2016 Scion iA Review: When better Toyotas are built, Mazda will build them Last fall, Toyota’s Scion brand managers crisscrossed the USA telling the public that it revitalized its somnambulant youth-oriented brand. Two new cars and a Weird Right ad campaign represented an offspring primed for resurgence. Since then, Toyota announced it’s dumping the Scion moniker. It argues that today’s youthful buyers are neither afraid of their parents’ Toyota dealers nor Toyota’s vehicles. Next year, Scion products will wear Toyota badges. When Toyota does that, perhaps it will replace the French-made Yaris with the plucky Mazda2-derived iA. Even better, add the iA’s hatchback kin to the mix. In other words, the new iA, built in Mexico by Mazda, is Toyota’s most appealing subcompact. Let us count the iAdvantages: One, the overall noise level is restrained. Yes there’s wind rustle and some road rumble but highway trips do not require passengers to raise their voices. This is progress. Two, steering behavior is nicely weighted and responsive, although the tires lack grip. While there’s some road sense, it doesn’t communicate slippery surfaces well—the norm these days. That said: stability control and anti-lock brakes did their jobs well. I trekked through a Midwestern snowstorm with confidence. Prompt reaction to steering input plus good directional stability even on rough roads means it’s iAthletic. Three, the front seat bottoms could be longer, but seat room and comfort are good—better up front than the Honda Fit. Adequate rear-seat legroom requires cooperative front occupant. Four, Mazda’s rotary knob-control infotainment system is pleasant to operate; there’s a rubbery palm pad that helps you locate the smaller console-mounted volume control or the larger mode-selector knob. You can twist, tap or bump this big knob to select items on the info screen. In addition, there are three forward mounted switches that select home, tunes and navigation. The info system’s touch-screen is mounted atop the dashboard where it’s eye friendly. Those seeking the king of mpg will dig its economy screen that reveals fuel usage at set intervals during one’s trip. Five: there’s an economical yet sprightly engine. The twin-cam, 106-hp, 16-valve, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder mill is mated to either a six-speed manual (the smart choice) or a conventional six-speed automatic. The automatic is geared toward low-rpm operation (2000 rpm at 60 mph). There’s a sport-mode switch that produces much engine buzz. During everyday use, the mill sounds like a distant Hoover Concept One, but when you summon all of its ponies, that noise changes into a purposeful snarl. During my expressway trip, the tranny often downshifted without drama to keep things perking. This car has enough beans to play in traffic. Fuel economy in the mid-30s to low 40s is possible. I netted 36 mpg during winter weather; the trip computer indicated 42 on a highway trip. That’s good for an automatic. Six: ride quality is actually very good: like it’s suspended on taut rubber bands. Frost-heaved pavement provokes sudden vertical jolts, yet the sensation is close to an ideal combination of damping and resilience. And unlike some small cars, this one has Mazda’s special sauce—the ability to corner or hold a straight line that inspires confidence. Other items worth noting: side view mirrors are large--a boon in city traffic, small electronic displays for tachometer and fuel wash out in daylight. The one lone analogue style dial—the speedometer—presents its info as if you’re supposed to read digits on a Jackson Pollack painting. In contrast, the headlights are effective. Skimpiness means there’s only one overhead grab handle, and the headliner has unsightly plastic plugs. Soft-touch points on the doors and the dashboard’s blue-stitched center strip offset this. Nonetheless, the dashboard cover and door panels are mostly comprised of nicely coated hard plastics. For safety, there’s a low-speed forward-collision mitigation system. For your gear, there's a trunk can swallow two golf bags; there’s a split fold rear seat too. The steering wheel’s switchgear tweaks the infotainment system. I preferred the console’s center knob. In sum: A modest outlay ($17,595) buys one nifty, thrifty little sedan.