By Steve & Tamami Laser
Scion offers sport coupe buyers the choice of the front-drive tC, now in its second generation, and the rear-drive FR-S that joined the lineup two years ago. The tC has a lower suggested retail price of $19,210 with manual transmission versus $25,670 for the FR-S. Beyond the difference in price, how will you know which one is the right car for you?
Our conclusion after test-driving each car for a week is that the FR-S targets enthusiasts who might consider other rear-drivers like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the base Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. The tC is a direct competitor to the Honda Civic Coupe and Kia Forte Koup, as well as the Hyundai Veloster (a coupe with three doors) and perhaps the Volkswagen Golf hatchback.
Scion refreshed the tC last year with more aggressive front styling including new headlights, hood, grille and LED accent lights. Beneath the rear bumper, a black-out valance panel was added with a lower-center trim piece and reflectors. LED taillights rounded out the changes.
The tC comes fully equipped including a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 179 horsepower, 6-speed manual gearbox (an automatic is $1,100 more), big panoramic moonroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry and a 300 watt Pioneer 6.1-inch touchscreen display audio system with HD Radio, Bluetooth, AUX/USB ports, iPod connectivity and six speakers.
We could purchase the tC equipped like that and be happy campers. Yet Scion offers a lengthy list of accessories that can be installed at the dealer. The big advantage in doing so before taking delivery is the chance to finance the added cost with the new car purchase.
Scion loaded our tC tester with accessories so journalists can try them out. The list included fog lights, low-profile rear spoiler, a security system, and TRD 19-inch alloys, performance springs, air filter and exhaust.
TRD springs reduce the car’s center of gravity by an inch for quicker turn-in, improved cornering and enhanced steering response while the performance exhaust projects a deeper sound.
The optional BeSpoke® Premium Audio system on our tester featuring Aha™ is packaged with navigation plus the ability to connect compatible smartphones through Aha to access 30,000 free audio stations, including Scion’s own station with a lineup of 17 music channels.
BeSpoke has 36 presets for online content like Internet radio, podcasts, audio books, news and magazines. It includes the voice-activated and touchscreen navi system, location services to help find local restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, parks, weather and fuel prices, social media like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp!® and TripAdvisor, plus Aha Internet services available on iTunes and Google Play (Scion recommends checking for smartphone compatibility and to be aware that data usage fees may apply).
We drove our tC tester about 200 miles during the week including a trip to Pomona, and scored 24 miles per gallon, a notch above the EPA city rating of 23 mpg and close to the combined rating of 26 mpg. That included stints driving on steep hills and country roads for our photo session plus ride and handling testing on our favorite twisty roads.
The TRD accessories on our test car were like adding frosting to an already tasty cake, making the tC even more fun to drive. The ride quality was firmer than stock but not harsh. The tC’s engine teamed well with the manual gearbox. We also enjoyed the sound generated by the performance exhaust and the look of the big tailpipe.
Adding the TRD accessories, BeSpoke audio and a few others like floormats, a cargo mat and rear bumper applique brought the bottom line to $26,058. One can select fewer accessories and still have a car in the low $20,000 range. (Budget permitting, it’s also possible to add Scion accessories later on and have the dealer’s service department install them.)
In our book it all comes down to the bottom line. Comparing base prices, the tC checks in nearly $6,500 below the FR-S. Go easy on the options and the tC remains a great buy. Actually, we think the FR-S is also a solid value. If our garage (and budget) was larger we’d buy both cars and call it a day.
Scion tC press fleet vehicle provided by Scion Division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (Prices and vehicle information applies to models sold in the U.S. at the time of publication. All information including prices, features, specifications and accessories is subject to change without notice by the automaker.)
Story, photos and videos ©2015 CarNichiWa.com