By Larry Lark / Herald Special Sections Writer
With the departure of the Scion last year, Toyota execs made a sneaky good move by adding the iM model to the Corolla lineup.
The 2017 iM model includes a sporty and versatile, five-door hatchback design, stand-out safety features including Safe Sense C, premium amenities, and a fun-to-drive six-speed stick shift. It also delivers a combined 31 miles per gallon in city/highway driving and an affordable price.
That combination will make it an instant favorite in the compact niche. The Corolla iM seats four adults, but my adult children felt less than fulfilled on a short jaunt to Easter dinner near Alderwood Mall.
The rear hatch is functional and versatile. No golf on the holiday weekend, but I believe with the drop of one of the 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, that would not have been a problem.
Powered by a 1.8-liter DOHC engine with Valvematic continuously variable valve timing, the engine generates 138 horsepower with a broad torque curve that supplies ample, but not overly satisfying, acceleration.
For driving purists, the iM has a standard six-speed stick shift that’s a slick shift, (no paddle shifters) making for an engaging and active driving experience. Got hills? Both the manual and automatic iM models come standard with hill-start assist, which helps prevent roll-back when pulling away from a stop sign or traffic light on an incline.
The feature worked great getting out of the office parking lot, but I didn’t take on the mean, extra-steep hills of downtown Seattle for a real test.
The chassis, with sophisticated double-wishbone rear suspension, smoothes out urban bumps and tames adventurous curves. The iM was a pleasure to drive touring the Skagit Valley tulip fields, and navigating the windy Chuckanut Drive route to Bellingham.
The iM’s exterior casts a sporty figure with a piano-black, hexagon-shaped lower grille, standard aero kit, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED lights, Barcelona Red Metallic coat of paint, and a “swoosh line” — rendered in steel — running the length of the car.
Creature comforts include sports-car-inspired instrument panel, dual-zone climate control, Pioneer six-speaker sound system with USB ports, Bluetooth, heated and bolstered front sport seats that provide support in all the right places, and a rear-view camera, to name a few.
Last, but certainly not least, the iM provides a multitude of safety features. The Toyota Safe Sense C package features three proprietary active safety technologies and combines a camera and laser beam for enhanced performance and reliability. With lane-departure alert, automatic high beams and a pre-collision system, TSS-C can help prevent or mitigate collisions in a wide range of vehicle speeds.
Toyota’s Corolla iM is a lot of car for the money. There’s a reason the brand has legions of diehard followers and repeat customers.
Base Price: $18,750
Price As Driven: $20,758
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.