Scion’s first-ever four-door sedan shows us that big things can come in small packages.

Pricing and Equipment

The aggressive, eye-catching front grille of Scion’s very-first-ever sedan makes a dramatic visual statement rarely found in a nicely equipped car that starts at $16,495 with the standard six-speed manual transmission, or $17,595 with a six-speed automatic transmission.

From most angles, especially with its standard 16-inch alloy wheels, the swoopy iA looks far more expensive and sophisticated than the economy car’s price tag suggests.

Performance Pros

Scion iA Front Quarter

Sure, the iA’s 106-horsepower 1.5-liter engine may seem inconsequential in today's marketplace with budget sport sedans packing 200 horsepower or more. But thanks to the vehicle's low curb weight and inspiring six-speed manual transmission, the iA is a surprisingly good performer.

  • Driving the iA is a reminder that good things can come in small packages. Straight-line acceleration is more accurately described as "yes" than by listing the actual numbers, but the iA feels peppy and light on its feet. The iA’s manual gearbox is direct and provides confidence inducing shifts. The 6-speed automatic is smooth and efficient.
  • Handling is quite inspiring and -- as I found out in a near-accident situation -- the brakes work extremely well.
  • Fuel economy is impressive; the iA’s tiny engine and lightweight chassis lend themselves to excellent EPA ratings. The six-speed manual earns 31 mpg city, 41 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined. Opting for the six-speed automatic brings those numbers up to an incredible 33 mpg city, 42 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined.

Performance Cons

The tiny horsepower and torque numbers catch up with the iA when trying to pass on the highway as the car seems eventually to run out of steam.

Interior Pros

Scion iA Interior

The iA’s interior is impressive, with standard features normally absent from a car in the subcompact segment including keyless entry, push-button ignition, a backup camera, cruise control, air conditioning, a bunch of USB ports and an easy-to-use 7-inch infotainment system.

Interior Cons

  • The rear seating is too tight for three adults, but this is very typical for the segment.
  • Scion has no available option for a sunroof or leather seats. I know these goodies are high priority for many shoppers and a potential deal breaker for some.

Most Pleasant Surprise

The truth is, I really enjoyed driving the iA -- a lot more than I expected based on the tepid horsepower and torque ratings. The iA is a case of less is more. The sedan’s low curb weight of just about 2,400 pounds allows the little sedan to make the most of its horsepower and torque. Furthermore, the lightweight chassis is a blast to throw around corners and stops on a dime.

Least Pleasant Surprise

Figuring out the navigation system requires the assistance of an owner's manual. I had some difficulty figuring it all out initially, and even after a few hours I still couldn’t figure out how to increase volume for turn-by-turn voice commands.

Bottom Line

While I’m not a huge fan of buying a young driver a new car, the safety features, fuel economy and performance of the iA build a compelling case for making an exception -- and I would consider it as a first car for my soon-to-be-driving teenager.