Scion is a unique brand in many ways. Not only are their cars relatively inexpensive, but they also feature something called Monospec, where cars have no trim levels. This makes the buying process simple, as buyers only have to choose if they want a manual or an automatic transmission with a choice of accessories. To help young buyers, Scion has a Gen-One financing program that can finance buyers even if they have limited or no credit history.
2016 Scion iA
The Scion iA is, without a doubt, the best new subcompact people can buy on the market right now — if you can get over the appearance of the front end. The Scion iA is essentially a Mazda2, which won’t be coming over to the States unless people buy one of these or the next generation Toyota Yaris. Mazda has been really pulling out the stops with the “Driving Matters” campaign and its SKYACTIV technology, and it really shows when one drives the iA. Despite having a small, 106-horsepower engine, the car is an absolute riot to drive. The slick six-speed manual has an excellent mechanical feel, making each gear change extra satisfying. The clutch is easy to maneuver, making manual driving easy for all skill levels. The steering, unlike most modern cars, feels like it’s actually bolted directly to the front wheels, making things like parking and canyon carving fun and easy. The infotainment system uses a touchscreen or rotary dial system, which is suspiciously similar to BMW’s iDrive system and is extremely easy to use. Despite the incredibly low price tag, it even comes with a low-speed pre-collision warning system. Unlike the iM, the iA features push-start ignition and automatic central locking come standard. The iA’s engine, much like the iM’s, is lacking in the power department. The iA’s tiny mill, however, has no problem moving the lightweight body around. Though it’s the best car from this year, it’s also the ugliest.
2016 Scion iM
The Scion iM is a hatchback version of the Toyota Corolla, sharing with it the same interior, engine and transmissions with it. Though it comes with a factory body kit and 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, it doesn’t drive the same way it looks. It’s still a Corolla underneath, so it has the handling characteristics of a house brick, with lots and lots of understeer which makes spirited drives disappointing. The suspension is stiffened up from the Corolla which makes it more uncomfortable than the Corolla. The iM comes with some unique standard features, such as power folding mirrors and dual-zone climate control, which make it a standout at this price range.
These features, however, don’t make up for how the car drives. The steering wheel is overly light and imprecise, leaving no idea what the front wheels are doing. The engine has virtually no power at the bottom end, which makes using the terribly designed manual shifter (a CVT is available) a huge chore. The driving position is only suitable for a gorilla and the pedals are all over the place. Though long overdue from the American market, the iM isn’t as good as its rivals from Ford and Mazda in terms of driving dynamics. Their engine produces less power than its rivals and despite offering some nice standard features, speed-sensitive automatic central locking are missing.
2016 Scion FR-S
Though the Scion FR-S is the most expensive car in the Scion lineup, it is also the most exciting and most powerful. Unlike anything else in Scion’s lineup, it features rear-wheel drive, a Torsen limited-slip differential and a boxer engine producing 100 horsepower per liter. It distances itself from other rear-wheel drive coupes on the market by being much smaller, much less powerful and being much lighter. The small size means there is virtually no legroom in the back and the trunk is laughably tiny. The suspension is also incredibly stiff and can find bumps in even on the smoothest of roads. The steering is well-weighted and complements the car’s agile character by providing the driver with a great driving experience. The throttle is very sensitive, so people might find themselves occasionally over-revving or bogging the engine down while feeding the clutch. For 2016, they’ve updated the FR-S slightly with the addition of new colors, a new BeSpoke Audio head unit, a rearview camera and other features. Despite the impracticality, the Scion FR-S is a true sports car for the price, with a great community and a large aftermarket. For those looking at budget horsepower, this may not be up their alley. However, the Scion FR-S does cater to those who are looking for an old-fashioned drive.