Scion tC proves a winner in entry-level class
Toyota’s Scion brand is all about value and hooking younger buyers with its distinctive looks, reliability and cool standard features at a value price.
Today’s example is the 2011 Scion tC, a sporty hatchback. It’s like the former Celica hatchback, basically a Corolla with a more hip body and a more useful hatch.
Best yet, if you’re a young new car buyer, this is a solid choice that doesn’t make you look like you glommed onto Mom’s Corolla after college.The tC offers distinctive looks with the hatch blending nicely into a long flat roofline for a fastback appearance. And the sturdy 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing and 180 horsepower makes it feel sporty.
Its light weight, 3,102 lbs, helps make it feel quicker than it really is, but only when you manually shift its six-speed automatic shifter. When left to its own shift points, the automatic shifts more abruptly than, say, a Corolla. The transmission groans a lot, too. But manual shifting reduced the groan considerably.
Handling is sporty. The tC corners well and the steering effort is moderate, perhaps a bit heavier than you’d suspect in a car of this weight. I was surprised at how firm the ride is. With a 106.3-inch wheelbase, I expected the tC to smooth out the bumps a bit better. But it carries through its sporty theme and sometimes is severe on crumbling city streets.
Brakes are good, with four-wheel discs and both traction and stability control.
I was impressed with the car’s gas mileage, a great selling point. I got 30.3 mpg in about 70% highway driving. That’s the best I’ve gotten in any car for a while, and it’s near the top of the EPA estimate of 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
The tested tC starts at $19,275 and, with a $720 delivery charge, sneaks in just below the $20,000 barrier. A tC equipped with manual transmission starts at $1,000 less. There were no options on the metallic plum-colored test car, but it was still well-equipped.
In addition to its disc brakes, the tC features attractive alloy wheels to accentuate the car’s fastback looks.
Inside there are other features to please younger drivers. Among them is a panoramic glass roof with power sunroof up front. Both the sunroof and glass panel offer sun shades to use if passengers get too hot. Music lovers will enjoy the tC’s 300-watt Pioneer stereo, and it comes with the requisite USB and iPod hookups.
Scion’s steering wheel looks sporty, resembling a racer’s wheel with a flat bottom that not only looks cool, but gives you a bit more legroom when entering or exiting the car. It features a full complement of stereo buttons on the hub. But the wheel is the thickest I’ve encountered in 20-plus years of testing, making it uncomfortable to grasp.
The dash is logically laid out, with two main gauges featuring white numbers and orange back lighting. The climate controls are three large, easy-to-use dials.I liked the car’s black cloth seats, which are well contoured to wrap around the driver, creating a snug fit. The seats are manually adjusted and include a height pump handle on the side.
The rear seats are deep and best for smaller folks. The rear seats also fold flat to boost cargo space.
Overhead are thick visors with extenders. Visibility is particularly good in this car due to its thin A pillars.
The Scion comes with keyless entry, but keyed start. The key itself carries the transponder to open the door locks, so you don’t end up with a monster key fob.
For safety, Scion has side air bag curtains and knee air bags along with the standard air bags.
In the pantheon of value-oriented cars, the tC is one to consider when you’re new to the market and looking for a car that won’t push you beyond $20,000.