As of the day this review is published, the Scion FR-S TRD Showcase is the only vehicle to be featured on Neon Tommy that has received an A+ score in any category. After I finished my road test with the FR-S, I immediately asked myself: Is the Scion's second coupe offering, the Tc, a scaled down version of the FR-S?

When the Tc was restyled in 2014, it was given a new front fascia which resembled the FR-S. While looking like an FR-S is one thing, driving like one is another. Since making a rear wheel-drive car like the FR-S is fairly expensive, the Tc is front wheel drive instead. The price drop is significant, as the FR-S's starting MSRP is $25,305, whereas the Tc's base price is $19,210, a difference of $6,095.

The handy liftback design on the Tc (Amou "Joe" Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The handy liftback design on the Tc (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Equipment-wise, the Tc has a panoramic moonroof as standard, a rare find for most cars in any class. Big 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels also come standard, as does a 300 watt stereo. Despite being a coupe, the Tc employs a liftback design which makes getting things in and out easy. People sitting in the backseat of a Tc won't have to remove their legs in order to fit, and it's quite practical with a liftback trunk.

The standard features are nice, but that's not why the FR-S is so great; rather it's the fact that it's reasonably quick in a straight line, has an excellent drivetrain and attacks corners with eagerness. It's a car built specifically for people who enjoy driving.

The relatively plain-looking Tc interior is made from cheap plastics (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The relatively plain-looking Tc interior is made from cheap plastics (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Like the TRD FR-S, the Tc I was supplied with had a variety of TRD parts on it, but not a full set like the FR-S. Specifically, only TRD wheels, air filter, performance exhaust and springs were installed. While the Tc's TRD exhaust system sounds nearly identical to the one in the FR-S, the difference in volume is night and day. The Tc's TRD exhaust simply sits in the background, gently ladling in exhaust notes, while the FR-S's blares the noise into your ears. The TRD performance springs give a stiff, jittery ride, but it's not as bad or as expensive as the FR-S's TRD option. The TRD alloy wheels are an inch bigger than the stock wheels and are finished in graphite, but at $2200 for a set of four, they are extremely pricey. The TRD air filter is reusable and at $50 is quite reasonably priced.

The 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder powering the Tc (Amou "Joe" Seto/Neon Tommy)
The 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder powering the Tc (Amou “Joe” Seto/Neon Tommy)

The 2.5L DOHC 4 cylinder powering the Tc is good for 179 horsepower and 172 lb-ft torque. Compare that to other cars in its class, and the power gap is significant. While the torque is higher than the FR-S, the Tc is down on horsepower. The Tc climbs through the revs at average speed, resulting in acceleration that's neither slow or fast. The engine note is rough-sounding and nowhere near as nice as the FR-S's. The large displacement motor makes freeway driving easy, as you can stay in 6th gear and use the torque to push you along without much effort. Like other manual cars we've tested, the Tc's engine rotates at over 3,000 RPM @ 80 mph.

The Tc's manual gearbox felt like it was directly from a Yaris; The gears engaged smoothly, but there was none of the snap-snap shifter action I'm used to seeing in sportier cars like the Ford Fiesta ST or the FR-S. The clutch was short and soft with a high catch making city driving easy, but the pedal placement is horrid due to the cramped footwell; Disengaging the clutch and braking at the same time will make your ankles bump into each other. The shifter wasn't fully centered, making neutral look like 4th gear.

The TRD Performance Exhaust fitted to the Tc (Amou "Joe" Seto/USC Annenberg Media)
The TRD Performance Exhaust fitted to the Tc (Amou “Joe” Seto/USC Annenberg Media)

Handling is where this review gets tricky. The Tc I was provided with had Toyo Proxes4 Ultra-high performance All-seasons, which are not standard equipment. A car with high-performance tires can corner much faster than if it were fitted with standard road tires. In our performance test, the car rocketed around corners without reaching its limits of grip even in tight, slow corners. It's important to note here that unlike the Civic Si I tested back in February, the Scion Tc lacks a limited slip differential. The harsh, stiff ride redeems itself in the corners by keeping both wheels planted 24/7. The Tc's steering is very quick, adding to its excellent handling characteristics. Despite being quick, the steering lacks feedback and is quite numb.

The Scion FR-S with its hood open (Amou "Joe" Seto/Neon Tommy)
The Scion FR-S with its hood open (Amou “Joe” Seto/Neon Tommy)

So, not only is the Tc reasonably priced, it's more powerful and offers better handling than the equivalent Honda Civic EX or Corolla S. As with every car, the Tc isn't without its flaws. The seats are clad in uncomfortable fabric, and the hard fisher-price plastic interior feels cheap. The Scion Bespoke system returns to show its ugly head yet again. The hard suspension takes a toll on the driver during normal driving, turning most road surfaces into corrugated metal. There isn't much sound deadening either, making the Tc rather noisy.

Ultimately, the Tc is excellent value for the price, but there are some tradeoffs you have to make, especially in the NVH department. Not everybody will be okay with the jittery ride and the noise. To answer our original question, the Tc isn't good enough to be considered the FR-S's little brother, but it does come close.

Overall Score: B

Hot Cars Under $30,000 Score: B-

Front Wheel Drive Performance Score: A-

Price as Tested: $26,058

At-A-Glance Specifications:

Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with Dual-VVT-i

Horsepower: 179 @ 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 (manual); 3,113 (Automatic)

Weight Distribution F/R: N/A

Cargo Volume: 34.5 cu. ft

Our Combined MPG: 25.7

Fuel Capacity: 14.5 gal

MPG (EPA Estimated)(City/Highway/Combined): 23/31/26 (Manual & Automatic)