The owner’s manual says “Corolla” but it has a hatchback, what’s up with that? In recent decades all Corolla’s were sedans, but with the demise of Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion brand the company’s iM hatchback needed a place to crash, so it is now known as the Toyota Corolla iM. It seats five people and competes with the Ford Focus hatchback, Mazda3 hatchback and Hyundai Elantra GT.
The iM’s heritage is evident in the wedgie angular design. A sweptback roofline, aggressive lower body panels, and LED running lights and taillights suggest all the makings of a hot hatch, while projector-beam headlights and a versatile liftback speak to the iM’s practical side. For those who desire some additional show without the go, Toyota offers a host of dealer-installed accessories like TRD lowering springs, carbon-fiber window trim and body graphics.
Under the hood the Corolla iM is powered by the same 1.8-liter 137-hp four-cylinder, naturally aspirated four-cylinder mill you get in every Corolla these days. It can be paired with a standard 6-speed manual or optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) featuring a 7-speed simulated sequential-shift mode. Beyond altering shift points, there’s a sport setting that also quickens throttle response and adds weighting to the electric power steering. I strongly advise you to get the manual, the problem with CVTs is they tend to hunt for the correct ratio, moving RPMs up and down without a direct correlation to throttle position. This will generate a dreadful moaaaannn as the car grumbles along at the same RPM.
The Corolla iM has a number of key differences with the major one being the independent suspension setup in the rear instead of the Corolla sedan’s torsion beam. Choppy pavement does not go unnoticed, but it’s livable. If you’re concerned about handling or steering feel, I’m confused as to why you’re reading a Corolla review? That’s not what this car is for. While it’s not sloppy handling or particularly floaty, the iM is clearly designed with comfort in mind. In that regard, it succeeds.
On the inside the iM Boasts an edgy-yet-tasteful layout. The interior is comprised of soft material instead of hard plastics on the dash, doors and other key areas. The cockpit is all about functionality. The audio and climate controls are as straightforward, while symmetrical armrests and an adjustable steering column yield an appropriately neutral driving position. Power seats are not available, but the 6-way front buckets leave nothing to be desired in comfort or lateral support. Given that the iM is only available in one trim, you may be surprised to find blank buttons. Typically, these are placeholders for customers who buy base models that serve as reminders that you cheaped out. But no, these buttons are designed for features available on the European models and there’s nothing you can do to get rid of them. Outward visibility is fantastic, which helps when you parking or mixing it up with traffic on your daily commute.
A relic from Scion’s product strategy, the Corolla iM is available in only one well equipped trim level. Thankfully it comes standard with a long list of features including 17-inch alloys, LED running lights and taillights, power-folding/heated side mirrors, power windows and door locks, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a nifty 4.2-inch driver-information display, a rearview camera, plus a 6-speaker Display audio system with Bluetooth and a USB port. Toyota’s Safety Sense C driver-assist suite adds pre-collision braking, lane-departure alert and automatic high beams, as well as eight airbags including front-seat side, side-curtain and a driver’s-knee airbag. But if you are a fan of moonroofs, push-button start or passive entry, you will have to look elsewhere.
The iM’s is very practical for the budget conscious shoppers. We found many used iM’s as low as $13,000 with very good mileage. The iM has a strong resale value and excellent long term ownership costs. We also like the fact that The 2017 Corolla iM has features most competitors leave as options. If you look at cars as an appliance, then the iM is right for you, the only reason not to gravitate toward the Corolla iM is its lack of power. Then again, having fuel economy that averages in the mid to upper 30-mpg range might help alleviate your feelings about the iM’s performance.