Toyota Auris 1.2L Turbo I-4 First Drive
Scion Hatches a Sporty Plan With Toyota’s New Auris
Last year Toyota’s Scion brand sold just over 58,000 vehicles in the U.S. For Toyota, the No. 1 automaker globally with more than 10 million vehicle sales in 2014, that’s not even a drop in the bucket — more like a mist particle, really. After all, the Avalon alone found nearly 70,000 takers in the U.S. over the same period, and that full-size four-door is considered a modest seller. But given Scion’s debuts at April’s New York auto show — the Mazda2-based iA sedan and the car here, the JDM Auris-based iM hatchback — it’s clear that Toyota isn’t quite ready to let its youthful brand kick the bucket.
The iA and iM will arrive at Scion dealerships in September, with the iA coming from Mazda’s factory in Salamanca, Mexico, and the iM from Toyota’s Takaoka plant in Toyota City, Japan. The iM’s roots lie in the Auris, which was recently refreshed for the Japanese market with updated interior trim, added active safety technology (pre-collision system, lane departure warning, automatic high beams), revised front and rear fascias, and a new 8NR-FTS 1.2-liter, turbo inline-four that delivers 114 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque (more on that engine in a bit). In addition to the 1.2T, the Auris offers a 1NZ-FE 1.5-liter inline-four (103 hp, 100 lb-ft) and a 2ZR-FAE 1.8-liter inline-four (141 hp, 128 lb-ft). If the “Valvematic” 2ZR-FAE sounds familiar, that’s because it also motivates the 140-hp, 126-lb-ft Corolla Eco, which at 42 mpg highway is Toyota’s most fuel-efficient compact sedan in America. And once the iM hits U.S. shores, the 1.8 will sound even more familiar, as it will be the sole engine available (rated at 137 hp and 126 lb-ft and up to an estimated 37 mpg highway), paired with either a six-speed manual or a CVT.
For the iM, Scion had multiple Auris trims to choose from but opted for the zesty RS that features a leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport seats, body aero kit, chrome-tipped exhaust, black honeycomb grille, and 17-inch alloys wearing 225/45 tires. The transformation from Auris RS to Scion iM was minimal, limited to some badge swaps and trim changes, with most of the content carried over. According to Scion, the iM will start at around $20,000 and come mono-spec, which translates to such standard items as a 60/40-split rear seat, cargo cover, power/heated/folding side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display, and a six-speaker Pioneer audio system with 7-inch display. Navigation, TRD enhancements, and other accessories, including a full line of pet-friendly gear, will be offered via dealers (the Scion iM is pictured immediately below and at the bottom of this review; other Auris trims are shown below).
At a recent Auris launch event in Japan, I had the chance to lap Sodegaura Forest Raceway in an RS equipped with the new 1.2T and a CVT. Though it touts a humble 114 horsepower, the 1.2T’s 136 lb-ft of torque, albeit also humble, is realized at a low 1,500 rpm, so thrust off the line and out of corners felt energetic. Moreover, the petite direct-injection engine, using the Atkinson cycle, a single-scroll turbo, and an integrated water-cooled exhaust manifold in the cylinder head, revved smoothly and willingly, never coming across underpowered. (We won’t get the 1.2T in the iM — at least Scion has no plans for it at this point — but chances are good we’ll see it in future Toyota products, e.g., next-gen iterations of the Corolla and possibly even the Prius.) The suspension — front struts and rear control arms — seemed both supple and sporty, relaying a compliant ride mixed with relatively flat cornering. As is generally the case with Toyotas, the stability control system was rather intrusive. The electric power steering felt light and linear, if not a bit numb, and the four-wheel disc brakes remained strong and fade-free, though I would’ve welcomed a firmer pedal. All in all, over my 10-lap stint, the Auris proved an enjoyable and entertaining hatch, providing notable doses of sport and refinement. Considering the iM’s projected price tag, the package and dynamics are impressive. Whether the U.S.-spec iM can hang with the king of the hatch hill — our 2015 Car of the Year, the VW Golf — will be determined when we can drive them back to back on American roads.
In terms of acceleration, though, we can make some safe assumptions, thanks to test data on the last Corolla Eco we ran. That car, weighing in at 2,920 pounds, sauntered from 0 to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds and through the quarter mile in 17.1 seconds at 83.2 mph. Scion estimates the curb weight for an iM with CVT at 3,045 pounds, so there’s no reason to believe it’ll stray far from the Corolla. That said, an iM equipped with the six-speed stick should launch more aggressively, so maybe it knocks 0.5 second off those times — maybe. Meanwhile, a Golf TSI, with 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft, hits 60 in 7.8 and the quarter in 15.9 at 88.3.
Based on my time in the Auris, Scion’s upcoming iM promises to be a solid, well-built, fun-to-drive entry. Will it be the quickest hatch on the road? Hardly. But with a price tag that looks especially compelling, it might very well be the best value. For Scion, that’s not a bad way to start a new lease on life.