The Scion tC is a compact coupe that belies its sporty looks with a comfortable ride and predictable but uninspired handling. A corner carver it is not, yet for buyers seeking a stylish and practical machine for a relatively low purchase price, the tC will likely fit the bill.
Last year, the tC was the beneficiary of a mid-cycle facelift that brought more striking sheetmetal, an upgraded interior with more tech, and revised mechanicals.
This year, the tC gets a limited-edition model called Release Series 9.0.
Handsome styling has always been part of the tC's appeal, and the latest model sports several new cues that further strengthen that already strong point. More shapely headlights with LED accents and a muscular lower grille give the coupe a fiercer face, while revised LED taillights and a reworked bumper freshen things up around back.
The cabin builds on the exterior's "sports car" theme controls canted towards the driver, well-bolstered seats and the kind of flat-bottomed steering wheel usually found on serious high-performance vehicles. Despite some recent material upgrades, the plastics inside still skew towards the econobox end of the refinement spectrum.
All tC models are fitted with Scion's Display Audio system, which works through a 6.1-inch touchscreen and provides access to entertainment and Bluetooth connectivity functions. An optional navigation system (which is bundled with a Scion BeSpoke Premium Sound System) includes streaming Bluetooth audio via Aha, which can play 30,000 different internet radio stations and also connects users to Facebook, Twitter, audiobooks and news reports.
While most coupes offer little in the way of practicality, the tC actually boasts a relatively roomy cargo area with 14.7 cubic feet of stowage space. There's plenty of legroom in back for passengers, and the rear seats recline for maximum comfort and can also be folded down to accommodate even more stuff.
Powertrains and Handling
The tC powers its front wheels with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 179 ponies and 173 lb-ft of torque. Those are fairly strong numbers for the segment, and buyers can make the most of the output with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic that was recently tweaked to provide quicker shifts and a racy rev-matching function.
Fuel economy is rated at 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway for both manual and auto tC variants.
Retuned steering, new stabilizer bar hardware and reworked shock absorbers should make the new tC a more capable handler than its predecessor, but this isn't the coupe to buy if engaging dynamics are a major purchase factor.
Standard and Optional Features
The tC comes standard with power windows and locks, keyless entry, A/C a six-speaker AM/FM/CD touchscreen audio system with USB and AUX inputs in addition to HD Radio, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, a trip computer, cruise control and 16-inch alloy wheels. Auto-off headlamps and an auto-up/down driver's power window are both new additions to the standard equipment list.
The only factory option is the aforementioned navigation and premium audio system bundle, but buyers can choose from a plethora of dealer-installed extras ranging from Toyota Racing Development brake kits to cargo nets.
Limited-Edition tC Release Series 9.0
Designed with input from Cartel Customs, the limited-edition Release Series 9.0 stands out from a stock tC thanks to a unique aero kit, black alloy wheels, black side mirrors and door handles, and a high-profile rear spoiler. The suspension has been slightly lowered, while Cartel logos adorn the floor and cargo mats.
The exterior features a bold black-on-magma two-tone color scheme, while the interior has been outfitted with orange accents and matching stitching on the steering wheel and seats.
Power is provided by the same 2.5-liter engine as the basic tC.
Scion will build just 2,000 examples of the Release Series 9.0.
The tC offers ten airbags: dual front, front side, front knee, rear side and full-length side curtain units, to be exact. ABS, traction and stability control systems are also standard, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Laid-back front-wheel-drive alternatives to the Scion tC include the Honda Civic Coupe, the Kia Forte Koup and the Hyundai Veloster.
Those looking for a more sporting driving experience should also check out the MINI Hardtop, the Honda CR-Z and Scion's own rear-drive FR-S.