2014 Scion tCPosted on November 11th, 2013
Sport coupe with the versatility for active lifestyles
By Nina Russin
I love surprises, or at least good ones. When I discovered that the cargo area in the original Scion tC was big enough to hold a bicycle, the sport coupe gained a whole new meaning. What I initially perceived as a youth-oriented tuner car became pure genius.
The bicycle part was no accident. Jim Farley, who was Vice President of Scion when the 2004 car launched, is a triathlete. He wanted to make sure that the tC would hold his Pinarello, so he shipped the bike to Japan and had the engineers design the cargo area around it.
The second-generation continues in the tradition of the original car, appealing to young driving enthusiasts with edgy styling, a more powerful engine and connectivity enhancements. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder has ten percent more power than the outgoing block, yet remains thrifty at the fuel pump. The tC averages 31 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.
Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission. As with all Scion products, the tC is monospec, eliminating haggling over trim and option packages at the dealership.
Standard convenience features include a Pioneer sound system with high-definition radio and touchscreen display, leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming audio, power windows and door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and 60/40 split reclining rear seats.
Base price with the six-speed manual transmission is $19,210. Adding the $755 destination charge brings the price as tested to $19,965.
Test drive in Phoenix
This week I drove the tC on surface streets and highways in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as on some rural roads through the Gila River Indian reservation south of town.
In the sub-$20,000 price range, it’s rare to find a car that doesn’t compromise on components. For example, rear drum brakes outnumber rear discs, and torsion beam rear ends are more common that independent rear axles.
The tC gives driving enthusiasts the components they want for an affordable price. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires are standard, as is a MacPherson front and double wishbone rear suspension. The compact double wishbone geometry doesn’t intrude into the cargo space, hence its ability to hold a bicycle.
Four-wheel disc brakes are also standard, with vented rotors up front and solid ones in the back. For anyone who lives in an area that sees significant rain or snow, this vastly enhances control on wet surfaces. Drum brakes collect water, whereas discs are self-drying.
Engineers substituted an electric power steering system on the current model for a traditional hydraulic unit. It’s more compact, saving weight under the hood, and also reduces internal pumping losses to improve gas mileage. On-center response isn’t quite as good, but the tC system has a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway.
The 2.5-liter engine has good power throughout the band, with plenty on the low end for accelerating off the line. The six-speed manual transmission is crisp and precise.
The tC’s large wheels and low-profile tires make for a harsher ride than some competitive products. It isn’t an issue in areas such as Arizona where all of the roads are smooth, but might pose some problems in the pothole-filled roads of the upper Midwest.
The tires also create quite a bit of road noise. Buyers who want a quieter car should look at the compact Toyota Corolla.
Because there are no B pillars, over-the-shoulder visibility in the Scion tC is quite good. I had no problems monitoring traffic when merging onto the highway, or seeing vehicles in the adjacent lanes.
Thick rear pillars create large blind spots in the back corners. There is no rearview camera, and the thick pillars make it more difficult to monitor cross-traffic in parking lots.
The Scion interior is a typical two-plus-two in terms of seating comfort. The front seats have plenty of head, hip and legroom. Rear seats do not, but they will function in a pinch. Manual seat adjustments are easy to use, and I found the driver’s seat to have ample lower lumbar support for long drives.
Items noticeable on the inside for their added value include a locking glovebox, the large center stack screen display, USB port, and redundant audio controls on the steering wheel. Both the steering wheel and shift knob are much nicer designs than the first-generation tC.
Radio and climate controls are easy to reach from either front seat position and intuitive to operate. At times, the HD radio in the test car cut in and out. I am not sure if this was a problem with the radio station I was listening to or the audio unit.
In addition to being spacious, the cargo area is also quite functional. Small wells on either side provide places to stash small items so they don’t shift around when the car is in motion. Folding the rear seats flat creates a cargo floor as long and wide as some crossover vehicles.
The Scion tC comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, active front headrests and tire pressure monitoring.
The 2014 tC is on display at Scion dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish sports coupe with excellent performance and the versatility to meet the needs of buyers with active lifestyles.
Dislikes: Thick rear pillars create large blind spots in the back corners. Excessive tire noise, which is most noticeable at highway speeds.
Base price: $19,210
As tested: $19,965
Horsepower: 180 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 173 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 23/31 mpg city/highway2014, Urban 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, Scion, standard safety
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