Scion tC — A mild refreshening

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Although the heyday of the Scion tC is long
past, and it now has formidable competition within its own ranks from the sporty FR-S, the personal entry-level coupe still finds about 20,000 new owners a year — the tC's peak year was 2006 when 80,000 left showrooms. It’s relatively spacious, a bit trendy and won't break the bank of a young new car buyer.

The tC coupe has been enhanced with
some new styling cues and comes with upgraded interior content for 2014 making the car more attractive for folks who are shopping the showroom for a new Corolla, but are intrigued by the Scion. This might be a good thing for the new buyer who probably won't see one pop up in his neighbor's driveway.

To keep the tC somewhat fresh — it still retains the basic styling it started with in 2005 — it has been bestowed styling traits of the new FR-S such as a more aggressive front fascia, more sculpted hood, and new wheel designs. Some new interior features include a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen, steering wheel audio controls, a trendy flat-bottom steering wheel, an optional navigation system and new-for-2014 Bespoke audio system that rivals virtually all the top line stuff in its competitive class.

The interior is conservatively styled and driver-oriented, not overdone as in some competitors' cars. Controls are intuitive and gauges clear and easy to read. Material quality has been improved and what hard plastics that still exist are well disguised and inoffensive.

The tC delivers the best of two worlds — a sporty coupe design, and surprisingly comfortable front seats with supportive bolsters together with adult-friendly rear-seat room. There is generous legroom in back with seatbacks that recline, and a healthy cargo carrying capacity under the hatchback measured at 14.7 cubic feet.

When cargo hauling is the order of the day, the seatbacks can be folded flat increasing load capacity to 34.5 cubic feet. We typically favor a hatchback design for its usefulness without detracting from exterior styling. And the tC certainly reinforces our long-held thinking.

The front-wheel-driven tC continues with the same engine and transmissions since the second generation's introduction in the 2011 model year. For the most part they get the job done offering rewarding performance that falls just short of exciting.

The tC comes with a 2.5-liter inline four cylinder engine making 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. Most buyers will opt for the six-speed automatic, but a six-speed manual transmission comes standard. Performance with the automatic is measured at 7.3 seconds from 0-to-60 and 15.8 seconds at 88 mph in the quarter mile. If you are a nifty shifter, it's possible to crack the seven-second barrier with the manual transmission.

Gas mileage is nothing to write home about, but it's adequate for a small sporty coupe measured at 23 city, 31 highway and 26 combined using regular gas.

The driving experience is one of maturity; the car is extremely easy to drive getting from point A to point B in an efficient manner, offering a dose of performance when needed, and with a slightly stiff but overall pleasing ride. It handled our favorite twisting back-road "test track" with just enough cornering proficiency to make the drive interesting. On-line feel is good and we found braking excellent (it has been measured at an above-average 123 feet from 60-to-0).

While overall safety has been attended to with standard traction and stability control, antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, and a wide array of airbags, we were dismayed at what was missing. For instance, while virtually all manufacturers are endowing their compact vehicles with rearview cameras in 2014 — including Toyota, which has made the feature standard in all but the base model Corolla — you can't buy one for any price in the tC. Likewise, the accident-saving blind spot mirrors are also unavailable even as an option.

The tC starts at $19,965 including destination charge for the base model with a six-speed manual transmission. Prices rise through the lineup to the 10 Series with an automatic at $23,195. Navigation with the upgraded audio system is a $1,198 option. Our test vehicle with automatic and a handful of options carried a bottom line of $23,112.

The Scion tC is a good choice for those who want something a little more sporty than the standard compact four-door sedan and at a good price. We think Toyota could have done a little more with this car over the years, and perhaps when the third generation arrives sometime around 2016, it will be a game changer for the tC.

Base price, $19,965; as driven, $23,112
Engine: 2.5-liter inline four
Horsepower: 179 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 172 foot-pounds @ 4,100 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 176.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,124 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.7 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 34.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 31 highway, 23 city
0-60: 7.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda Civic Coupe, Hyundai Elantra Coupe, Ford Mustang V6

The Good
• Adult room in rear seat
• Decent performance
• Increased connectivity

The Bad
• Mediocre fuel economy

The Ugly
• No factory-installed rear view camera