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  • 2016 Scion FR-S

    Sporty two-plus-two is track-ready

    By Nina Russin

    Scion FR-S

    Scion FR-S

    Readers unfamiliar with Toyota’s history might find the Scion FR-S car a bit of an anomaly: vastly different than any of the automaker’s other cars. In fact, the FR-S that becomes the Toyota 86 in 2017, may be the purest expression of what it means to be a Toyota. Based on the 1983-87 Corolla Levin, also known as the AE86, the FR-S celebrates its creators’ under-appreciated talent for crafting affordable performance cars.

    The 2016 model is basically carry-over, with the biggest changes inside the car: a new audio system, seven-inch touchscreen and rear backup camera. The camera is a big deal, making it much easier and safer for drivers to back out of parking spots when surrounded by larger, high-profile vehicles.

    Base price for the test car with six-speed automatic transmission is $26,405 excluding the $770 destination charge. TRD performance accessories including rear sway bar set, air filter and exhaust system bring the final MSRP to $28,900. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Scion iA

    Subcompact sedan is big on value

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Scion iA

    2016 Scion iA

    Every time I get behind the wheel of the Scion iA I have to remind myself that I’m in a subcompact car. With its substantial road feel and spacious interior, the iA feels more like a C than a B-segment sedan. On the flip side, its small footprint eases parking woes at popular trailheads where space is at a premium.

    The EPA’s estimated 35 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy is conservative. I averaged 36.5 on my test drive and I have a lead foot.

    The iA competes against the Toyota Yaris in a segment that also includes the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Spark and Smart car. In this writer’s opinion, it’s the best of the bunch.

    Based on the same rolling chassis as the Mazda2, the iA features surprising array of standard convenience feature considering its $15,700 price tag: halogen headlamps, rearview camera, push-button start, Bluetooth and a seven-inch color touchscreen among them.

    Scion’s monospec pricing takes the hassle out of car buying. The buyer simply chooses between a manual and automatic transmission. I’d recommend opting for the manual and saving $1100. In addition to offering better value, the manual transmission enables the driver to better optimize power from the sedan’s 1.5-liter engine. Adding the $795 destination, final MSRP on the test car is $16,495. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Scion iM

    New hatchback rounds out the Scion family

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Scion iM

    2016 Scion iM

    This year, Scion introduces two new models: the four-door iA and iM hatchback. Although the iM is new to the US, it’s been on the global market for some time, called either the Toyota Auris or Corolla hatchback.

    This doesn’t make it any less valuable as an addition to the Scion lineup. The Corolla is a solid platform with a history of reliability, making it a good choice for first-time car buyers.

    The iM is available in two styles: the manual transmission car priced from $18,460 and automatic from $19,200. My recommendation is to go with the manual. Yes, it takes a bit more effort to drive in traffic, but the manual gearbox makes much better use of the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine’s available power.

    The $740 difference in price is a pretty good down payment on that new road bike you’ve had your eyes on, and you can use the sixth gear to puddle around town and save some additional money on gasoline.

    Scion utilizes monospec pricing to simplify the buying process. The idea is to pay the MSRP with no ups and no extras. In the case of the test car optional floor and cargo mats add $185 to the base price. Total MSRP including destination is $19,594. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Scion tC

    Sport coupe with the versatility for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    Scion tC

    Scion tC

    I love surprises, or at least good ones. When I discovered that the cargo area in the original Scion tC was big enough to hold a bicycle, the sport coupe gained a whole new meaning. What I initially perceived as a youth-oriented tuner car became pure genius.

    The bicycle part was no accident. Jim Farley, who was Vice President of Scion when the 2004 car launched, is a triathlete. He wanted to make sure that the tC would hold his Pinarello, so he shipped the bike to Japan and had the engineers design the cargo area around it.

    The second-generation continues in the tradition of the original car, appealing to young driving enthusiasts with edgy styling, a more powerful engine and connectivity enhancements. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder has ten percent more power than the outgoing block, yet remains thrifty at the fuel pump. The tC averages 31 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.

    Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission. As with all Scion products, the tC is monospec, eliminating haggling over trim and option packages at the dealership.

    Standard convenience features include a Pioneer sound system with high-definition radio and touchscreen display, leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming audio, power windows and door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and 60/40 split reclining rear seats.

    Base price with the six-speed manual transmission is $19,210. Adding the $755 destination charge brings the price as tested to $19,965. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Scion iQ

    Three-door micro-car is a big idea

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Scion iQ

    I like small cars, partly because I’m a small person, but also because I like the idea of getting around the planet without destroying it. So I support the new generation of micro-cars making inroads to the North American market, as a solution to overcrowding in urban areas and the rising price of gasoline.

    Unfortunately, cars which work perfectly well on small, low-speed streets don’t necessarily pass muster on the highway. It’s not just a matter of power; some A-segment cars simply lose stability traveling at high speeds. In this country, a car which won’t perform well on the highway isn’t viable.

    What makes the Scion iQ unique is its good high-speed performance, despite the small footprint. The iQ’s 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously-variable automatic transmission have enough power to stay with the pack when accelerating on freeway ramps, while standard 16-inch wheels provide decent traction. Its wide stance and MacPherson strut front suspension keep the IQ flat in the corners.

    The iQ can seat up to four passengers, although those in the back need to be children or small adults. There is virtually no cargo space inside the car with the rear seats in place, but they do fold flat to create a large enough bay for some luggage or groceries. Engineers located a flat gas tank underneath the passenger floor in order to keep the wheelbase short.

    Base price is $15,265 excluding the $730 destination charge. Options on the test car include carpeted front and rear floor mats, custom shift knob, rear sway bar, fog lamps, HD radio and iPod compatible CD deck, satellite radio, a rear spoiler and TRD performance springs, which bring the final MSRP to $19,135. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Scion FR-S

    New two-plus-two has racing in its blood

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Scion FR-S

    In today’s competitive market, it’s rare for automakers to co-create vehicles. That’s a shame, because melding two corporate cultures can yield products which raise the bar for everyone. The new Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, cars jointly developed by engineers from both companies, are a perfect example.

    Scion wanted to make a mid-ship engine, rear-wheel drive sports car in the tradition of the AE86 Corolla, and more recently the Toyota MR2. That brand, with its edgy, youth-oriented culture, was the perfect match for Subaru: one of the industry’s most successful niche brands. The FR-S is the new halo for Scion, completing a diverse line-up which now also includes the subcompact iQ.

    After project approval in 2009, the team got to work on an all-new boxer engine and two transmissions to go with it: a six-speed automatic and six-speed close-ratio manual.

    The Scion FR-S which rolls into dealerships at the beginning of June is certain to turn the car industry on its ears. With a base sticker price of $24,200 for the manual transmission model, Scion has opened the gates at the track for thousands of serious car enthusiasts who previously couldn’t afford the price of admission. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Scion xB

    One box fits all

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Scion xB

    Eight years ago, Toyota introduced the Scion brand with two cars: the xA and xB. The name Scion means “descendent” or “heir to,” suggesting its youthful orientation. Simple model designations fit with the brand’s high-tech approach to selling cars, encouraging buyers to use the internet and dealership kiosks to spec out vehicles.

    Monospec pricing eliminates confusion over option packages and dealer add-ons. Dealers keep minimal inventory on the lot. Instead, they fill customer orders using vehicles at nearby storage facilities.

    The funky xB had roots in a Japan-market car. Scion’s box-on-wheels quickly won a fan base stateside for its small footprint and versatile interior. It became the first in a legion of urban vehicles designed for budget-conscious city dwellers needing a vehicle suited to their active lifestyles.

    Scion rolled out the second-generation xB in 2008. The new car sported a more powerful engine and larger wheels: better suited for driving on American highways. It was also slightly larger, though its footprint remained small enough for on-street parking and crowded garages.

    An audio upgrade on 2010 and newer models adds standard USB and iPod connectivity.

    This week I spent time in the 2011 xB, priced from $16,950. Base price does not include a $720 delivery charge.

    Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 158 horsepower and a four-speed automatic transmission. It’s odd to find a four-speed automatic transmission these days, when five or six-speed automatics are the norm. But the gearbox performs well, without overbearing shift shock. Lack of large overdrive gears doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on gas mileage.

    Engineers minimized weight gain by replacing the hydraulic power steering system in the original model with a lighter, more compact electric power steering system.

    A TRD wheel upgrade and rear sway bar significantly improves performance on challenging roads. The nineteen-inch wheels and tires cost $2150, while the sway bar adds $325. An Alpine premium audio system with iPod interface costs $449. Other options include a rear bumper applique, TRD sport muffler and illuminated door sills, bringing the price as tested to $21,442. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Scion tC

    Three-door liftback combines form, function and fun

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Scion tC

    An all-new Scion tC rolls out for the 2011 model year, replacing the original coupe introduced in 2004. A peppy four-cylinder engine adds 19 horsepower and 11 foot-pounds of torque over the outgoing car. New six-speed manual and automatic transmissions boost performance and gas mileage.

    Despite its small footprint and bullet profile, the tC sports a spacious interior which functions well for active lifestyles. The rear liftgate makes the cargo area easy to load up. Small drivers will appreciate the tC’s low lift-over height, when compared to sport-utility vehicles. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. Slipping a bicycle in back is not out of the question.

    The new tC was designed primarily in California at Toyota’s Calty studio. Inspiration came from the FUSE concept.

    Scion maintains its monospec pricing strategy to simplify the buying process. The automaker includes a nice array of comfort and convenience features in the base model, saving car shoppers from wading through a plethora of option packages. Cost of the test car is $19,995, including the $720 destination charge. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Scion tC

    Second-generation sports coupe takes the road less traveled

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Scion tC

    2011 Scion tC

    The original Scion tC that rolled out in 2004 balanced two utilitarian models- the xA and xB- with a performance coupe. Engineers set the BMW 3-Series as their target, delivering a high level of handling and response for below $20,000.

    In addition, the tC was versatile: much more than one might expect for a five-door coupe. I was surprised when I was able to fit a road bike inside without removing the front wheel.

    In October, Scion rolls out the second-generation model, with a more specific audience than the first. The brand originally intended to capture the youth market for Toyota has done that and more, becoming an icon for alternative lifestyles.

    Designers from Toyota’s Calty studio in Newport Beach developed the FUSE concept with this in mind. The aggressively-styled tC production car is edgier than the outgoing model, with a more powerful engine and driver focused cockpit.

    Scion maintains its monospec pricing strategy: both the base manual and automatic transmission models start under $20,000. Buyers can customize their cars with two audio upgrades, Toyota TRD racing accessories, aero kits and ground effects. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Scion xD

    Scion’s baby box is a super value

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Scion xD

    2009 Scion xD

    Last year, Scion replaced the subcompact xA with the xD, a car that looks very much like a scaled-down xB. After driving the 2008 model, I was struck by the night-and-day difference between the xD and the car it replaced. While the xA aspired towards buyers with active lifestyles, the xD embraced them.

    Not only does the xD have a more refined powertrain; its versatile, thoughtful interior is ideal for carrying large cargo. The xD incorporates all of the hot button features for millennial buyers, including iPod connectivity, available satellite radio and navigation.

    At the same time, the Scion brand carries forth Toyota’s reputation for quality and dependability. The factory warranty includes free scheduled maintenance for the 5000 and 10,000 mile intervals.

    Since the xD is a light car, it can run well on a relatively small engine and maintain good fuel economy. The four-speed automatic model tested averages 28 miles-per-gallon according to EPA estimates: my fuel economy for the test drive was slightly higher.

    Base price is $15,450, making the Scion xD an ALV super value. Read the rest of this entry »