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2013 Subaru BRZ (Subaru)
2013 Subaru BRZ (Subaru)

Best of the Lot

Will a Scion give me the offbeat, sporty ride I crave? Add to ...

Dear Mr. Cato and Vaughan: I’m considering the 2013 Scion tC. I’m aware certain reviewers have mixed feelings about it; some were expecting it to be a Mustang Cobra! I have not yet test driven the vehicle, but I like the style. I’m certainly not a first-time buyer, apparently the target market. At my advanced age, I’m looking for a manual six-speed to drive in Toronto and on highway trips. My 1995 Saab 900 SE four-cylinder turbo with manual transmission is close to retirement. I would appreciate your input on the Scion tC. I have not seen Scions on the road, I suspect because they are made in Japan and in limited supply in Canada. – Bill in Toronto

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Vaughan: You’re not seeing any Scions on the road because the brand has been a flop in Canada. Limited supply? No. Limited buyers.

Cato: Hang on, hang on. Scion sales were up in August, to an eye-popping 578 in all. I know what you’re going to say next. And yes, Vaughan, Canadians bought 159,000 new vehicles in August.

So Scion, the Toyota youth brand popular with your pensioner pals, accounted for 0.36 per cent of the total market in August. But we’re talking Toyota, where process and progress count more than raw results.

Besides, the tC is finding its legs. August tC sales jumped 62.2 per cent. Which only makes sense. This is a good little sporty coupe – $21,230 before discounts. The car is a nifty design, the engine puts out 180 hp and it comes with loads of standard features.

Vaughan: Even though Bill is the “mature” buyer Scion is apparently less focused on reeling in, I think he should look at a Honda Civic Coupe. Not the base model, but the hot Si coupe. Great driving car: 200 hp from an advanced little engine. Everything about it is perfect for a sporty fellow like him. Except the price – $26,245.

2013 Honda Civic coupe
 

Cato: Honda Canada every year does a cross-country tour designed to showcase the manual transmissions in its cars. I just did one in Vancouver and had a ball screaming through the gears of an Si coupe.

I know it’s a front-driver, which seems wrong in a really sporty car. But I like the design, the packaging and the user-friendliness of the manual gearbox. Dead reliable, too.

The Civic Si coupe is a safe choice, even if it is pricier than the youthful tC. Something more daring would be the Hyundai Veloster. I don’t know what possessed Hyundai to conjure up a three-door sporty hatchback and I don’t care. The car is quirky, novel and different. The Turbo model, at $26,249, is an energetic ride.

Vaughan: Forget it. This one is too goofy-looking for Bill at his “advanced age.” He’d need a skateboard and a few tattoos first. But the car is a blast to drive. And I can’t argue about the price. Unfortunately, it’s for a different – much different – demographic.

Mini Cooper coupe
 

Cato: I’ll be happy to lend him my skateboard, get him some lessons and then take him to a tat parlour for an evening’s adventure. As long as he’s had his Twinrix hepatitis vaccine. ’Cause you never know. … Look, I think we need to shift gears here. Our advice sounds a little stale, a little inside the box. What I mean is, Bill has been driving a Saab for 18 years. He likes the oddball European stuff.

Why not a Mini Cooper S coupe? At $31,150, it’s just a bit of a stretch and for that he gets a delightful design with an energetic 181-hp turbo motor. I love the seats, the big, round speedo in the dashboard middle, the aircraft-like switchgear. Mini is soon to do a big update, so Bill will surely find some deals on what’s in showrooms now.

Vaughan: No comment, except you know I hate the Mini interior and the ride. Let’s go back to the original Scion proposition. There is one Scion that is a real winner and it could be exactly what Bill wants.

Not the tC, the FR-S. It’s the two-seat coupe that I had the pleasure of driving flat-out on a couple of race tracks. Wow. Rear-wheel-drive, six-speed manual, 2.0-litre, 200-hp engine. It is what great sports cars used to be like – only reliable and relatively safe. I love this car, even if it has the almost unknown Scion nameplate on it.

Cato: Ah, ha. Agreement. Sort of. Why bother with the FR-S, which is really just a rebadged Subaru BRZ. Look, Subaru did all the engineering; Toyota pitched in with product planning or something. Why? Toyota owns 20 per cent of Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries.

Vaughan: Snowballs are freezing in Hades. We are totally in sync. It’s the BRZ for Bill.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2013 Subaru BRZ coupe2013 Mini Cooper S coupe2013 Honda Civic Si coupe

Wheelbase (mm)

257024672620

Length (mm)

423537344472

Width (mm)

177516831753

Height (mm)

128513841397

Engine

2.0-litre four-cylinder1.6-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged2.4-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

200/151 lb-ft181/177 lb-ft201/170 lb-ft

Drive system

Rear-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed manualSix-speed manualSix-speed manual

Curb Weight (kg)

125512151352

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.6 city/6.8 highway7.7 city/5.6 highway10.0 city/6.4 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$27,295$31,150$26,245

Source: car manufacturers

Correction: The starting manufacturer's suggested retail price for the Scion FR-S is $26,300; the price previously quoted in the above article is for a special-edition model with extra features.

*****

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV

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