2017 Toyota Corolla iM
2017 Toyota Corolla iM

Our neighbours to the south are not fond of hatchbacks, but Canadians, Europeans and Asians, hold the utilitarian design in high regard.

Toyota dealers here, left in the lurch when the company dropped the Matrix due to lack of interest the U.S., now have an affordable hatchback back in the showroom.

The iM is known as the Toyota Auris in other markets, but branded as a Corolla iM for North America — the only place where the Scion brand existed.

The iM looks a lot like a Corolla, and is similar in many ways, but rests on a different platform, complete with a different rear suspension. It is 320 mm shorter than the Corolla and the wheelbase is 100 mm less.

In addition to being a hatchback, the iM is a value-laden proposition. It comes in one trim level, with no options. Pick your colour and transmission — manual or automatic — that’s it. For $23,375 (automatic) you get: tilt and telescope steering wheel, 17-in alloy wheels, dual zone air conditioning, six-speaker infotainment system with voice-recognition and 17-cm screen, heated front seats, power windows and locks, backup camera, cruise control, remote keyless entry, auto high beam, pre-collision and lane departure warning systems, power heated mirrors and Toyota quality, reliability and re-sale value.

While the $23,375 tag may look a little steeper than some of the competition, make sure you compare apples-to-apples. Add the above-mentioned list of features to the others before making a comparison. In most cases that will mean moving up one or two trim levels from the base model.

Based on a vehicle developed for the European market, the iM boasts a degree of driving dynamics unusual for something wearing the Corolla badge.

Part of that goes to the independent rear suspension, where the Corolla has a solid beam back there, but the majority of the difference can be attributed to the tuning of the various springs, shocks, bushings, sway bars and other components for those European markets.

While the iM offers an impressive ride/handling combination, it does not fare so well when it comes to drivetrain. The 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine puts out a paltry 137 horsepower, which struggles to propel the car with any sense of urgency. Requiring almost 11 seconds to reach 100 km/hr. from rest, makes it several seconds slower than the competition.

Should you require more power, which happens often, the result is more noise than oomph. This of course causes the CVT transmission, which is otherwise well-behaved, to go into maximum power/revs mode resulting in a pronounced moan from beneath the hood as you wait for the speed to increase.

If performance is not high on your wish list, the iM satisfies in so many other ways. It gets Toyota’s Safety System which adds emergency braking, lane departure warning and automatic high beams to an already impressive list of standard safety features.

Getting into and out of the iM requires bending to get under the low roofline. Thick C-pillars and rear seat head restraints restrict vision in that direction.

The front seats are supportive with sufficient bolstering. The rear seat has decent room for two adults for a vehicle of these dimensions. The rear seat back is split 60/40 and fold almost flat for additional cargo space — up to 588 litres or 20.8 cubic feet.

The dashboard is conventional, with controls easy to reach and decipher — except for those controlling the heated seats. It took me a while to locate those.

There are buttons and knobs for most controls except for tuning the radio. The trim includes some ‘piano black’ (fancy way of saying shiny plastic) surfaces.

The 17-cm Display Audio system features voice- recognition, Bluetooth connectivity and the view from the standard backup camera.

This new small hatchback makes a worthy addition to the Toyota line.

The specs

  • Model: 2017 Toyota Corolla iM CVT
  • Engine: 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, 137 horsepower, 126 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
  • Transmission: continuously variable automatic
  • NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 8.3 / 6.5
  • Length: 4,330 mm
  • Width: 1,760 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,600 mm
  • Weight: 1,335 kg
  • Price: $23,375 base, $25,093 as tested including freight
  • Competition: Chevrolet Cruze hatchback, Ford Focus hatchback, Honda Civic hatchback, Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Forte 5, Mazda 3 hatchback, Honda Civic hatchback, Volkswagen Golf
  • Options on test vehicle: none