On the Road – Toyota Corolla iM [VIDEO]
I had a good friend, a high school and college buddy named Steve who bought his first new car the same year I did. I was Mr. Cool and wanted to wow the proles out there with my taste and brio. I could only afford a Triumph Spitfire, but it was like an Aston Martin to me. My friend meanwhile bought a Toyota Corolla wagon.
For around the same money, we both got a stick-shift four-cylinder import with basic radios and such. He got an air conditioner, which wasn’t available on my car, but then again, it’s better to look good than feel good. So while I was reintroduced to the wonderful world of Lucas electrical systems, Smith’s instruments and SU carburetors, he just chugged along in his Corolla. When I got tired of sweating and paying mechanics named Nigel far too much for a water pump and sold the Spit, thus beginning a series of other ownership adventures, he just kept chugging along in his Corolla.
I think Steve kept that ugly little box well into the 1980’s when I was on my 5th or 6th car since we began. And therein lies one of the charms of the Toyota Corolla and the secret of its success. It wasn’t particularly sexy, fast or luxurious. But you’d have to hit it with a quick burst of M-60 fire to stop the darned thing and that is sexy enough for a lot of folks. And the latest iteration of the venerable Japanese econobox keeps the tradition alive and well, with one important exception.
It is now pretty darned sexy.
Now, our test vehicle was called something else in 2016. It was the Scion which means a young heir to the family name and fortune. But that Scion has now been disinherited.
Another reality of the marketplace has sunk in. Like Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury, Saturn, Plymouth, and a host of others, Scion is now history.
But never fear, the cars, all three of them, including the lovely little hatchback iM model we drove this week, will survive. They are just now called Toyotas, as they are everywhere else in the world. And yes, that includes the gorgeous, fun and tres cool little FRS two-seat sports car, which is now the Toyota 86.
But our focus right now is on the new iM, which always was essentially a Toyota Corolla in a much snappier suit of clothes.
The iM shares the platform of the Corolla family, albeit with a better rear suspension. It also shares the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with a relatively paltry 137 horsepower, and I think some of the lukewarm reviews it’s getting stem from a misunderstanding of this car’s place in the food chain. It is an attractive, sporty, quick, nice handling little sedan with lots of standard equipment and a multi-speaker Pioneer tinnitus generator.
Inside is…well…lots of plastic, but in Toyota’s defense, it’s first rate plastic which isn’t as easy as it sounds. The back seat is just roomy enough to keep claustrophobics from clawing at the sunroof to escape, and on the road this little car is just a blast. Ok, 0-60 miles per hour takes about 8.5 seconds, but it feels much quicker.
Now, the 1.8-liter mill won’t frighten any Camaros, but it won’t embarrass you either, if you opt for the 6-speed manual gearbox, which we drove last year in the Scion version. The optional CVT automatic, I assumed, would no doubt turn it into a sleek, school transport module.
But it did not. It was still peppy, although I still like the control and fun of the stick.
The mileage won’t disappoint either, with the stick-shift model covering 27 miles per gallon in the city, 36 on the highway. With the CVT the mileage is a hair better at 28 city, 36 highway.
The base price of the Corolla iM is just over $19,000 and with a handful of options our test car topped out at $21,500.
But getting all this, plus Toyota quality and resale for just under $20,000 is a feat in and of itself, and a reminder of why we all came to love them in the first place.
That’s our road test, I’m Roger Gray and I’ll see you on the road…