TFLcar First Drive: 2016 Scion iA Automatic [First Impression]

2016 Scion iA automatic
2016 Scion iA automatic

The 2016 Scion iA is one confusing car.

For one thing, it’s not a Scion. It’s a Mazda 2, rebadged and restyled (more on that later) and sold through Toyota’s Scion dealerships.

So it’s a Mazda, built for Toyota, and sold as a Scion. And it’s made in Mexico.

The first of two iAs to arrive at TFLcar is a red automatic. A grey manual is coming soon, and TFLcar will have a full review of both.

On first impression, the iA is clearly a Mazda. It looks like a 3/4 scale Mazda 3. Except, of course, for the nose. It’s clearly from the Toyota “angry Cylon” school of design and it looks out of place on the flowing, organic Mazda body.

Inside, the iA’s interior is nearly indistinguishable from the 2016 Mazda CX-3‘s interior – no surprise as they share the same platform. This is a good thing, as the materials are surprisingly good for a $17,000 car. The iPad-like 7-inch touchscreen is very Mazda, and the interface is simple and intuitive. Even the control knob on the center console is easy to learn and use. Are you paying attention, Mercedes?

The only thing to mar the otherwise excellent interior is the tachometer. It’s small, it’s digital, and it washes out in even the slightest of ambient light. In the daytime it’s almost worthless.

2016 Scion iA automatic

Taking the iA for a first spin, it’s even more clear this is a Mazda. Steering is wonderfully accurate and weighty without being a burden. It’s progressive and communicative. The suspension is well sorted, with decent ride quality for a small wheelbase car and fantastic dynamics. The fact that Mazda made such a cheap car handle so well is a minor miracle.

The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is weak – 106 horsepower – but Mazda’s obsession with weight control means that it doesn’t feel weak. The real six-speed automatic – no CVT here – shifts nicely and, lo and behold, the manual shift gate is in the proper racing pattern of back for upshifts, forward for downshifts.

So far, the iA has impressed. To find out if it continues to impress after a few weeks – and to compare the automatic to the six-speed manual – stay tuned to TFLcar for a complete review of the 2016 Scion iA.

For now, check out this TFLcar first-drive video review of the 2016 Scion iA automatic: