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One of the things that always separated the Scion brand from its competitors was its individuality. That, and the infinite amount of opportunities for distinctive customization. Scion, offered a car that nobody else had – it was an audacious move for a new automaker that, in the end, paid vast dividends, and not just to the automaker, but to the aftermarket industry as well. However, as we take a look into their latest installment, the iA, let’s just say I’m not so sure where it fits in just yet.

Already, I see a big problem, the iA is just another compact car fighting in an already cut throat world. The iA competes against the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Spark, and the Toyota Yaris – there may be one or two missing from that list, but you get the picture. If the market for a struggling new compact isn’t hard enough, its controversial looks already has people giving it that curled eyebrow look.

Looks though are all opinionated, while mine may not matter, I don’t think it looks all that bad. Plus with our Sapphire Blue paint and standard 16-inch wheels, it looks kind of… uhm cute. The front is all Scion, having an awkward snout profile and large mouth grille – a signature move coming from Toyota. At least there was some common sense to pull the rear from Mazda, it has a familiar look, so when people pull up from behind, they’ll be confused.

If there is some good to come out of this iA, it’s the Mazda pedigree under the body. The chassis is properly snug providing a solidness to its structure and well-being. Turns are smooth and crisp from the nicely weighted steering wheel and feedback is surprisingly receptive, even from the skinny tires. The suspension is also orderly in its composure, it has proper road mannerism of comfort while being energetic as I toss it in and out of turns.

On paper, the 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four cylinder engine may not sound like much, and taking merely double digits to 60 mph isn’t going to impress anyone. No matter automatic or manual tranny, there are 6 forward gears to get you where you need to go. For the sake of this review, we unintentionally scheduled the six-speed automatic. Nonetheless, the transmission is responsive and organized in its demeanor – considering its segment. Switch it to Sport, and the transmission sharpens its sensitivity and throttle responsiveness. It’s really a pointless gimmick, it doesn’t go any faster, and the engine sounds like a turtle screaming for help.

The interior is all Mazda which means it carries a handsome presence. I quite like the clean, minimal designed dash that uses soft touch materials and faux carbon fiber trim. The 7-inch color touch screen infotainment system is standard and can be controlled with a rotary knob in the center that allows for easy functionality through the menus; however, its only touch screen when stopped and didn’t included satellite radio – it did include Pandora connectivity via smart phone and text message alerts. Also standard on the iA is the Low Speed Pre-Collision Braking Assist which will assist you in stopping if get to close to hitting someone while re-tweeting something Ryan Gosling just did.

My travels this week took me to the City of Angels, Los Angeles for the L.A. Auto Show – which you can catch up here. The trip was just under 900 miles (which was pushing our 1000 mile barrier.) I invited a friend to tag along who opted to remain nameless – but any more than just us two and it would have been a constant fight for shotgun. Travels to Cali is fairly boring, its I-10 all the way and since I was being cheap, I booked the Renaissance Hotel near the airport which is about 40 minutes from Downtown L.A.

The drive is about 6 hours and some change – for a small car and no center armrest, it managed to be surprisingly comfortable. Interior volume is a snug, but it’s a small car. At highway cruising the speed, the iA is quiet and mild manner. Even with a small engine it manages to have some pep in its step. While in L.A. I decided to park the iA to keep the mileage down and rented something a little more… California-ish till it was time to head back to Phoenix.

At the end of our trip, before nestling it back in the parking garage at headquarters, I managed to average 37 mpg’s hitting the targeted EPA combined rating. It takes just regular octane fuel to make the iA chipper taking us as far as 350 miles before it needs more happy juice.

For a Scion, the iA isn’t as unique as we would have hoped and don’t find that it works with their branding scheme. However heaving some spirited driving DNA in its bones may be enough to give a fighting chance in its cut throat segment.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Scion iA $16,800
Destination: $770
Grand Total: $17,570