corolla iM was almost playful.
The Hatchback for You?
The Toyota Corolla iM offers sporty styling at an affordable price for those who think performance is all about looks. While other sleek hatchbacks like the Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf offer similar features and interior accommodations, they do so for thousands more than the Corolla iM, which comes as one, well-equipped mono-spec trim for just under $20,000.
Backed by Toyota’s extensive dealer network and holding excellent resale values, the only reason not to gravitate toward the Toyota Corolla iM is its lack of power. Then again, having fuel economy that averages in the mid- to upper-30-mpg range might help alleviate your feelings about the iM’s performance.
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