The Scion brand
desperately needs an image remake, and it’s counting on the new Scion FR-S
to be its brand savior. Not everyone wants a front-engine, rear-drive sports car, so Scion also offers more conventional transportation in the form of its value-packed front-drive coupe, the tC
As with Toyota models of the past, the recipe for the Scion tC
is simple and straightforward: build a car that looks good, is comfortable, offers some entertainment value behind the wheel and above all else, is chock full of features for the price. The Scion tC won’t appeal to those who spend weekends auto crossing or taking track days, but it’s not supposed to. Instead, the tC is a mainstream coupe aimed at a broader audience of (primarily young) buyers who covet value and personalization above all else.
Scion revised the tC’s looks, and its entire design, for the 2011 model year
, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending upon how much you admired the original’s design. While the first tC was soft and round in shape, the redesign gave the car some harder edges. It also made the car more distinctive and less likely to get lost in a parking lot, although each generations seems to have both its fans and detractors. We’ll split the middle and call the new car “handsome,” and since 2011 the body has undergone very few significant styling changes.
The inside of the tC didn’t fare quite as well in the recent redesign, and cost-cutting seems to be the order of the day. There’s lots of hard plastic (which, in fairness, car reviewers seem to view more critically than car buyers), and a few seemingly mismatched materials, but even the tC’s lower-rent interior has its charms in features like the red gauge faces and cut-tube instrument surrounds.
All tC models come powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, good for 180 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can still choose between a six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automatic, which nets Scion a gold star in our book. The six-speed manual will get you from 0-60 in about 7.6 seconds, with the flappy paddle-shifted automatic taking around 8.3 seconds. The ride quality is quite good, especially in light of the tC’s 18-inch wheels, and the handling is what we’d call predictable. Steering feel and braking are both slightly better than average for cars in this segment.
As with other sporty coupes, the tC’s rear seat is best reserved for emergency use only. Headroom isn’t generous up front, and it’s even more snug in the rear seat. Taller passengers can recline the rear seat a bit to add more headroom, but getting in or out of the back still requires a bit of biological origami.
Have we mentioned the Scion tC’s value? For a starting price under $20,000, you get a coupe that’s stylish, reliable, safe (both the NHTSA and the IIHS give it a top safety rating) and well equipped. Standard features include power windows, locks and mirrors; Sirius/XM satellite radio; a Pioneer audio system with steering-wheel mounted controls; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a sunroof. Options include an Alpine premium audio system with a 4.3-inch display and HD Radio, and Scion has a laundry list of dealer-installed accessories to personalize your tC, too.
For a complete look at the 2013 Scion tC, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection