Then something happened. America gradually got older… and bigger. Four door cars went from the plain-jane three square look of the 1980’s, to designs that evoked the priciest of exotics. Advances in steel fabrication and body stamping were just the beginning of what soon became a new era where four door cars completely dominated their two door sisters.
“Why deal with the inconvenience of a two door?” said a buying public knee-deep in aging baby boomers. Why indeed when you could have everything from a Camry to an SUV if you wanted the pretense of a sporty and powerful ride. Hatchbacks soon gave way to oversized coupes, which gave way to the reality that so-called ‘sporty’ designs were now available in every segment of the car market.
Everything you will usually touch in the Scion tC feels like it should. However it’s also simple to see where Toyota performed their ‘cost containment’. The door panel plastics. The underside of the dashboard. The carpet in the hatch. Everything you don’t touch is simply ‘functional’, which quickly translates into dour and stark if you’re not the type who is into black interiors with minimal ornamentation.Want a car that is bright and cheery? Go get a car driven by hamsters.
The tC is a stunningly no nonsense vehicle in an era where every other competitor has a gimmick.
On the road I felt everything… but it wasn’t a bad feeling. I would consider it a taut ride. On rough surfaces the tC will transmit the ‘thunks’ into your ears without any other bodily discomfort.
Keep in mind that this new Scion tC now has the youngest average age of ownership out of any vehicle today (26 years old, really). So if you no longer like to feel or hear the road in your daily commute, there are countless softer alternatives out there.
On the road you also get the feeling that this vehicle is made out of one thick piece of steel. The fit and finish is exceptional. To the point where I would have not been surprised if Toyota had simply taken a Lexus and just simply cheapened the interior a bit. Make that quite a bit.
The tC is not a luxury coupe by any stretch. But the seats and road isolation are good enough on the highway that I still felt great after 7 hours of driving. Not a lot of sub-$20,000 cars with a ‘sporty’ ride can offer that real world comfort.
On the highway, I kept the speed right at 80 mph and managed to get 31 mpg. That was a surprising number along with the 28 mpg I got around town.Unless you put the pedal down, the 6-speed automatic will be squarely pegged at maximizing fuel economy. It can be fast if you want it to. But 95+% of the time you will be driving a frugal 2.5 Liter 180 horsepower engine that appreciates the low end of the power band.
What was more impressive was that the 2.5L 180 horsepower engine constantly turned at about 2400 rpm while going 80 through some fierce grades . Not once through the Smoky Mountains did the tC have to downshift from 6th gear. Not even in those rare times when I had to drive the double nickel while going uphill due to traffic. A lot of owners will appreciate the fact this car doesn’t drone on in high rpms when faced with these situations.
What’s not to like? A few things. In a world where even the cheapest vehicles have raised seating positions, the tC is low to the road. Those longing for the panoramic views offered in sporty coupes of a generation ago will be disappointed. The thick A-pillars give a bit of a distance to the road as you go. Road warriors usually like this distance. Many enthusiasts do not. You will have to judge this for yourself.
The tC is also not an overwhelming speedster on the road. A long list of publications clock the 0 to 60 at around 8.5 seconds with the 6-speed automatic. In real world measurements, the tC has all the power you need for the real world… but not for the race. The acceleration is always there. But it’s not the type that pushes you way back in the seat and gives you some serious g’s. Aspiring ricers and speed demons should look elsewhere.
Finally, I have a big bone to pickwith the Southeast Distributor of Toyotas who assess ridiculous price premiums on the tC and other models. Back in 1994 I had to buy a new Toyota Camry in New Jersey instead of Atlanta. Why? Because if you wanted ABS and a sunroof the distributor added about $1500 in bogus options.
From ‘window etching’ of the VIN number (because window thieves were SO common back in the day). To their three cent spray version of Scotchguard. I even recall a phony wood package that had worse long-term wear issues than anything else ever put on Toyota.I ended up flying to New Jersey and spending $200 to save $1500. Fast forward 17 years later and the Toyota distributor adds a ‘Navigation’ upgrade that didn’t work at all on more than one occasion. Total cost added to the MSRP? $1499. You also get assessed $109 for floormats in a new car… but don’t worry! The Scion tC now comes with a tightwad exuding level of gas in the tank according to the window sticker. 6 whole gallons for no charge!
All kidding aside, if you happen to live in the southeast I would keep a watchful eye on the window sticker and negotiate out of the region if need be. For anyone else who happens to be considering a VW Beetle, Kia Forte, base Mini Cooper, or any number of four door competitors that offer a sporty oriented vibe, you should add the Scion tC to your list. Just make sure you follow the advice of Tony Bennett. The tC is only a good choice for those ‘among the very young at heart’.
I received seven free meals, three free hotel rooms, several tankfuls of gas, and insurance for this review. All except one tank of gas and insurance were provided exclusively by Ed Niedermeyer during our journey through Chattanooga and Nashville. No opossums were cooked in the engine bay during the course our long drive through Appalachia… but we did consider it.