Compared to the rest of the world, the American automotive market is an anomaly in ways. No where else will you find fullsize pickup trucks selling in such enormous numbers with the big trucks from Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler being the perennial best-sellers for years on end. Move beyond our borders however, and so-called C-segment or compact cars dominate the market. For nearly five decades one of the continuous top-sellers in that space has been the Toyota Corolla in all its different flavors. While Corolla buyers elsewhere get to choose from a variety of body styles, Americans are limited to a four-door sedan unless they opt for the related Scion iM hatchback.
Don’t get me wrong, the Scion FR-S is by no means slow, but in comparison to a Mustang GT, Camaro SS, Challenger Hellcat or Tesla Model S, it has no hope of keeping up. But I have absolutely no issue with that. In fact, that is precisely what makes this car so damn appealing. At 200 hp, the FR-S has more than enough grunt to get around and have tons of fun without resorting to the type of antisocial behavior that’s likely to get you thrown behind behind bars or worse.
Cars hold a strange place in our lives. For most people, they are the second most expensive purchase they will make after a house. Many of us depend on them for personal mobility in modern life. But in many ways, cars are frequently the least rational big-ticket purchase we’ll make. If we were at all rational in choosing cars, we’d all be driving either a Prius or a minivan. There would be no SUVs or sports cars and only contractors would drive pickup trucks. But we are irrational creatures that buy cars for emotional reasons; the way they appeal to our eyes when we see them, the thrill we get from the roar of the engine, the rush we get from the acceleration.
In my recent review of the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX car audio receiver with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, I lamented the fact that Pioneer was only offer the smartphone interfaces in its more high-end receivers. At $700, the 4100NEX is the most affordable receiver with this capability and includes a DVD drive and motorized face plate. It also has a tiny row of controls along the bottom edge for volume and mode selection.
I suggested that for people that want to use a smartphone interface, they are less likely to actually use disks or other media and Pioneer should offer a more basic unit with a fixed screen (not to mention a better display than the 4100NEX) and no disk drive.
It turns out they make just such a receiver. It even has a rotary volume knob! The problem is that consumers can’t actually buy this receiver. It’s found in the Scion FR-S that I’m driving this week. Of course Toyota isn’t yet supporting Android or Carplay so this unit doesn’t have that capability. However, if Pioneer would sell this head unit as a standalone with Android and Carplay for $200-250 I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it and I’d even buy one myself.
The second of two new cars coming from Toyota’s entry-level Scion division this fall is the iM, a compact five-door hatchback that has the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf in its sights. For those that pay attention to Toyota’s European lineup, the iM will be familiar since it’s essentially a rebadged Auris. The iM effectively replaces Scion’s now defunct cube car the xB in the lineup, but the question is can it move the needle on the segment?
A dozen years after Toyota launched the Scion brand as a way to attract younger customers into the fold, the world’s largest automaker is hitting the reboot switch. After some initial success with the first-generation xA and xB, the second-generation xB and the xD that replaced the xA never really caught fire with consumers. While the tC coupe and the FR-S have done reasonably well for their segments, Scion is about two launch two new bread and butter models, the C-segment iM and the B-segment iA which I’ll discuss here.