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The Mazda2-derived Scion iA is a front-drive subcompact without the expected understeer, according to Scion.

Scion debuts iA and iM at New York

Toyota’s Scion youth brand has recently gotten ironically old. The company addressed that situation with a pair of new models at the 2015 New York International Auto Show that aims to refresh Scion’s lineup and its image.

Scion’s mission, according to Vice President Doug Murtha, is to attract new, younger customers to Toyota with distinctive products, to sell those products through a unique one-price process, and to give parent company Toyota a venue to experiment with new solutions.

The new Scion iA and iM provide some much-needed fresh product to the company’s line, products that it hopes will attract non-Toyota customers to the brand.

One way Scion stated its youth credentials in the past was to eschew anything so boringly mainstream as a conventional three-box four-door sedan. Now it offers the iA, the product of an experimental joint venture with Mazda to provide Scion with a sport, affordable sedan built on the underpinnings of the Mazda2 and built in the NAFTA zone in Mazda’s Salamanca, Mexico, plant.

Scion’s goal is to attract young buyers with abundant content and the opportunity to drive a car that looks less like a starter car than the subcompact hatchbacks that are typical in its class. The iA is powered by Mazda’s 106-hp (79-kW) 1.5-L four-cylinder and drives the front wheels through either a six-speed manual transaxle or a six-speed automatic.

Despite a no-haggle, single-specification approach, the approximately $16,000 iA will include 16-inch aluminum wheels, keyless entry, pushbutton start, tilting and telescoping steering, a collision warning system, and a rear back-up camera. There is even a standard 7-in dashboard multimedia display with voice recognition.

These are likely the kinds of features that will appeal to the target customers, but in case there are still shoppers who are more concerned with what’s under the hood than in the dashboard, Murtha promises the Mazda-based underpinnings will deliver. “Just wait 'til you get behind the wheel and experience iA's surprising dynamic balance and lack of typical understeer,” he boasted.

At the same time, if gas prices go back up, budget-minded drivers will appreciate the fact that their well-equipped, fun-to-drive, grown-up-looking car will also score 42 mpg on the EPA highway fuel economy cycle.

The iM, on the other hand, hews more closely to Scion’s regular playbook, as it is a five-door hatchback heavily based on a Toyota model sold outside the U.S. In this case, it is the Toyota Auris that is rebadged and packaged as a Scion. An earlier version served as the base car for the Lexus CT200h hybrid.

The iM is built on the platform used by the current Corolla, but with a double-wishbone independent rear suspension in place of the Corolla’s torsion beam axle for improved ride and handling.

This sub-$20,000 model is a step up from the iA in Scion’s model line, with features like a 137-hp (102-kW) 1.8-L four-cylinder featuring Toyota’s Valvematic continuously variable valve timing and lift system. The six-speed manual transmission includes hill-start assist so drivers new to shift-it-yourself technology don’t embarrass themselves when they have to launch on a steep hill.

The automatic transmission choice for the iM is a CVT that Scion says has been tuned for sporty response. To nudge the CVT further in that direction, there is a Sport mode that modifies the transmission’s movement through its ratios as well as the car’s electric power steering assist and the mapping of the engine’s throttle-by-wire.

The CVT can also pose as a manual, with a manual mode that lets the driver click through seven pre-set ratios to simulate the experience of a conventional gearbox with a set of fixed ratios.

The included six-speaker Pioneer sound system uses an in-dash head unit that has a 7-in display screen with HD terrestrial radio and the Aha Internet radio app. Its air conditioning is the dual-zone variety, just like in luxury cars, its heated outside mirrors are power folding, for urban parking security, and its headlights turn on and off automatically.

Both cars will arrive at U.S. Scion dealers in September.

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