Car shoppers hoping to buy a Scion will have to act quickly. Toyota recently announced that the youth-oriented nameplate will see its demise in August. After that point, the vehicles in Scion's current lineup, except for the tC and long-gone xB, will become branded as Toyotas.

Though the vehicles will remain virtually unchanged, some of Scion's special programs may not transfer over to Toyota when the transition completes. This includes Scion's Gen One Finance program, which lets buyers finance a Scion with little or no credit in some circumstances. Students graduating soon and who may be looking to finance their first new car would like want to take advantage of this program while it's still around.

Scion's current lineup consists of the iA, iM, FR-S, and tC. All four cars are reasonably priced and have useful standard equipment, but that's where the similarities stop. Each one has a completely different personality — which is right for you?

2016 Scion iA

You know what they say about judging a book by its cover… (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
You know what they say about judging a book by its cover… (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Based on the Mazda2, the first of Scion's i Twins isn't even a Toyota. It's the only Scion built in Mexico rather than Japan and happens to be the cheapest car Scion sells. It is also the ugliest car Scion has ever sold, with a front end resembling a really pissed off deep-sea fish. Most people won't even consider buying a car if it looks ugly to them, which is a real shame, because the iA is a perfect example of "Don't judge a book by its cover." The Scion iA is a great car because Mazda didn't focus on unnecessary features but instead on making a car that is simply good.

The iA's 105 horsepower engine may put out less power than some small cars from 20 years ago, but the low weight — 2,385 lbs — makes up for it. The engine loves to be revved and, like an excitable dog, it has plenty of character. Don't be mistaken, though — adding a sizable payload to the car causes the engine to struggle and sends the MPG south.

The Scion iA’s small but sprightly 1.5L mill. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The Scion iA’s small but sprightly 1.5L mill. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

There's an old-school magic to the way the iA drives. It takes the driver back to a time when cars were fun to drive. This is obvious on switchback roads, where the 185mm tires let the car wind around at speeds close to the limit. The steering is quick and feels tight and precise, avoiding the overly-assisted feeling that comes with most modern cars.

The stick-shift model of the iA is $1,100 cheaper than the automatic, and it's not some horrible, rubbery-shifting gearbox either. Each gear change has a crisp, short throw — and prepare the pitchforks, Miata owners, but I actually prefer the iA's shift feel over the Miata's click-clack shift. The clutch is very short and extremely forgiving.

Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean the iA is equipped like a Siberian prison. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean the iA is equipped like a Siberian prison. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

The iA is a fun-to-drive car for cheap, but that doesn't mean it's short on features. This isn't a car with no A/C or power windows. Instead, it comes with a touchscreen display as standard, along with a rotary dial similar to BMW's iDrive system. The iA also gets push-button start and a low-speed collision warning system, two features typically unheard of on cars at this price point. GPS navigation can be added through an SD card provided by a Scion or Toyota dealer.

Since the iA will only be produced as a Scion for the 2016 model year, it could be possible to buy one now, garage it with almost no miles and sell it 20 years in the future for a quarter million dollars as a "collector's item." Or maybe not. Regardless, anyone who buys a Scion iA will end up with a great car.

  • Price As Tested: $17,161
  • Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC direct-injected 16-valve 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 106 hp @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 103 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual (tested) or 6-speed automatic
  • Drive: FWD
  • Tire Size: 185/60R16
  • Tire: TOYO Proxes A27
  • Towing Capacity: N/A
  • Cargo Volume: N/A
  • Maximum Payload: N/A
  • Curb Weight: 2,385 lbs (MT)
  • Weight Distribution F/R: N/A
  • Turning Circle: 32.2 ft.
  • Tested Combined MPG: 34.5
  • Fuel Capacity: 11.6 gal.
  • EPA-estimated MPG (City/Highway/Combined): 31/41/35 (Manual Transmission)

2016 Scion iM

The Scion iM is Toyota’s take on the compact hatchback. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The Scion iM is Toyota’s take on the compact hatchback. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

The Scion iM may look all-new, but it's really not; the iM is based on the Corolla platform. The engine, transmissions and interior will all be extremely familiar to anyone who's driven a current-generation Corolla. However, the changes that Scion has made turn the iM into something more than a Corolla with a boxy rear end.

For starters, the iM is a much better value than the Corolla. It comes with heated power-folding mirrors, dual-zone climate control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a backup camera as standard equipment. The interior is quite spacious, the visibility is good, and the observed 29.8 combined MPG isn't bad either.

Thanks to the hatchback design, the iM has plenty of room for all your things. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
Thanks to the hatchback design, the iM has plenty of room for all your things. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

The iM drives just like other Toyotas, which means there's an inherent sloppiness in the way that it drives. The steering is pointlessly vague, changing gears feels like mashing potatoes, and there's an overall lack of fun behind the wheel. There are far too many turns lock-to-lock as well, making three-point turns akin to steering a boat.

Though the iM is more powerful than the iA, it's also considerably heavier, which is definitely noticeable with the manual transmission. The iM upshifts slightly too early while climbing hills and the engine fails to provide the necessary torque. The shifter position isn't ideal either as it's a few inches forward from where one would expect. However, with the CVT, the torque problem is largely masked. In fact, it's one of the best CVTs I've ever used and it is well worth the price premium over the manual.

There are lots of things you should avoid doing in life. Opting for the iM’s manual transmission is one of them. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
There are lots of things you should avoid doing in life. Opting for the iM’s manual transmission is one of them. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Scion has beefed up the suspension and replaced the Corolla's rear torsion beam with double wishbones in the hope that it will improve handling. It didn't work, and the amount of understeer leaves much to be desired. Much like the Corolla S, the car's grip threshold is very low, and as a result spirited driving just leads to screeching tire noises. The main difference between the two is that the Corolla S has terrible handling but is still comfortable, while the iM handles terribly with a relatively uncomfortable ride.

In many ways this car is similar to the Corolla S, but at the same time the two bear almost no resemblance. As a late addition to the compact hatchback party, the iM should have blown the competition away. The iM has a lot of nice features but isn't a very nice car in general. Toyota and Scion can do much better, but it seems to me that they hardly tried.

  • Price As Tested: $19,833
  • Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with Valvematic (2ZR-FAE)
  • Horsepower: 137 hp @ 6,100 rpm
  • Torque: 126 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual (tested) or CVTi-S
  • Drive: FWD
  • Axle Ratio: 4.214 (MT); 5.045 (CVT)
  • Tire Size: 225/45R17
  • Tire: Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 Plus
  • Cargo Volume: 20.8 cu. ft
  • Maximum Payload: N/A
  • Curb Weight: 2,943 lbs (MT)
  • Weight Distribution F/R: N/A
  • Tested Combined MPG: 29.8
  • Fuel Capacity: 14 gal.
  • EPA-estimated MPG (City/Highway/Combined): 27/36/31 (MT)

2016 Scion FR-S

The Scion FR-S is a niche product – it’s specifically designed for driving enthusiasts. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The Scion FR-S is a niche product – it’s specifically designed for driving enthusiasts. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Since its release in 2012, the Scion FR-S has stood out against the crop of rear-wheel drive coupes. It's in a completely different weight and power class compared to similarly-priced V6 and V8-engined coupes, utilizing its low weight and handling capabilities to make a car focused on fun. As a result, its closest rival is the ultra-lightweight Mazda Miata, which was designed for the same purpose.

For 2016, the Scion FR-S has been slightly updated with a standard backup camera, new paint colors, a new BeSpoke audio system and new trim pieces.

Powered by a 2.0-liter engine making 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, the FR-S isn't the fastest car on the block, but it is more than enough for a car this light. Two transmissions — a 6-speed manual or automatic — are available. The torque is all top-shelf so the engine must be revved out, something the car encourages you to do. As the car nears 5,000 RPM, the engine note changes from a low growl to a swarm of angry hornets flying around in the cylinders, something the minimal sound-deadening material makes easy to hear.

The FA20 engine powering the FR-S is a flat-four which gives a superior center of gravity compared to a traditional inline four (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The FA20 engine powering the FR-S is a flat-four which gives a superior center of gravity compared to a traditional inline four (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Thanks to Scion's "mono-spec" system, the only real choice to be made is the transmission. After having a chance to drive both gearboxes, I highly recommend the manual. Not only is the automatic an additional $1100, but it is also slower than the manual due to taller gear ratios. Unlike Toyota's other sloppy-shifting manual gearboxes, the FR-S's manual rewards you with crisp-feeling shifts for each gear change.

Although for some the FR-S may be perfect, it isn't for everyone. The low ride height and snug bucket seats can make getting in and out difficult, and the visibility is not great. Due to its small size, the car is extremely impractical. The rock-hard suspension is perfect for the track or for a canyon road, but it's very fatiguing in the city. Hitting even the smallest pothole will make your eyeballs bounce around inside your skull. After a full day's worth of testing I emerged from the driver's seat a battered man.

The FR-S trunk may seem microscopic in capacity, but is still somewhat usable. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The FR-S trunk may seem microscopic in capacity, but is still somewhat usable. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

In terms of equipment, the FR-S is equipped like a county prison. The air conditioning is manually controlled, there are no buttons on the steering wheel (aside from the cruise control stalk) and no fancy features like the Scion iM. Scion cut down on standard equipment to focus making a car that's simple, just like the iA. In this way, it's a niche product and something one should seriously consider before buying the car.

The FR-S’s cabin is very spartan, but for good reason. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The FR-S’s cabin is very spartan, but for good reason. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

The FR-S shows the world that Toyota can make an exciting car at a reasonable price. It's a shame that this philosophy is largely absent for the rest of its lineup.

  • Price As Tested: $28,682
  • Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-valve D4-S boxer-four with VVT “FA20”
  • Horsepower: 200 hp @ 7,000 rpm
  • Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual (tested)
  • Tire Size: N/A
  • Tire: Continental ExtremeContact DW (aftermarket)
  • Curb Weight: 2,758 lbs (MT)
  • Weight Distribution F/R: N/A
  • Cargo Volume: N/A
  • Tested Combined MPG: 24.7
  • Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal
  • EPA-estimated MPG (City/Highway/Combined): 22/30/25 (MT)

2015 Scion tC

Want one of these? You have until August before this car says Scion-ara! (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
Want one of these? You have until August before this car says Scion-ara! (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Continuing with Scion's reasonable price and good value theme, the Scion tC comes with standard features like a panoramic sunroof, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels and a 300-watt stereo. Despite being a coupe, the tC employs a liftback design that really sets itself apart from the coupes in its class.

At 34.5 cubic feet of capacity the cargo space is huge, and the liftback design makes it even more usable. The rear legroom is plentiful as well, unlike other coupes. Sadly, the rest of the interior is all Fisher-Price plastics and the seats are clad in uncomfortable fabric.

Did I mention that liftbacks are the…bees knees? (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
Did I mention that liftbacks are the…bees knees? (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine powering the tC produces 179 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque and is significantly more powerful than other cars at its price point, albeit with a few flaws. The power delivery is as rough as sandpaper, the engine shows no charisma or drama as it travels through the power band. The six-speed manual paired to my test unit wasn't sloppy, but it wasn't precise either. The clutch was much like the one on the iM — mushy, medium-catch, and an annoyance.

The 2.5L engine powering the Tc is about as deadpan as it gets. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The 2.5L engine powering the Tc is about as deadpan as it gets. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

When equipped with the right tires, the tC handles very well but is let down by sloppy driving ergonomics. The car's turn-in is very quick, but the steering is overwhelmingly numb and lacking in feedback. The beefy suspension treatment works properly to assist the handling, unlike in the iM, though this car is noticeably stiffer.

There are TRD parts available to those who'd like to get Toyota-approved modifications from the dealer, but they can quickly drive up the price. My tC tester's final price was a mind-boggling $26,058 after the TRD parts (performance exhaust, springs, wheels, and air filter) were added to the final price.

The tC is a quirky car and in some ways reminds me of the original VW beetle. It's a great choice for those who want a new car that stands out from anything in this price range, but those who want one will have to act quickly.

The Scion Tc’s plasticy interior is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The Scion Tc’s plasticy interior is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
  • Price as Tested: $26,058
  • Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with Dual-VVT-i
  • Horsepower: 179 hp @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual (tested) or 6-speed automatic
  • Tire Size: P225/45R18 (stock)
  • Tire: Toyo Proxes4 (aftermarket)
  • Curb Weight: 3,058 lbs (MT)
  • Weight Distribution F/R: N/A
  • Cargo Volume: 34.5 cu. ft
  • Our Combined MPG: 25.7
  • Fuel Capacity: 14.5 gal
  • EPA-estimated MPG (City/Highway/Combined): 23/31/26 (MT & AT)

Reach Staff Reporter Joe Seto here. Follow him on Twitter here.