Scion is becoming more aggressive to attract a greater number of male buyers. The 2014 tC, an upscale front-drive hatchback sports coupe from Toyota’s youth-oriented brand, looks racier, is quick and handles better than previous models.
The new Scion tC has a longer hood, new muscular-looking grille and LED accent lights, besides LED taillights that enhance the rear.
Many tCs once were ordered with an automatic transmission by women. Not that Scion minded that much, but it wanted the car to have more masculine appeal and thus modified later models accordingly—without discouraging women buyers.
The tC is reasonably priced at $19,210-$22,440 and is well-equipped, although some options that enhance its sportiness are costly.
Standard items include a power tilt/slide panoramic glass moonroof, air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD sound system, leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 60/40 split/reclining rear seats, power door locks with remote keyless entry and power front windows with a one-touch automatic up/down feature.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 179 horsepower and provides quick acceleration in town and on open roads. The engine is hooked to either a six-speed manual or revised six-speed automatic transmission. Scion says the automatic changes gears nearly twice as fast as the previous automatic and now features Dynamic Rev Management technology.
Only regular-grade gasoline is needed, and estimated fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon in town and 31 on highways.
My test tC had the manual gearbox, which shifts crisply but works with a long clutch throw that takes some getting used to. Engage the clutch too quickly or give the engine insufficient revs from a standing start and the tC will likely stall. You can easily screech the front tires, but I noticed no torque steer when moving from a stop on dry pavement.
The quickest 65-80 mph passing with the manual is in third or fourth gear. Fifth and sixth are overdrive gears, although engine revs are approximately 2,500 r.p.m. in sixth gear at 65 mph with the manual transmission. That seems to be about 500 r.p.m. over what one might expect. Still, the tC is an easy cruiser.
For better roadability, the 2014 tC has a stiffer structure and additional modifications to the stabilizer bar hardware and shock absorbers. It’s also got retuned electronic power steering. The 18-inch alloy wheels and low-profile 45-series tires work well with the beefed-up suspension. The ride is on the firm side, but won’t beat you up on bumpy roads.
Steering is quick and handling is reassuring, helped by vehicle stability and traction controls. Brake pedal action is a little soft, but braking effectiveness is reassuring, enhanced by electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and Smart Stop technology.
My test car was painted “Absolutely Red” and had costly options that enhanced its sportiness. They included $2,199 performance-oriented 19-inch TRD alloy wheels, a $699 TRD performance exhaust and a $444 rear lip high-profile spoiler.
It looks from the outside that the tC’s backseat will be cramped, as it is in many smaller sport coupes, but it’s surprisingly roomy for two tall adults. Getting in and out of the rear from the right side of the car only takes a little extra effort, although rear seats could use more thigh support.
There’s no backseat space problem on the front/rear passenger side. But, although fairly roomy up front, some long-legged tall drivers will wish their seat moved back more. I’m long-legged and had to move the drivers’s seatback a bit farther than usual to get comfortable. But I still wished the seat bottom would slide back a few inches more.
Doing that, however, would take away leg room from a tall passenger behind a driver—and one of the hatchback tC’s selling points is practicality. However, one might not expect all that much practicality from such a racy looking car.
Interior materials are upgraded, and there’s a 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen audio interface that’s fairly easy to use and can be upgraded to a premium system with navigation. The handy tilt/telescopic sport steering wheel has audio controls, besides Bluetooth compatibility and HD radio technology.
Front seats are supportive in curves and during quick maneuvers, but the speedometer and tachometer look as if designed more for stylishness than visibility and are difficult to read in sunlight.
Thick roof pillars hinder rear visibility, so the fairly large outside mirrors with LED turn-signal indicators are handy. While the cabin is generally quiet, there was considerable wind noise at highway speeds in my test car. Climate controls are large, and there are easily reached dual front console cupholders and a fair number of cabin storage areas. The ignition switch, however, seems almost buried behind the steering wheel.
Doors are long and heavy but have large outside handles for quick entry and easily grasped inside handles for an easy exit.
The big hatch swings open to reveal a rather shallow, moderately large cargo area, which becomes spacious with the 60/40 rear seatbacks flipped forward. They can be lowered easily and sit conveniently flat when folded.
The heavy hood is held open with just a prop rod, instead of the hydraulic struts used for the hatch, but most engine compartment fluid containers are easily reached.
It used to be that one had to sacrifice decent utility when buying a small, sporty sports coupe without much equipment, but the Scion tC shows that no longer is the case.
Pros: Racier look. Revised steering. Modified suspension. Upgraded interior. Better automatic. Fairly roomy. Well-equipped. Reasonably priced.
Cons: Firm ride. Hard-to-read gauges. Wind noises at higher speeds. Restricted rear vision. Costly performance extras.
Bottom Line: A good, affordable combination of sportiness and practicality.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.