Vital Stats

Engine:
2.5L I4
Power:
179 HP / 172 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,082 LBS
Seating:
2+2
Cargo:
14.7 CU-FT
MPG:
23 City / 31 HWY
Base Price:
$19,210
As Tested Price:
$25,064
Once upon a time, the Scion brand sought to bring more youthful buyers into the Toyota stable. In the early 2000s, Scion launched with its plucky xA and xB hatchbacks, and a lot of people bought into its affordable, customizable, funky lineup – myself included. I was once the proud owner of a 2006 xB, and though the box-on-wheels wasn't really a proper enthusiast machine by any means, I loved its unique driving dynamics, clever packaging and fresh style.

Following those two hatches, Scion released its tC coupe – a modestly sporty little thing that stayed true to the brand's core values of being affordable, neat-looking and endlessly customizable. People really dug the first-generation tC, and with good reason – it offered a bit more personality than a comparable Honda Civic Coupe, effectively the only other two-door compact then on the market from Japan. And for folks who wanted a sporty, low-cost two-door, the tC was a pretty decent buy.

But then Scion changed. The xA was killed and the comparatively frumpy xD bowed as its replacement. The xB was totally renewed, but it got bigger, heavier and less attractive in the process. And then after a few years of standing idle (will we ever see xD/xB replacements?), Toyota birthed the Scion FR-S – a properly sporty, enthusiast-minded rear-drive coupe created with the help of Subaru. I really dig the FR-S – if I had to buy something from the Toyota/Lexus/Scion stable, it's easily the car I'd want. But by offering a properly good two-door package with its new coupe, where has that left the older, front-drive tC?

The tC was still the best-selling Scion in 2013, but at 19,094 units, its deliveries were only slightly better than the newer FR-S, which rang up 18,327 sales. Toyota has given the tC a modest refresh for 2014, so I spent a week with one to see whether or not there's still real merit to the original Scion coupe, or if it's already reaching has-been status.

Driving Notes
  • The tC isn't a bad car to drive – let me make that clear right from the get-go. No, it doesn't offer the perfect weight distribution, excellent chassis tuning and great steering of the FR-S, but really, it's still good fun. Allow me to explain.
  • Under the hood is a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque – plenty of grunt for this 3,082-pound coupe. My tester came with a six-speed manual transmission, controlled by a linear, nicely weighted clutch and a shifter that offers decently crisp throws that could be a bit shorter. The tC has no problem getting up and going, and the transmission makes it easy to keep the engine on boil. It may have less power than the FR-S, but the 2.5-liter engine offers more torque, and that's really noticeable off the line.
  • The suspension is tuned for easy, daily-driver fun – while not as feedback-heavy as the FR-S, it's certainly not a washy setup. There isn't much in the way of body roll, and for longer trips on the highway, I found the tC to be a more pleasant cruiser than the more taut FR-S.
  • Steering tuning is okay, with a relatively dead on-center feel that picks up weight while turning. Again, it isn't FR-S good (it's hardly a fair comparison given the different drive axles) but take that car out of the picture, and the tC still offers some of the best steering weighting and feedback in the entire Toyota stable.
  • For my money, this car is still better to tool around in than a two-door Honda Civic, and the optional TRD exhaust ($699) adds a muffled growl to the package. In times where the involvement-above-all FR-S can get a little jarring and old, the tC makes up for it by being more comfortable and more laid-back. I'm not sure that's a sacrifice I'd be willing to make every day, but I can certainly see why less-enthusiast-oriented drivers would.
  • The tC still looks pretty cool, too – it always has. I dig the flat roof and slimmer headlamp design that came with this year's refresh. I really like the Cement paint of my test car, as well. And though I'm not sold on the costly, flashy 19-inch TRD wheels ($2,199, instead of the stock 18s), clear taillight housings and tacked-on spoiler ($499), I can see why a lot of people would enjoy this sort of tuner-friendly tC style. It's truer to the original Scion flavor, though my eyes still prefer the FR-S any day.
  • Inside, the tC doesn't offer a particularly wonderfully appointed interior, yet it's comfortable enough for two adults. Headroom is an issue (thanks, flat roof), but there's a decent amount of space in the rear with which to cart small passengers short distances. What's more, the hatchback design allows the rear seats to be folded, which creates a surprisingly spacious and functional cargo area. You can't get that in the FR-S.
  • Climate control, navigation and radio functions are all very simple to use, with a minimalist, clean layout. The sound system is pretty decent, too – something I used to complain about all the time in the previous-generation Scion products. (Us punk kids still like good stereos, automakers.)
  • All in, for a $19,210 starting price, I can see how this tC makes a lot of sense for budget-minded folks who want a car that's pretty good to drive, relatively functional and less frumpy than a normal econobox. Of course, optioning it up with all of this TRD nonsense (wheels, illuminated door sills, spoiler, exhaust, etc.) brought my tester's bottom line to $25,064, but consider this – that's still less than the basic FR-S I tested.
  • So... do I want a tC? Personally, no. The FR-S is still my choice – but I'm willing to sacrifice comfort and functionality for a car that's amazing to drive above all else. But the truth is, most people don't think like me. And for the rest of the world, I think there's still plenty of merit to the tC package.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 158 Comments
      AC
      • 7 Months Ago
      1st gen Tc still looks more appealing to me.
      AntBee
      • 7 Months Ago
      From a distance, the new tC and Corolla look the same, I have to wait until I can see the badges before I can tell what it is. It's too bad Toyota has dropped the ball on Scion. Perhaps if they had offered Scion in Canada from the very beginning, they would be in much better shape today.
        ForcedInduction90012
        • 7 Months Ago
        @AntBee
        Perhaps if they had made attractive vehicles that were built with some quality, performance, and character they would be in better shape. They need to either shelve Scion, or reboot it as Toyota's affordable performance line that actually is worth the prices they charge.
        Jaylgo
        • 7 Months Ago
        @AntBee
        Very true.
      Brian
      • 7 Months Ago
      Scion was supposed to be unique, but come on, you guys are killing it! Horribly! The taillights are "chromed" out like they're aftermarket. The C pillar is just plain disgusting. The front is VERY similar to the camry with it's try hard headlights and grille. I shake my head every time I drive by a Scion dealership with one of these on the advertisement platforms. Though you commenters down below make me feel *slightly* better about owning a first generation tC lol.
      zoom_zoom_zoom
      • 7 Months Ago
      If I'm shopping for a FWD coupe from Honda or Toyota, the Civic Si Coupe trounces this turd, and the Civic cost less.
        carguy1701
        • 7 Months Ago
        @zoom_zoom_zoom
        Did anyone, other than you, mention the Si? NOPE. Moving goalposts, how goes it work?
          • 7 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          [blocked]
          Nick B
          • 7 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          So this guy is Honda's version of AcidTonic eh?
          carguy1701
          • 7 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          Nick: more or less.
        zoom_zoom_zoom
        • 7 Months Ago
        @zoom_zoom_zoom
        I've noticed a trend, carguy1701 makes a post, then with in minutes, always followed by a post from yonomo200, and sometimes tiberius1701. hum. coincidence?
      zoom_zoom_zoom
      • 7 Months Ago
      Another epiphany, so you don't want hardcore Civic Si. When you look at the price of this Scion, then realize you can get an Accord Coupe EX for the same price. Ouch. The Accord is a freaking luxury car in comparison, with more HP, better mileage. No wonder I never see the TC on the road.
        Zoom
        • 7 Months Ago
        @zoom_zoom_zoom
        Since when is a new accord ex $20g?
          zoom_zoom_zoom
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Zoom
          Interesting link. Not sure why you are linking to that. I find in interesting that as I scrolled through it I saw another of your many 1701 login names. I've never seen that 1701J before.
          zoom_zoom_zoom
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Zoom
          Since when is a Scion TC $25K plus as this example?
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Zoom
          [blocked]
      Raphymartinez
      • 7 Months Ago
      "but take that car out of the picture, and the tC still offers some of the best steering weighting and feedback in the entire Toyota stable." That's like being the smartest kid on the short bus
      Matt
      • 7 Months Ago
      31 MPG highway? You have to try to make a n/a 4-cylinder car that inefficient these days. Pretty embarrassing when the MUCH larger Marzda6 is making 37 MPG highway, with more power and torque.
        Slideways
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Matt
        Mazda uses a fairly new direct injected 4 cylinder (Sky-Activ). The tC uses a fairly old 4 cylinder that is found in the previous previous generations of Camrys.
          Matt
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Slideways
          The powertrains in Toyota's non-hybrids probably have an average age of over a decade now.
          carguy1701
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Slideways
          Actually, the 2AR-FE isn't that old. It was introduced in 2010.
      Jesus!
      • 7 Months Ago
      This car is a turd. Ugly on the outside, hideous on the inside. They took a step back everywhere with this generation. Scion is near worthless at this point and hinestly I forget they exist half the time anymore because rarely do I see any. Make the FR-S a Toyota and dump Scion.
      carguy1701
      • 7 Months Ago
      Eh, for 19k, I'd probably keep saving for a new Golf.
        ForcedInduction90012
        • 7 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        Obviously a tC owner gave you a thumbs down. Guess they didn't realize how crappy their car was when they signed their life away to finance it
        zoom_zoom_zoom
        • 7 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        Did anyone, other than you, mention the Golf? NOPE. Moving goalposts, how goes it work?
          Brandon
          • 7 Months Ago
          @zoom_zoom_zoom
          The golf is definitely a competitor to this, so I'm assuming that's why he mentioned it.
        Kenny Baese
        • 7 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        Good choice. The new one will be more powerful (or at least will have a bunch more torque), more fuel efficient, better looking, and more practical. The only downside is reliability and weight.
          carguy1701
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Kenny Baese
          I don't buy into the logic that German cars are unreliable. You take care of something, it will be fine.
          Nick B
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Kenny Baese
          Normally I agree with you on just about everything Carguy but this I have to disagree. There is a reason people dump BMW's and MB's after the warranty is up.
          carguy1701
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Kenny Baese
          That wasn't our experience, Nick, but I'll agree to disagree.
          ForcedInduction90012
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Kenny Baese
          It's up to 100kg lighter in some versions than the MkVI. The new Golf and Golf GTI/R will dominate each segment they are in. The only downside is convincing the uneducated American population that hatchbacks aren't cheap economy cars anymore. Also, VW has really worked hard on reliability.
          Carpinions
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Kenny Baese
          And I have to agree with carguy. I'm a prior owner of an A4 GTI 1.8T (built in Brazil) I bought used off the original owner. He took care of it but wasn't hyper fastidious about the car. I got it in good shape and it turned out to be as reliable as any American or Japanese car I've owned, and about the same in terms of cost to operate. I didn't wring it out all the time, so I didn't have turbo problems, and while I had an electronic gremlin or two, they didn't affect the operation of the car day-to-day. I bought the thing with 82k and kept until over 130k. BMWs and M-Bs are A LOT less reliable than VWs, especially a VW as ubiquitous as the Golf, whose platform and/or engine (in the case of the era of the car I owned) underpinned everything from the Jetta to the Passat to the New Beetle to the Audi A4 and TT, let alone whatever other cars were built around them for countries outside the US.
      Teleny411
      • 7 Months Ago
      It now looks like too many design themes are going on at the same time.
      Nick B
      • 7 Months Ago
      Oh look another new turd some kid can buy and rev the lawnmower under the hood at me not realizing his impending doom is lurking under my right foot. Seriously though, $25K? When a new WRX can be had for a couple grand more, youd have to be really clueless about vehicles to pay that much for this thing.
      Guzzi
      • 7 Months Ago
      Toyota really needs to differentiate this car. They should make it into a 2-door shooting brake type wagon. That would be unique.
        Guzzi
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Guzzi
        Forgot to mention, the tC recently landed on the 10 worst vehicles to maintain, on someone's list...which seems impossible for a Toyota, but there you go.
          BodyBlue
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Guzzi
          What that means is that, money can buy any kind of results seen on the internet. I may not like Toyotas that much but they are very reliable. Thats why they sell so many boring cars.....people that use cars for family duty want nice reliable cars that run for years and years.
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