By on January 5, 2015

2014 scion tc from front blue streak

I recently said “while there are other sporty coupes for not a lot of money, there aren’t many.

The Scion tC was not one of the cars I had in mind.

Oh, it does its best to look its part, and I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did, but it’s no sport coupe.

2014 scion tc in blue streak from front three quarter

Because I value substance in automobiles, the Scion tC offends me. It’s a poseur of the worst kind. But is it, really, or have I just bought into the internet’s bad attitude? The tC is sneaky, defusing my criticisms as I raise them.

My biggest issue with the tC is the styling, which has been brought into line with the new Camry’s. The front fascia is tweaked, and other changes include LED taillights, but the basic shape of the body is weird. The roofline and stubby tail look okay from certain angles, but bad from others. Styling critique is only half-valid, though. Everyone has eyes and can decide for him or herself whether it’s good. I think it’s bad, which can be countered by anyone who points out that it’s just, like, my opinion, man.

2014 scion tc rear badge blue streak

At first, I thought the Scion tC is just a tarted-up Toyota Corolla, but it’s not, really. It is a re-badged Toyota, of course, and a Corolla cousin, but you could park a tC next to the Avensis it’s based on and never suspect the relationship. Back to the Corolla comparison. Where the econobox has a cheaper torsion-beam rear axle, the tC uses a double-wishbone setup. Instead of a 1.8 liter wimp-mill, the tC snags its 2.5 liter engine from the Camry. There’s 179 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque to motivate a car that’s under 3,200 pounds – not bad.

Conversely, the tC interior is cheap and nasty, which makes you wish it were as nice as the Corolla. All Scions have terrible interiors, but that’s a weak excuse. The younger, less-car-savvy buyer that Scion has been trying to clinch for a decade will cross-shop other brands. The whole charade falls apart once you start comparing the tC to other cars. Turns out you don’t really have to suffer like this anymore.

2014 scion tc from rear blue streak

The car I drove was a 2014 tC with the 6-speed automatic and a few options. For the $20,210 ($20,965 w/$755 Delivery fee) base price, you get standard panoramic roof, body-color exterior mirrors with LED repeaters for the turn signals, trendy LED accent lights in the front bumper, halogen projector headlights, a leather-trimmed flat-bottom steering wheel, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, and the ergonomic iron maiden of a Pioneer head unit. The cynic in me thinks Scion specs Pioneer stereos because it has that “aftermarket look.” Scion says it’s the only automaker to offer a touchscreen audio system as standard across all its models. Okay.

My car had the “BeSpoke” premium audio option, an $1,198 charge to get navigation, aha, and more infotainment options. There’s an app that works with your phone to offer social media, entertainment, and deeper navigation functions with the BeSpoke system, but you should carefully check compatibility. In the past, Android users have been given short shrift by the BeSpoke system, and its iOS and iPhone integration may not include the latest models.

The only other things my tester carried were carpeted mats, a rear bumper applique, wheel locks, and an auto-dimming mirror. The final price came in at $22,712, not bad for a hatchback with the Toyota reputation for reliability. Because the tC is not really a sports car, the cost of ownership is likely to trend toward the economy compact side of the ledger.

2014 scion tc dashboard steering wheel

There are ways to blow more cash on the tC, and the best ones are performance-oriented. Let’s give Scion credit for offering chassis upgrades to those buyers who want them. I’d sincerely love to try a tC with the TRD sway bars ($550), front strut brace ($285), lowering springs ($399), and high performance brake kit ($1,675). It’s a brace of pretty serious hardware that will likely seriously transform the tC into something a lot more entertaining for an enthusiast. It’s also likely to make the stiff ride more harsh, and the prices don’t include labor for installation. Whatever you do, avoid the buzzy TRD exhaust.

The uninspiring interior doesn’t set the expectations high for a good driving experience. In spite of that, the tC surprises. It’s built out of nothing special, but it’s a more satisfying everyday drive than the FR-S. That doesn’t mean it’s a better performing car, just that it’s easier to live with when you’re commuting and grocery shopping. Scion says there are additional spot welds to tighten up the structure, plus revised stabilizer bar and damper tuning. The big four is torquey and linear, the 6-speed auto is unobtrusive, if hilariously slow to respond to manual input. The automatic has been upgraded for faster shifts and Scion has given it Dynamic Rev Matching to blip the throttle on downshifts.

2014 scion tc 18 inch alloy wheel

The chassis tuning is okay, and the handling on the 18” wheels is more competent than I expected. The performance is more than enough to satisfy most people, who seem averse to even accelerating when entering the highway. As someone who knows what the hell he’s doing behind the wheel, the tC’s best attribute is its chassis, and everything else is a let-down. The steering is numb, the seats aren’t comfortable, and the cabin is loud. Even as an economical sedan marauding in sporty drag, the tC feels like a loose execution of the idea.

On the practical side, the hatchback makes the cargo area very useful, and the rear seats fold down to create more room. It’s a better use than actually putting people back there, though the chunky roofline makes for acceptable headroom if your plan is to drive across town instead of across the continent. There are big knobs for the ventilation system that are easy to use, and the limited feature set of the tC works in your favor if you want a car with reduced distractions. Throwing the BeSpoke audio system into the mix gives you some electronics to fight with, especially if you’re going to make use of all the connectivity features like social media integration and apps. The chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel feels good in your hands, so it’s a shame that the steering is dull.

2014 scion tc interior seat upholstery

If you don’t like early ‘70s grade interior plastics that scuff and scratch easily or cloth upholstery that looks its best in the dark, the tC is not likely to impress you. There is a Monogram Series car that starts at $22,170 with heated leather front seats, BeSpoke audio, push-button start, and a tackily tacked-on rear spoiler. It’s weird that Scion makes a nicer tC a limited edition, production is limited to 2,500 total, but perhaps that’s the amount they’re likely to sell out of a yearly total of roughly 19,000 cars. The Monogram Series does nothing to address the cheap-feeling door panels, back seat, or secondary controls, though.

Overall, the Scion tC didn’t hurt my soul like I thought it would. Here’s the real problem at hand; what else you can get for your money. The Hyundai Elantra coupe and Kia Forte Koup make a compelling 1-2 punch. Turns out, they cost a bit more when comparably equipped, though “comparably equipped” in this case means carrying features and equipment you can’t even get on the Scion for any price. That includes climate control, leather seating front and rear, xenon headlamps, power-adjustable ventilated front seats, larger infotainment screens, and much better materials.

Is a couple thousand bucks extra in MSRP worth it when you get a better-appointed car that feels more luxurious? The feature buyer says “yes,” while the value shopper is going to have to carefully compare what offers are on the table and see which dealership can be squeezed the hardest. The point is, the sticker prices aren’t the out-the-door numbers, and the other players in the market may be more competitive with the tC’s pricing than it looks. They’re better cars to spend time in, too. I found the tC hard to get comfortable in, despite how many times I adjusted the seat, mirrors, and seatback.

2014 scion tc from rear blue streak

The enthusiast shopper, on the other hand, can wind up with a Ford Fiesta ST for the same money as a tC. Need more space? Okay, the Focus ST starts at just $23,625 – $1,000 north of this tC, and it delivers a zillion dollars worth of driving satisfaction. It’s a four-door hatch, too, which means more utility.

A week with the Scion tC was instructive. It’s surprising to learn that you can get legitimate performance upgrades. The onion-like sting of mediocrity hangs over the interior materials and outfitting, but that’s somewhat balanced off by a driving experience that’s not that bad. If you shop with blinders on, it’s okay, or if Toyota’s reputation is a high determining factor for you, then the Scion tC is your car. If you want more for your money, either features, luxury, or performance, look elsewhere.

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84 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Scion tC...”

  • avatar

    I like this car.

    It’s also most of what my 9-3 was: practical, reasonably fun to drive, efficient. I love the hatchback—the huge loading space is a real boon—and it’s quite comfortable to actually live with. I drove a pre-restyle one for kicks and quite liked it.

    It’s also got that which I wished my old Saab 9-3 had, which is reliability. I somehow can’t see a Toyota spitting transmission pieces or inflicting my with a few grand per year in repairs.

    I’d like a slightly nicer interior, but honestly, Scion does well enough. What I really wish this car had is a pair of rear doors.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      I take it you haven’t driven one?

      Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about how dreadful it is to spend time in.

      I was surprised that it was okay if you just wanted a car and wanted something that “looks sporty.”

      I would never, ever call it “reasonably fun to drive.” Maybe with the TRD setup, but that would also make m*therf*cking stiff.

      It doesn’t drive anywhere near as well, or at least as entertaining, as any Saab I have ever been in. Not even close. It’s not a 93-sized cargo area, either. It’s much better than it would be with a trunk, but don’t expect to get a fridge in there like you could in an OG 900.

      • 0 avatar

        “I was surprised that it was okay if you just wanted a car and wanted something that “looks sporty.””

        I had driven one; I just didn’t have any expectations going into it. It’s a two-door Avensis hatchback, which means it’s basically a European Camry. It’s sporty in the same sense that, say, the Pontiac Grand Am was: all hat, no cattle.

        Which, when you consider the market, is just fine. This is a car that’s supposed to look sporty without making you deal with the pitfalls of actually being sporty.

        It could benefit from something other than Toyota’s corporate 2.5L four. That’s not a fun engine, but really, tC drivers don’t care.

        “It doesn’t drive anywhere near as well, or at least as entertaining, as any Saab I have ever been in. Not even close.”

        I think you’re being generous to the NG900/9-3.

        I drove a 9-3SE (the lightly boosted version of the NG900/9-3) for a few years. It wasn’t sporty, either: you needed to step up to the Viggen for that. It was quick in a straight line, but it was also flexy, not all that agile and the steering didn’t have a whole lot of feel. The Scion seemed much tighter than the 9-3, with about the same steering and a less ambitious engine.

        Again, though, this (the 9-3) as a car based on GM’s European family sedan platform of the early 1990s with a big, huge hole in the rear unibody.

        “It’s much better than it would be with a trunk, but don’t expect to get a fridge in there like you could in an OG 900.”

        No, but it wasn’t much worse than the NG900/9-3, and it is better than the only other hatchbacks in recent memory (the Mazda 6s and Toyota Prius). I suppose you could make a case for the Dodge Magnum. The OG900 had a very wide opening at the base; the NG900 didn’t.

        It’s a big loading area.

    • 0 avatar


  • avatar

    Thing is, for the great unwashed masses out there who aren’t car nerds like us, this is everything you look for in a sporty-but-practical new car for a new driver – Toyota nameplate, 4-cylinder, big pretty pano roof, hatchback, touchscreen radio – and its reasonably-priced.

    Remember, there is a sports car and there is a ‘sporty’ car – a ‘sporty’ car just has to not look like a sedan or egg-shaped hatchback.

    Plus, they hold their money decently-well for being a entry-level car. Clean examples still bring around clean book at the sale and these ARE fast-movers on the lot. I’ve had innumerable people come in and ask for the tC by name.

    Its no sports car, but neither is a Veloster.

    Also, the Elantra Coupe is disgusting to look at.

    • 0 avatar

      I would imagine Scion > Hyundai in terms of resale nine times out of ten. One of my friends ill-advisedly had to have an Elantra sedan after she roller her MY07 and believed it saved her life. She nearly got buried by some local stealership on a base MY11/44K for something like 14,9 after all was said and done (complete with a $750 “financing fee” in addition to what I believe was a $400 loan origination fee). This is maybe a 10-10,5 dollar car at Manheim, and even that figure is high for what you get.

      • 0 avatar

        Ouch. Yeah, a GLS is about a 9,5-10,0 car right now with those miles. I’ve only had three new-style Elantras recently and almost got stuck on all of them. Managed to dump one (a ’12 GLS w/30k) on my friend’s mother-in-law who had shot credit, but ended up with a decent interest rate (~18.4%…478 FICO) because of the state cap on a car that young. I just barely broke out but I made it up on her 200k-mile RX300 trade believe it or not.

        Anyhow, I don’t do Elantras at all because I find myself competing with Hyundai of New Port Richey, which is an extrememly high-volume store that pumps and dumps these things by the boatload to anyone with a pulse. I can’t compete so I don’t.

        • 0 avatar

          I was sick to my stomach when I read the paperwork after the fact. She was told (or got conned into thinking) her credit was “bad” but they financed her at something like 4%, but if you’re telling me sub 500 FICO equates to 18% APR she must have been at least high 600s.

          Shops like the one she dealt with irk me to no end because (1) either they don’t have a clue and paid too much from their wholesaler or on the block and need to pass it on or (2) are just awful greedy f***ers needing a dose of street justice.

          “I made it up on her 200k-mile RX300”

          That one sounds like a future ghetto fabulous ride.

          • 0 avatar

            It’ll be ghetto fab in West Africa, because that’s where it went apparently…

          • 0 avatar

            Ebola fab pretty soon I suspect. Actually I had a hipster co-worker who was literally born and grew up in the Congo as his father worked for Doctors Without Borders. He explained to me Toyota pretty much owns the continent from a motor vehicle standpoint due to ready parts availability (and presumably repair expertise).

          • 0 avatar
            formula m

            I sold my 4Runner 3yrs back, no rust but 220,000mi and it got bought right away. He told me he was shipping it to his family in Africa. He said they can keep them running forever

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah I noticed a lot of African immigrants snap up well worn 3rd gen 4Runners or (money allowing) 100-series Land Cruisers once in the US. Although the 3rd gen 4Runners also have quite a following in the Central American/hispanic community.

            I don’t doubt that the 230k mile LandCruisers and 4Runners, both intact and wrecked are shipped abroad, whipped up into shape by local shops, the odometers given a once over. Presto, prime resale Toyota 4wd. The reason they can get away with that is because even with 250k miles, they have another 250k left in them (or more). A big part of this of course is how well the mechanicals have been studied and how available parts must be at this point.

          • 0 avatar

            Simple solution: before going to the dealer at least TRY to get credit somewhere else — a credit union, Capital One (I have had two good experiences with Capital One), something. If you absolutely can’t get credit from anyone, consider whether you really should instead be buying the best car you can find on Craigslist with your cash down payment. Yeah it will be an ’02 Alero, but the idea is just drive it till it drops.

  • avatar

    The 2015 Elantra coupe is only available in Canada, dropped from the U.S. lineup… go figure.

  • avatar

    Totally agree on your assessment of the Fiesta ST or Focus ST over the TC. It’s not that I don’t like the TC, but if you’re looking for the market that this car is punting for (insert 26 yr old unemployed single-male who lives at his parents or with roomates and plays in a band for gigs to get by, which incidentally attracts the true sweet spot; middle aged men with families who WISH they were that other guy again) then the ST’s cover this zone more comparably. Technology gee-whiz stuff? Check. Bright, day-glow pumpkin orange paint? Covered. Cool sounding exhaust note? Yep. Chicks-will-look-at-me-now styling-but-I-can-still-load-car-seats-and-baby-stuff? Maybe, but willing to believe.

  • avatar

    Hopefully that piece of trim above the rear license plate is stuck on a little better this go-round– it seems like every current-model tC I see has it held on with clear packing tape, if it is present at all.

    Maybe that’s a tuner trick to make the car go faster, like a grounding strip or a big sticker on the window.

    • 0 avatar

      Lmao! 3M “window weld” silicone works wonders and will outlive the rest of the car. Agreed, for its price point, there are many other better options.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Is _that_ what that rattle is? Been looking all over for it.

      This car has a lot of interesting noises, especially when warming up from polar vortex temperatures when the glass, the plastic, and the steel are all very different sizes. Like a one ton bowl of Rice Krispies.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    It’s a polarizing car, some see a decent value proposition for a decently quick practical FWD coupe, others really don’t like it for what it can’t provide at $21K.

    The cheap interior is no surprise; it’s an inexpensive car with a panoramic sunroof, 179hp engine, 18″ alloys, leather-wrapped steering wheel. That money had to come from somewhere, and cheap as the interior panels are I thought the seat comfort and driving position were well above average.

    The Forte coupe looks like a strong competitor, and at $22.5K for the SX trim with the 1.6turbo it probably gives more punch for the price. Little I’ve read suggests it is much of a handler, though. Fortes with the same $21K entry price as the tC have a 2.0liter 173hp engine that probably isn’t as responsive in the low end. Anyone directly compared the Kia to the tC?

    Still, this tC has got to be a sight more enjoyable than a 1.8-liter CVT Civic coupe, right?

    • 0 avatar

      Clean MY13 Scion TC’s under 30K otc do 13,7-14,4 (listed as “2D Coupe” model) and although there are only six sales to look at, the MY13 Kia Forte Coupe SX did 14,0 at 36K and touches 15,0 with 9K otc. However if we look at MY11, the Forte Coupe SX does mid 9s or less with 50K+ miles the Scion TC does mid to high 11s with 50K+ miles with the clean higher miler doing 10,1 at 65K otc (rough 78K example went for 9,8). In this case, the Scion costs slightly less initially, is worth about the same, and then bests the Forte by year four. I know which one I would choose, if forced too of course :)

      In the resale game, Toyota > Hyundai, even when it’s Toyota’s maligned sub-brand.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Concur about the seats. The fabric is grippy and has worn very well, and I find them noticeably more supportive than, say, the seats in my girlfriend’s Cruze. They’re just not terribly adjustable, so either they work for you or they don’t.

  • avatar

    The tC is a good value on paper, but I just can’t get past the interior quality. Utilitarian and basic is OK at this price point, but fragile and (especially) super-ugly is not.

    A coupe is inherently an image-conscious car and selling one with an interior that would be more at home in an old Echo is odd marketing. If you’re trying to look cool on the outside you should at least try a bit to look cool on the inside.

  • avatar

    bringing the emo attitude back i see.

  • avatar

    Dang. I took a 2014 for an extended test drive (salesman gave me the keys and said “have fun”) and I came away with the exact opposite opinion.

    I had a 2010 Forte Koup (I can’t speak for the 2014+ update), and the TC has it beat on rear seat space and ergonomics, trunk (hatch) room by a mile. Pretty much a tie as far as the engines go. The Toyota shifted better. The 2010-2013 Kia’s had an awful problem with 1st gear being insanely low. Had to modify the electronic throttle position sensor to make the car driveable.

    Both had double DIN stereos, which is a huge plus for me. Radio won’t become obsolete 5 years before the car. Quality of the factory radio would go to the Scion. Kia’s base radio was pure junk.

    Looks are subjective, so my opinion is as useful or useless as yours, to the next person. All I can say is what I’ve said before. The TC is the only product Toyota sells in the US that I would buy with my own money.

  • avatar

    When I drove it a year ago I liked it, but the interior quality was a disapointment, especially the seat covers. Still it was in my top ten mostly because of the price, which seems to have eroded since then. For myself I decided to spend about $8000 more for a much nicer, if not quite as fun but more practical, Acura Sportwagon.

    • 0 avatar

      That upholstery as seen in the tight shot is nasty-looking stuff. You can almost feel the cardboard texture from the photo.

      I’ll concede this is a geezer-swinging-his-cane sort of comment, but why can’t a car like this duplicate the nice velour upholstery that used to come standard in cheap Civics and CR-V’s? Yeah, it has to hit a price point, but it’s not the price point of the Yaris.

  • avatar

    No visor dangling from the rear view mirror??

    How is this possible???

  • avatar

    “It’s a brace of pretty serious hardware that will likely seriously transform the tC into something a lot more entertaining for an enthusiast.”

    A ‘brace’ means a pair of something. You and Jack have both recently used it to mean a ‘bunch’ of something or other.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised at the lack of complaints about switch blanks, which are pretty glaring next to the mirror controls. The double DIN head unit makes me jealous, though.

    I brought it up in the reader suggestions open post a few days ago, but can we please, please include the specific tires a car is wearing in reviews? To simply attribute the nature of the ride and handling to 18″ wheels without elaborating isn’t as helpful as it could be.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      Had P225/45 R18 tires.

      I think they were Toyos.

      Will include that detail going forward.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m surprised people complain about switch blanks in the first place. I just don’t see what the big deal is.

      • 0 avatar

        I think it’s more of an issue when you just spent 80 grand on a new Boxster with an interior covered in blanks. Not a big issue on something this cheap.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s the manufacturer trying to make you regret your cheapness, hitting you over the head with “LOOK HOW CHEAP YOU ARE YOUR CAR ISN’T EVEN COMPLETE.” People don’t like that kind of psychological manipulation.

        One of my least favorite things about my Forester is that it has a couple of switch blanks even though it has every option available.

        • 0 avatar

          I can usually get behind accusations of corporate manipulation, but I’m not sure I can in this case. The alternative seems to be controlling everything digitally, which is something I think most would despise. I’ll take buttons and knobs over a digital interface any day.

          If your Forester has blanks, despite being fully loaded, then Subaru is clearly not trying to manipulate you. Though it does raise the question: Why are there blanks?

          How do you like the Forester? It’s on my short/wish list, finances permitting.

          • 0 avatar

            My reply was half in jest (but only half). I’d rather see the manufacturers spend a little more money for separate panels, molded without the holes the switch blanks fill, for lower trim levels with fewer switches.

            I think the Forester has blanks because there were options available in other markets that weren’t offered in the US.

            My Forester is a 2013, so a bit inferior from the current gen. I generally like it and am very happy with the purchase because we got $4500 off MSRP plus free season ski passes.

            It’s hugely practical — way more interior volume than other compact crossovers, thanks to the boxy shape. The AWD system (being full-time) is a cut above the competition, which is good in the mountains in winter. Visibility and ergonomics are excellent. The giant sunroof is a nice touch. Light weight, good suspension geometry, and a low COG mean handling is quite competent for a tall crossover (although tuned too soft and floaty for my taste). With the turbo it’s got punch most cars in it’s class don’t. So far the thing has been perfect, although it only has 20,000 miles.

            Demerits are typical Subaru. The interior is unrefined in design, material quality, and fit, with the usual Subaru rattles here and there. The stereo sucks, both head unit and speakers. The EJ255/4-speed combo results in tragic fuel economy (the 2014+ FA20/CVT is much better in this respect). The reflector HIDs aren’t great and draw occasional flashes.

            If I had unlimited funds to spend on my family’s practical car I’d probably get a Q5 3.0T instead, but the Forester does what we bought it for very well.

  • avatar

    As a nitpick: this car is closely related to the Toyota Avensis, which is a Camry cousin, not a Corolla one.

    • 0 avatar

      The Avensis IS built on the Corola platform, not the Camry’s. It uses Toyota’s MC platform and these are the siblings:

      Toyota Alphard — AH20 (2008–present)[2]
      Toyota Avensis — T270 (2008–present)[2]
      Toyota Auris — E150 (2006–2012), E180 (2012–present)
      Toyota Corolla — E150 (2006–2013), E170 (2013–present)
      Toyota Harrier — XU60 (2013–present)
      Toyota Mark X Zio — AA10 (2007–2013)[2]
      Toyota Previa — XR50 (2006–present)[2]
      Toyota Prius — XW30 (2009–present)[2]
      Toyota Prius v — XW40 (2011–present)[2]
      Toyota RAV4 — XA30 (2005–2013),[2] XA40 (2013–present)
      Toyota Verso — AR20 (2009–present)
      Toyota Sai — K10 (2009–present)[2]
      Scion tC — AT20 (2010–present)
      Scion xB — E150 (2007–present)[2]
      Lexus CT — A10 (2011–present)[2]
      Lexus HS — (2009–present)[2]
      Lexus NX — AZ10 (2014–present)

      • 0 avatar

        Technically they’re built on the RAV4’s platform, if you want to be technical. In reality, “New MC” means anything bigger than a Yaris and Smaller than a Camry.

        “Toyota’s platform definition differs from most other carmakers. “It is not so much about common hardware. It is more about shared development processes,” said Alain Dujardyn, Toyota Europe’s manager of SUV marketing. ” – Auto News Europe, Feb 6, 2006.

      • 0 avatar

        Learn something new every day; I thought MC was a Camry derivative.

  • avatar

    I keep forgetting this is a hatch. Its one of only a handful of 3 doors choices still available these days. Shame the car itself is so crappy. Because for $1,200 my smart phone plus a few bits from Crutchfield would make a much better sound system I’m sure. Also the TRD goodies don’t include a turbo to back up the boy-racer looks.

  • avatar

    I got phenomenal service from my ’06 tC. Seeing the major downgrade in interior materials in the second generation was a shock.

    For whatever reason, maybe predominantly young drivers, insurance companies have a massive hate for this car. Saw a real premium cut when I replaced it with a Challenger.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re exactly right on the insurance front. I find this an appealing car–Toyota reliability, plenty of power, reasonably attractive, practical hatch space–but I can’t justify buying a car that will cost me $400 more per year to insure. It would also gall me to be associated with 20-something males who drive like morons. I wish more middle-aged men and women would buy this to drive insurance costs down (I myself am rapidly approaching middle age).

  • avatar

    I like the looks of this car. I’ve said many times the tC is the one bright bulb in an otherwise lame duck line up through Scion. It is one of only two Scion products (the FR-S being the other) I would think Toyota could keep if they killed Scion outright.

    With that said this review was disappointing to read. Toyota seems to be continuing a slow decline into Detroit grade tactics.

    I’ve read reviews like this before starting in the late 80’s Dodge Neon turbo, Grand Prix turbo coupe, and this review given the condemnation of the interior materials makes the 09 Cobalt SS sound like a bargain in comparison, if you can look past the crappy interior (and admittedly far more questionable longevity of product).

    In its class there doesn’t seem to be much “direct” competition. There is something almost lost in the past about the tC. Like in the mid-90s when young buyers had an almost endless list of hot hatches they could buy from.

    I miss those days.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      I own a 2011, and I’d say this is a reasonably fair review of the 2015 model in 2015. When I bought mine (new), it was markedly more car than $20k got you elsewhere.

      As far as meeting my original apartment-dweller needs, it measures up fine, and when I sell it to my little cousin in a couple years, she’ll drive it until the wheels fall off, worry-free.

      But to your point, in the last year or two, the market at this price point has shifted away from this form factor and has moved up a class in refinement.

    • 0 avatar

      late ’80’s Neon Turbo?? The neon didn’t even come out until 1995, and the only turbo version was the awesome SRT-4 which was sold from 2003-05. Might want to check your facts.

      • 0 avatar

        Dam! Lol

        Pardon the trolling… I was had at “late 80’s Dodge Neon turbo”.

        But all seriousness… when I think late 80’s turbos, I dream of a minty Shelby turbo’d monstrosity. Just about any of ’em will do.

        Lancer. Shelby.

        …Omni :)

        Yup, make it a GLHS. Please.

  • avatar

    You should also note, when comparing a Scion to other cars (Hyundai/Kia), that Scions *always* sell for full MSRP, no haggling, whereas most of its competitors can be haggled down.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you but rebates are always a variable. When one calculates depreciation in previous model years, he does not necessarily have knowledge of what the transaction prices were, so I at least go by MSRP -as unrealistic as it is sometimes- and then attempt to define the rebate variable applied to the final sum. The other thing to bear in mind is frequently highly rebated brands/models will not hold up in terms of resale more often than not. If a brand or model can sell without significant rebate, it is because there is sufficient demand for said brand/model which should hold up in the used market.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t disagree, overall. But new-car buyers ARE concerned with transaction prices. The bottom line is… how does the bottom line on the competitors’ pricing compare with MSRP pricing on Scion?

        Of course, the flip side is… Scion is the only brand you can buy (at least here in Las Vegas) *without* the $1,700-$4000 “Desert Protection Package”. Yes, I know you can negotiate that out at other brands, but at Scion, you don’t even have to bother trying.

  • avatar

    “I value substance in automobiles … My biggest issue with the tC is the styling” == add these two and you find that substance of tC must be absolutely excellent

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    It just struck me that the first photo showing the car nearly head on is very attractive. That’s a good front fascia; I like the headlight shape, leading edge of the hood, and the presence of angles. Tail isn’t bad either. It isn’t until you see the profile that your notice how tall & stubby the car appears.

    A sedan with the front and rear of the tC would look rather good.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      The tC looks better in pictures taken with a long focal length lens than in person.

      That’s good – it lets you get some distance between you and the car….

  • avatar

    The MSRP, adjusted for inflation, of a 1999 Paseo is: $23,126.07. Right around the same as this. They seem like similar cars, but you sure do get a lot more bang for your buck on the tC. On the other hand I do think the Paseo was a better looking car. And you could look at it for a long, long time as it slowly accelerated away.

    • 0 avatar

      My friend had a Paseo and that puts things in perspective nicely. It was a complete $#!+box, although it was harder to kill than a cockroach. The tC has a crappy interior but is just in a different universe from a Paseo.

      • 0 avatar

        They’re after similar markets. But slow 2 door front wheel drive low horsepower coupes aren’t really a thing any more. See the Elantra Coupe dying after a year. It was the Scoupe of a new generation!

    • 0 avatar

      I completely forgot the Paseo existed. Was it Corolla based or Tercel based?

      Whatever it was, it sucked and is nearly extinct now!

      Even though this too is Tercel-ish, I’d rather have one of these than a Paseo.

  • avatar

    id buy one all day for 18k otd….but they dont do that….perhaps they should

  • avatar

    My inner 8yo simply cannot see TRD without reading it as TuRD. What where they THINKING????

    Does Scion still do the “one price no negotiation” thing? That makes this seem really expensive to me for what it is, if you actually have to pay MSRP for it. Nothing wrong with it a $3-4K discount wouldn’t fix.

    I’m surprised no one has pointed out that this thing costs more than a base 2dr Golf, and the same as a 4dr Golf. A car that is so much nicer in every way that it might as well inhabit a different universe, if nominally not as “sporty”.

    Now cue the anti-VW mafia in 1, 2, 3…

    • 0 avatar

      Rather different cars for different people.

      The tC buyer would see the Golf’s styling as boring. The tC buyer would complain that the Golf had no sunroof and a lousy stereo. The tC buyer would wonder how in the heck a turbo Golf is supposed to last 250,000 miles with oil, brake pad, and tire changes only.

      The Golf buyer would point out the tC’s crappy interior and inferior (despite the higher power rating) engine, and . . . “But my car is German.”

      Neither buyer would be likely to personally like the other.

  • avatar

    Ouch. Toyota mech coming in behind in comparison to Ford, Hyundai, Kia … apocalypse anyone? (not Apokolips, that’s another thing..)

  • avatar

    Wife drives a 2011 tC (when we’re in the US, that is…she hasn’t seen it in over a year since we are assigned to Saudi Arabia). When she bought it, she was solidly in her mid 40s (there goes the general demographics!) and after driving a slew of cars, saw this one on the road one day and asked about it. One drive and she bought it…and loves it. My biggest gripe has been mentioned over and over (and over) here. The interior is so danged cheap…heck, my son’s 1997 Tercel has a higher quality interior (that has held up remarkably well for a car with well over 200k on it now) than his mom’s 2011 tC. It’s mildly sporting, but not abusively so, which is probably one of the many reasons she loves (and misses) her cement gray tC. I think of it as the closest thing to a Celica Toyota has currently. Will it win races against (much of )anything? No. Will it out-handle any sport(ing) car? No. But we’re not really worried about the car falling apart anytime soon, and with the sunroof open my wife is happy. If they’d do a solid and truly spend a few bucks on improving the interior, she’d probably consider getting another one when we return from overseas. For $20k (more or less) new, we’re overall satisfied with the car and look forward to retrieving it this coming July upon our return.

  • avatar

    I’ve been driving a Scion tC for almost 70,000 miles, so I can offer a bit of context here. I was looking at small-to-midsize coupes in 2011. I prefer two-door cars when possible because the armrests and windowsills are still next to me instead of forward of me once I put the seat all the way rearward. I hate trying to rest an arm on the armrest and hitting my funnybone on the B-pillar. I hate trying to make a right turn having to do the forward and back headbob around the Pillar to get a clear line of sight. If I had shorter legs, I would move the seat forward and simply not care. I was looking at Accords for more (The Civic wasn’t comfortable, and there’s nothing between the entry level fuel-sipper engine and the boy-racer premium-sucking Si), and half-heartedly checking out Mustangs when this car caught my eye newly arrived on the lot. Mustang lost by not having a sunroof or functional rear seat (I have kids).

    The 2.5L mill from the Camry hits a sweet spot between the sub-2.0L fuel-sippers and the hot-hatch rockets. It doesn’t have that “VTEC-yo!” top end, but also doesn’t lug around below 4000 RPM. It’s the kind of engine that you can drive all day at the speed of traffic without ever crossing 3,000, and still have plenty of reserve power if you care to drop a gear or two. 2011 was, of course, before the Mk3 Focus, and I was still not comfortable enough with the Koreans to lay down a $20,000 bet of my own cash. They do seem to be moving in a terrific direction.

    The interior is hard plastic, but it’s the same as you’d find in a Fit (I’ve spent plenty of time in one of those) or a same year Mazda3 (I spent a month in one of those in 2012 as a rental). The car is, for all intents and purposes, a 4-cyl Accord Coupe with a Fit interior (The MSRP at the time was about in line with a Fit Sport). I’ve actually improved the interior significantly – I covered the ugly seat fabric with Clazzio covers, which most believe are factory leather, added a bit of noise insulation to the trunk, and put a padded leather armrest cover (Redline goods) on the console. On the outside, the biggest visual issue is the large slab sides, but the lower-door graphics (similar to the Mustang rocker-panel stripes) break it up visually without looking ridiculous like the giant Fast-n-Furious wing on the STI.

    My out the door price was 18,995, less a $1K rebate for signing with Toyota Finance. I paid it off in two years. Most of the upgrades seemed like a silly waste of money, and were definitely aimed as someone born in the 90’s. I’ve been surprised with the car, honestly.

    The biggest definition of the car is compromise – compromise is a word that has very nasty connotations in this age; it’s a curse word inside the beltway, and seen as a failure to live up to hardline standards. This same mentality dominates on the car blogosphere. It’s got two doors… but also a huge rear seat that can comfortably another pair of adults. Compared to a true “hot-hatch,” it feels like an economy car. Compared to a more pedestrian compact or a midsize, it feels sporty. It felt like heaven after a month driving a Fusion rental. The hatch is extremely useful, particularly with the rear seat folded flat (e.g. toss a 50” TV or a mountain bike in the back with no problems.).

    Mr. Braithewaite: You complained about seating comfort. We all come in different sizes… for my lanky, long-legged frame, this car is perfect. It’s one of the few cars that feels custom tailored for me, and that was a huge selling point. I can stretch my legs, the seat is supportive with good bolstering, and when you set the seat to its lowest point, it’s actually low. The seating position and interior layout bear a stronger resemblance to the Camaro (but with about 4” more rear legroom) than a Civic or Golf.

    After 68,000 miles, my only real complaints are the steering feel (which isn’t great, but also isn’t as bad as it could be… isn’t that right, Chevrolet Cruze?) and the noise levels (I’m sorry I yelled at you, Chevrolet Cruze… you’re so quiet!). Road/tire noise is the biggest offender, and once I put a third set of tires on here, I’ll do a bit more research on which ones as quietest – I currently have Firestone Indy500 WideOvals. I would say the car has been problem free, but that should be a given. I’d be very surprised to any mechanical issues with a car before 100,000 miles at least. I intend to keep this car for at least 5-6 more years; there’s no point in buying a brand new car if you’re not going to get a solid 10 years of service from it to justify the depreciation, and hopefully I can still find a new manual when the time comes.

  • avatar

    First comment disappeared…WTH? Anyway…wife drives a 2011 tC (when we’re in the States, currently assigned overseas in Saudi). It wasn’t even on her radar for new cars until she saw one on the interstate and asked about it. One drive and she wanted it. It’s “sporty” enough without being painful to drive every day, which may be one of the many reasons she loves it. When we bought it, my wife was solidly in her mid-40s, so I guess we blew the demographics. My biggest complaint has been repeated over and over again…the interior. The quality is rather disappointing, heck my son’s 1997 Tercel has a higher-quality interior that has held up remarkably well given the age and 200k+ miles. If Toyota would kick in some money to up the interior quality, my wife would most likely consider another one when we return Stateside. It isn’t the fastest or best handling, but for around $20k new it was a pretty decent deal. And when she opens the sunroof all the way, she’s happy (and thus, I’m happy!).

  • avatar

    (Caught by the filter, pehaps too long)

    I’ve been driving a Scion tC for almost 70,000 miles, so I can offer a bit of context here. I was looking at small-to-midsize coupes in 2011, and this was a surprise alternative to the Accord Coupe. My out the door price was 18,995, less a $1K rebate for signing with Toyota Finance. The 2.5L mill from the Camry hits a sweet spot between the sub-2.0L fuel-sippers and the hot-hatch rockets. It doesn’t have that racer-boy top end, but also doesn’t lug around below 4000 RPM. It’s the kind of engine that you can drive all day at the speed of traffic without ever crossing 3,000, and still have plenty of reserve power if you care to drop a gear or two. You complained about seating comfort. We all come in different sizes… for my lanky, long-legged frame, this car is perfect. It’s one of the few cars that feels custom tailored for me, and that was a huge selling point. To each his own!

    The interior is hard plastic, but comparable to what you’d find in a Fit (I’ve spent plenty of time in one of those) or a same year Mazda3. The car is functionally a 4-cyl Accord Coupe with a Fit-grade interior and firmer suspension. The most concise definition of the car is compromise – a word that has very nasty connotations in this age; it’s a curse word inside the beltway, and seen as a failure to live up to hardline standards. It’s got two doors… but also a huge rear seat that can comfortably another pair of adults. Compared to a true “hot-hatch,” it feels like an economy car. Compared to a more pedestrian compact or a midsize, it feels sporty. It felt like heaven after a month driving a Fusion rental. The hatch is extremely useful, particularly with the rear seat folded flat (e.g. toss a 50” TV or a mountain bike in the back with no problems.).

    After 68,000 miles, my only real complaints are the steering feel and the noise levels. I’m averaging 28-29 MPG overall, and the car is a perfect all-rounder that was easy to buy and own outright, though it’s showing its age now in its 5th year in this generation.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I was hoping you would put your review into this. I like Winston’s reviews, but this one struck me as critical of the car for not providing compromises at a low $20K price point.

      “The car is functionally a 4-cyl Accord Coupe with a Fit-grade interior”

      That’s actually an interesting way of looking at it, one I hadn’t read before in any of the reviews.

      • 0 avatar


        Feel of a car is all subjective – some like it, some don’t. I drove a Mazda3 for a month while traveling for work, (i sport – I brand new Rental, back in 2012), and while I loved the steering feel, everything else about the car left me saying, “meh.”

        Edmunds’ Inside Line gives some very detailed testing of cars. These were the specs on their 2011 tC road test:

        Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.) 2.9
        0-60 mph (sec.) 8.0
        0-75 mph (sec.) 11.9
        1/4-mile (sec. @ mph) 16.0
        Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.) 31
        60-0 mph (ft.) 118
        Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC off 64.4; ESC on 63.6
        Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC off 0.84; ESC on 0.86

        And 2014 Mazda3 i Touring
        Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.) 3.1
        0-60 mph (sec.) 8.3
        0-75 mph (sec.) 12.2
        1/4-mile (sec. @ mph) 16.2 @ 87.3
        1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph) 16.3 @ 87.1
        Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.) 34
        60-0 mph (ft.) 133
        Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) 63.1
        Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) 0.82
        Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON 0.82

        And a 2014 Mazda3s Grand Touring 5-door
        Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.) 2.9
        0-60 mph (sec.) 7.8
        0-75 mph (sec.) 11.5
        1/4-mile (sec. @ mph) 15.8 @ 89.0
        1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph) 15.9 @ 88.6
        Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.) 32
        60-0 mph (ft.) 126
        Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON 61.1
        Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) 0.81
        Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON 0.80

        It’s performance is about even with a Mazda3 that doesn’t have the word “Speed” in it. The feel of the cars is quite different though – the Mazda has very sharp steering, and the soul of the Miata – I can’t praise that enough, but, it puts you in an environment that feels like any other C-segment car. The tC surprisingly recreates the interior feel of a pony car – low seats, legs and arms stretched out, high door sills, low roof, long heavy doors, deeply recessed gauges, high dash, large pillars, small windows (but a with a functional back seat – it basically takes the 2+2 Pony-car rear seat and pushes it back about 3-4” for legroom.

        I love the car. It’s the first car (and Christ I’ve gotten bored and traded out of a lot of cars) that I’ve enjoyed enough to pay off. It’s fun on the back roads – there is plenty of torque, especially towards the low end, and the most enjoyable way to drive the back roads is to enter the corners with a big of front end slip, and then lift the throttle part way through; the front snaps tightly into line (it’s a stick, so the throttle allows very precise modulation of the power to the wheels). It’s also comfortable on the highway, a must for my 50 mile round-trip commute; it has proven itself on several cross-continent road trips, including California to Florida. The seats are all-day comfortable, something I can’t say for many cars at this price point. It’s also enjoyable for lazy drives in nice weather – the glass roof and giant moonroof, as well as long front windows are about as close to the convertible experience as you can find with a solid roof, short of a T-top or Targa top.

        I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – it’s sold in one spec – a two-door (er, three-door) with a specific equipment level, and just a choice of transmissions. If I had it to do over again, in 2011, I’d easily buy the same car. If I’d put too much faith into blogs and reviews, I’d never have given it a test drive. Putting too much faith in blogs and reviews is how I wound up with a Fit before this, and dear god, that car is unpleasant. The beauty of this site is that there’s a wide variety of tastes – I don’t like the feel of a Panther, but there are people here who go jelly-kneed for it.

        In 2015, I’m not so sure; this is now the 5th year of the model, and it’s showing its age. I’d be very tempted by a Focus, even if it’s only available as a four or five door. Despite its mediocre reviews, I also loved driving a Veloster that I rented for about a week. It had the same low, stretched out driving position, and despite having a rear-seat door on the passenger side, I had a full size door on the driver’s side.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve driven a tC a couple times, it’s not my thing at all, I completely agree!I think Scion/Toyota did a fantastic job disguising a very practical car in a sporty-ish cloak. Most importantly to it’s buyers, it doesn’t look like an Accord (mom’s car) or a Fit (“hatchback? ewww”). Combined with Toyota reliability, the Beats equivalent of a car stereo and easy Scion financing, it’s not hard to understand why these are popular.

  • avatar

    I thought this was a Tim review (cause I didn’t look), and was gonna say good job paring down excess flowery adjectives. But it’s a Winston, so good job!

    I never liked this redesign for this very OCD reason: Only one reverse indicator light at the back. Just smacks of extreme cost-cutting.

  • avatar

    So basically it is the same car as the trusty old Celica?

  • avatar

    The final price came in at $22,712, not bad for a hatchback with the Toyota reputation for reliability. Because the tC is not really a sports car, the cost of ownership is likely to trend toward the economy compact side of the ledger.

    Its very cheap price..

    2015 Suzuki GSX R1000

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