By on March 16, 2017

2017 Toyota Corolla iM rear – Image: © Timothy Cain

A year and a half since Scion introduced the iM in the United States, little more than a year since Toyota announced the Scion brand’s discontinuation, and six months since the Scion iM began to operate as the Toyota Corolla iM, almost every Toyota Corolla buyer chooses the inferior Corolla sedan instead of this hatchback.

Fortunately, the iM generates more sales activity for Toyota than it did for Scion. Over the last four months, for instance, the Corolla iM produced 6,548 U.S. sales, up 34 percent compared to the year-before figure claimed by the Scion iM.

After spending a week with the refreshed 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE sedan in January and the last week with the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM, it’s clear the iM is the superior Corolla. It’s clear that a far greater percentage of the 28,000 monthly American Corolla buyers should be choosing this car.

But they don’t. And they won’t. And there are a number of reasons why.

TTAC’s Steph Willems reviewed the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM less than two months ago, and there’s no point in attempting to hash out my differences with Steph in this case: there are few, if any.

2017 Toyota Corolla iM front - Image: © Timothy Cain

It’s not handsome, but the iM features eye-catching sporty looks. “The climate control system’s toggle switches stirred inner fantasies of owning a World War 2 laboratory,” Steph wrote. Indeed, they are nice, though I’ve avoided such fantasies. The steering wheel doesn’t have nearly enough reach. The 137-horsepower 1.8-liter proudly resists acceleration. The steering is uncommunicative, but the Corolla iM handles decently and rides acceptably. In general, the Corolla iM looks like a Corolla hot hatch that isn’t hot. It’s a respectable machine, to paraphrase Steph, though not enthusiastic by any means.

Hardly the words of a ringing endorsement. Yet extensive time in both the Corolla and Corolla iM over a short period reveals four key ways in which the hatchback is more appealing than the sedan: steering, handling, load-lugging, and parking lot finding.

2017 Toyota Corolla iM profile - Image: © Timothy Cain

While not exactly full of feedback, the Corolla iM’s steering is much quicker to react than the steering in the regular Corolla. All Corollas use an electric power steering setup, but the sedan’s rack runs a 17.8:1 ratio with 3.19 turns lock-to-lock. The dead zone at the straight-ahead is disconcerting. In the Corolla iM, Toyota runs a 14.8:1 ratio; 2.59 turns lock to lock. Uncommunicative, yes. But not lifeless, thankfully.

Further to the iM’s dynamic appeal, there’s a double wishbone rear suspension in place of the Corolla’s torsion beam. You don’t need to be hustling around Laguna Seca at 10/10ths to appreciate the Corolla iM’s more composed mid-corner reactions.

With nearly 13 fewer inches of overall length, the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM provides 60-percent more cargo capacity. That’s before the greater flexibility of the rear liftgate is taken into account.

Moreover, Toyota sold just 26,050 iMs in the United States since September 2015, fewer than the number of Corolla sedans typically sold in a month. It’s not conventionally handsome. Hey, it may not even be unconventionally handsome. But we all deserve to find our cars in the grocery store parking lot. (And this is always a danger.)

As a result, the iM is a decidedly more enjoyable Corolla with which to spend time.

Better than a Volkswagen Golf? A Mazda 3 5-Door? A Honda Civic Hatchback?

No.

But you’re a Corolla buyer. And this is the better Corolla.

Chances are, however, most Corolla buyers won’t give the Corolla iM a chance. The Corolla sedan swallows up all the oxygen in Toyota showrooms, for starters, just as it always has. Second, American car buyers continue to favor sedans, and Toyota continues to stock the company’s inventory to reflect that fact. Plus, the iM can only be built the way Toyota wants to build it, not the way you want it.

“The Corolla’s long heritage, reputation for quality, and reliability, and buyer loyalty has a lot to do with its popularity,” Toyota spokesperson Sam Butto told TTAC earlier this week.

The iM has no such heritage.

“The Corolla has a larger production capacity,” Butto says. “iM has only been around for a couple of years, compared to 50 for Corolla.”

2017 Toyota Corolla iM interior - Image: © Timothy Cain

Sedans also make up the vast majority of sales across most OEMs in this segment, Butto explained. Hatchbacks make up roughly one-fifth of Civic sales while earning a slightly larger share for the Ford Focus and approximately one-third of Mazda 3 volume.

And while Corolla iMs are technically available with a six-speed manual transmission — fewer than 1 percent of the 2,810 Corolla iMs in stock at Cars.com are manual-equipped — that’s one of only three ways you can truly change your Corolla iM. Pick one of six paint colours; pick your transmission, add navigation.

Mono-spec cars were the Scion way, but they’re not the Corolla way.

For the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM, therefore, this means no sunroof. No proximity access and pushbutton start. No power seat; no lumbar support. No leather. No heated seats. (Though our Toyota Canada-supplied press car does have bun warmers.)

The Corolla iM is a decently equipped car, to be fair. The steering wheel is leather wrapped. Toyota Safety Sense C, with pre-collision, auto high beams, lane departure alert, is standard kit. 17-inch alloys and body color exterior bits keep the iM from looking like a bare-bones econo-hatch.

But this is the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM you must buy if, in fact, you yearn for a Corolla iM.

Besides the historic strength of the Corolla nameplate sans iM, and the hatchback bodystyle limiting its American appeal, and the generally limited availability of the iM, the mono-spec trim is a key limiting factor.

Alas, 93 percent of Corolla buyers end up choosing the lesser car.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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70 Comments on “This 2017 Toyota Corolla iM Is The Best Corolla, So Why Do 93% Of Corolla Buyers Choose The Sedan?...”


  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Is this a rhetorical question?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    When a hatch and a sedan version are both available are their any cases were the hatch outsells the sedan? (At least in the USA.)

  • avatar
    ajla

    Raise it 1-inch, add some cladding, call it the “Corolla Adventure” and then watch sales sky rocket.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Brilliant!

      Regarding the options, do people really buy Corollas with leather? I’d think any buyer that cares enough about their ride to option it up wouldn’t even look at a Corolla, but I guess that’s just me. Seat heaters though, are nice in any car, even an appliance.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Yes…yes they do. My mom’s last Toyota was a 2003 Corolla loaded with leather, sunroof, etc. She was (at the time) still a diehard Toyota buyer and simply liked the look and feel of the little ‘Rolla, but wanted an extra dab of comfort and “luxury” to go with it. For a Corolla, it was actually very, very nice. She owned it for 10 years (as she has owned every car she’s ever had).

        As to the iM, it’s a hatch. And hatches don’t sell in America, unless they are cleverly disguised as a CUV. Give the iM about an inch of lift, put some gaudy black-plastic trim around the wheel wells and it would likely sell (as ajla has already alluded to). I rather like the iM as it sits and if I was in the market, I’d give it serious consideration (with a manual trans, that is). But most folks buying Corollas aren’t looking for “sport,” which is likely another reason why the iM is languishing on the lots.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      “Corolla Adventure” shhhhh don’t give them any ideas.

      I’m a hatchback guy and totally forgot this thing was even available. I actually saw one the other day and was surprised at how sporty looking it was. Clearly a Scion and not a Toyota. I think its major downfall was showing up just as Scion was folding up their tent. Anyone remotely interested got scared off forgetting Toyota was going to let this live on.

      The iM name isn’t helping here either, Corollas Sport Back? Corollas Touring? Sadly I think this Corolla Adventure idea sounds great… I’d add a roof rack and more sensible rims/wheels as the current ones scream Honda over-design.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        I looked at one to replace my wagon but immediately crossed it off the list since it has 3 less HP than my diesel wagon and a lot less torque.

        If Toyota would put a better engine in it, it could be a great Golf alternative.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      This.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Hatchbacks are unfashionable.

    And doubtless, this is better than the Corolla sedan, too, especially in terms of styling. However, for an inexpensive compact hatchback, I think I myself would have to revert back to my Volkswagen-buying tendencies and get a Golf 1.8T.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      I dunno, I love hatches and something *really* rubs me the wrong way visually about the iM. Then again I spent my college years dreaming about a Kia Spectra5, so take from that what you will.

      Also, the name Corolla iM is dumb. Just call it a Corolla or call it a Matrix. Yaris iA, similarly stupid.

  • avatar
    Chan

    The sales increase is proof that brand baggage is real.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    Because the rear end of the car is hideous?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    If I were in the market for a new(er) car, this is one of a few on my short list.

    Other than being a Toyota, there’s not a thing I dislike about it.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    Can we just have the Matrix XRS back? Please?

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Better than a Volkswagen Golf? A Mazda 3 5-Door? A Honda Civic Hatchback?”

    More likely to be running than a Golf at any given time in its life.

    Less ugly than the Mazda, which is still impressive.

    Honda? Wash.

    The real killer might be the lack of options.

    (I don’t want to hear gearhead blah about power; 138 is plenty here.)

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Being almost a wagon, I’d assume this has considerably more cargo room than the Civic hatch, so I wouldn’t call it a wash.

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        You’d assume incorrectly – the civic has about 25% more cargo room.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          Huh, indeed. Oddly, the Civic Sport trims lose a couple cubic feet of cargo space….where’s it go?

          • 0 avatar
            lzaffuto

            The Civic hatchback sport models have a center exit exhaust which uses up some of the trunk space behind the rear seats. If you look at pics of a non-sport model, the floor of the cargo area behind the rear seats is a couple inches below where the pivot point of the rear seats is, so when you put the seats down the floor is uneven. On the sport model, it’s raised to the same level as the seats are when they are folded down making it a completely flat cargo area, but losing a couple cubic feet of total volume.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The old “(insert your specific whipping boy brand here) doesn’t run” line is old, sigivald. Everything “runs” nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “The real killer might be the lack of options.

      (I don’t want to hear gearhead blah about power; 138 is plenty here.)”

      I’m not here to talk about the power. I’m here to talk about the lack of keyless start in 2017.

      Especially from Toyota, whose lawyers must be apoplectic at the thought of a GM-like ignition switch situation that could easily have been prevented with keyless start.

      I won’t have a car without keyless start.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      Go drive an iM and a Civic hatch back to back. Now tell me if you think it’s a wash.

      No way. The Civic hatch is weird looking, but does just about everything better than the iM. It really isn’t even close.

      CH, base model LX: Better engine. Transmission (either). Handling. Steering feel. Visibility from driver’s seat. Ergos in general. Better seats.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    I love hatchbacks, and I’m a two-time Scion owner. I like the styling and the features, but the Corolla sedan I rented was terribly underpowered for my taste, and this is quite a bit heavier… so it is off my list of potentials. Give it a turbo to compete with the Civic hatchback and it would be a contender for my bucks.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    unless i missed it there is no mention price to explain things.

    Using truecar just for relative comparison sake the cheapest auto corolla is about 2500 less than the cheapest auto iM corolla. not an insignificant sum.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      There’s a bit of a feature disparity; the cheapest Corolla has 15″ steel wheels vs. 17″ alloys, no folding side mirrors or dual-zone auto climate control. Probably not $2500 worth of features, but YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Price is likely the reason. You can get a Corolla sedan for much less than the iM, largely because of the gap in content. Heck, if you lease, you can get a Corolla for less than a Yaris.

      The Corolla sedan is, quite literally, the most reliable, most economical car you can get for the least amount of money. If your chief requirements are “has to get me to work every day without fail” and “is cheap to run” then it’s the best choice.

      Toyota’s probably done some market analysis and realized that they more readily can milk hatchback intenders with more content and higher markup.

  • avatar
    b534202

    I googled “Toyota Corolla”, click on the first link, and the page from Toyota shows me 7 Corolla models, all sedans. How are people supposed to know about this car?

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      Exactly. Nobody except internet car writers ever bothered tracking Scion; few even knew of its existence.

      Why expect the Corolla-buying general public to now have a clue about one of its orphans?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        They don’t wanna know, OMP. Corolla buyers just want their security blanket car dealt up to them every three years, no muss, no fuss.

        • 0 avatar
          OldManPants

          “Corolla buyers just want their security blanket car dealt up to them every three years”

          The only sane attitude towards something as expensive, complex and potentially disastrous as car ownership; I completely share it.

          But I like a rear flap on my security blankies and would be p1ssed as hell to buy one without and later learn I coulda had one.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Compare, if you will, an $18,000 new Corolla iM with a slightly-used Prius for the same $18k. For 95% of all drivers, the Prius does everything better than a Corolla iM.

    Yes, the iM weighs less and has IRS. The majority of car buyers care about neither. I don’t think the iM’s worst enemy is the Corolla sedan, but rather, the slightly-used Prius.

  • avatar
    Ion

    Woah, hold the phone. The IM lives on but the TC couldn’t become a corrolla coupe?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I think the hatchbacks of the ’70s ruined the hatchback market in the US. I haven’t owned a sedan in over 30 years; it’s been a hatchback and two trucks. The one thing I miss about sedans is the ability to stick packages and other valuables in the trunk, out of sight.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The lack of sunroof and power/heated seat would kill it for me. Needs BSM as well…..

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    The iM’s shorter wheelbase = 9″ less legroom in the back.

    If you’re counting, it has TSS-C vs the Corolla sedan’s TSS-P

    https://fleet.toyota.com/ftc/public/staticContent/docs/Toyota%20Safety%20Sense/TSS%20Features.pdf

  • avatar
    Carrera

    That back window is too small. Too many blind spots. I sat inside in one. Didn’t test drive it because the dealer didn’t have manuals available. It felt like it was put together well, but felt a bit claustrophobic when compared to the sedan.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I’ll tell you why I would choose the sedan over this. Perhaps some of you remember the Suzuki Aerio, which was both available as a sedan and as a hatchback similar to this one. One time I was driving to work and came upon an accident scene where a Honda Accord had hit a hatchback Aerio in the back. It wasn’t a particularly hard hit, but the impact was hard enough to shatter the rear glass, which came raining down on two kids sitting in car seats in the back seat. I do believe that if it had been an Aerio sedan, this event (the rear glass shattering) wouldn’t have happened. And that’s why I do not trust this type of hatchback.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll add this to the mix: the latest-gen Corolla feels incredibly cheap – all have hollow, rattly-sounding door slams, and a tinny trunk and hood closing sounds. There isn’t enough sound deadening or structural integrity, so there’s a strange sound chamber feel when you hit bumps. The ones built in Mississippi feel especially bad; the Canadian built models are better but hardly set an example for the class.

    The iM, which is Japanese-sourced, is obviously better built.

    Corolla buyers don’t care about driving, so they don’t care about a better driving Corolla. Then again, I do care about driving, so I don’t care about Corollas.

    But if you’re gonna buy one, the iM is definitely the better choice.

  • avatar
    zip94513

    To tell ya the truth, I didn’t even know this existed. Toyota isn’t advertising it, and if Toyota called it a hatchback instead of labeling some Scion moniker to the vehicle it would probably see much higher sales.

  • avatar
    John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

    Well, I was looking for CorollaMan or gtem,

    https://okaloosa.craigslist.org/cto/6046935855.html

    I know it has high miles, its worth is debatable but I’ve never seen such a lux’ed up Corolla with the classic 1990s Toyota/Lexus two tone with Gold lower. Even the alloys look lifted from a first gen Avalon or period Camry XLE.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      One of my neighbors has a totally cherry Corolla of this vintage…something like 80,000 miles. Now THAT was when Corollas were great cars. Not only were they reliable – the refinement and quality levels were terrific. Not the case anymore. The new Corolla sells on reputation only.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        You know, upon further inspection, I don’t think it was originally a luxury model. It only seems to be upgraded externally.

        It has no tachometer and it has cloth seats. I know a mid 90s Geo Prizim LSi had leather, so if this was a loaded Corolla, shouldn’t it have it?

        I’m not a Toyota fan, but if I had one, I would take a same-year 4spd Tercel coupe with vinyl seats over a Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      And just like that, I find a Prizm LSi with leather, and on the same craigslist.

      https://okaloosa.craigslist.org/cto/6047893518.html

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    A couple issues I have is that the hatches are just too short. These things have more cargo room with the rear seats folded, sure. With the rear seats up, there isn’t that much room. Barely throw a suitcase in. The other issue is that many of these hatches have poor visibility looking in the rear view mirror. I think if they were close to the same length as the sedan, then they’d be a little more worth it, but then they’d look more wagon like then hatch.

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    I was disappointed by the back seat room, but I would always choose the hatch over the sedan, always.

    If MURRICA drivers weren’t so fixated on “fake off-roaders”…

  • avatar
    lostjr

    I think hatchback design should recognize the practical aspect, as the Matrix did, and the Impreza does. (I owned a Matrix – very useful.) The steeply raked windshield and low roof make this thing difficult to get in and out of.


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