2016 Scion iA: The Mazda 2 We Never Got

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Scion iA
The 2016 Scion iA.
When the first wave of very small cars hit American shores five years ago, The Mazda 2 was among them.  In 2011, our Publisher and Executive Editor lavished high praise on the low-priced, low-content, high-fun factor car.

The 2 did not break any sales records, however, so Mazda has withdrawn it from its North American product lineup.  Yet it lives...and in a version not before seen here.

Side view of 2016 Scion iA
2016 Scion iA.
Apart from its distinctive grille, headlamps and Scion badging, the 2016 Scion iA is a Mazda 2.  Not "based on" or "shares a platform with", but is a Mazda 2.  And that is a very good thing.  Scion, after 12 years wandering in the desert, may have finally found its niche.  Fun, good-handling, affordable small cars appear to be what Scion is laying its foundation and its future upon. And the Scion iA is a great little car.  Readers of a certain age will understand that obscure Mazda reference.

Interior view of 2016 Scion iA
2016 Scion iA interior.
Whether for budgetary reasons or because it knows a good thing when it sees it, Scion has changed almost nothing apart from the aforementioned grille, headlights and badging.  If Mazda sold you this car, this is what you would get.  A base price of $16,800 buys a four-door sedan with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an output of 106 horsepower. There is a six-speed automatic transmission, not a CVT. Manual transmissions are available, and those models are priced at $15,700.

Halogen headlamps, variable wipers, color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signals, a chrome-tipped exhaust, a 7-inch color touchscreen, a six-speaker AM/FM/HD Radio audio system that includes interfaces for Pandora, aha and Stitcher with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and voice recognition, remote keyless entry, pushbutton start, power door locks and windows, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control and air conditioning are all standard.

Read that again.  Standard.  For $15,700 with a six-speed manual, $16,800 ($17,570 with delivery processing and handling fee) with a six-speed automatic. That is simply remarkable value. And mileage is a strong suit, with an EPA-estimated 33 city/42 highway.  All in a car that is not a bleak, lowest-price-possible basic transportation compromise but that is well-equipped and truly fun to drive.

The iA, the iM and the FR-S that Michael rightly placed on TireKicker's Best Cars list last month are three of the best bargains in showrooms and suggest that Scion could become a very hot brand indeed.