Tom Crosby: Toyota’s Scion tC gives young drivers a fun ride

Tom Crosby

Toyota launched the Scion brand in 2002 to lure young, first-time car buyers and convince them after Scion ownership Toyota-made vehicles would always be a good choice.

Scion shoppers can opt for the boxy SUV like xB, the small iQ, the sleek iM, the iA mid-size sedan, the FR-S sports car or the tC, the compact sedan that was our test drive. Scion prices range from nearly $26,000 for the FR-S to under $17,000 for the IQ, making the Scion financially viable for 20-somethings (iM and iA pricing are to be announced the third quarter of this year when the vehicles reach dealerships).

We drove the 2014 tC — the 2015 is the same car only $150 more for the base price and 2015 models include steering wheel mounted manual shift paddles instead of being embedded with the automatic transmission shifter.

All Scions typically have either a manual or automatic transmission choice. Our automatic transmission was healthy, revving rpm’s nicely when requested for decent acceleration and downshifting with minimal notice. A thick steering wheel felt comfortable and contributed to excellent handling, with a sports car-like ride with just enough road feedback from our optional ($2,199) TRC 19-inch darkened alloy wheels wearing low profile tires. A TRD performance exhaust add-on ($699) produced a nice growl, reinforcing the tC’s sleek sport car profile with raked windshield, rear spoiler, gaping grill and rear cladding under the rear liftgate. Radio reception was excellent, although tire and wind noise required higher radio volumes. Drivers will love the mileage when gas prices rise; we averaged nearly 30 mpg on the highway.

The tC resembles a sports car look with its sloping extended hood, accented by a nicely raked windshield, minimal chrome, a huge trapezoidal grill, upward slanted LED headlamps and a spoiler ($444 extra) sitting on the trunk lid above a chrome exhaust tube. Inside, the cockpit is comfortable and rear seating ample for adults, although a bit tight for taller passengers with a dual sunroof. Interior gauges and dials are easy to reach and recessed for readability on sunny days wearing sunglasses. The 6.1-inch dashboard screen feels small but navigation information is designed to be easily legible. Cargo space increases with the 60/40 split fold flat rear seats but knick-knack spaces are sparse. Brightly colored interior materials don’t feel inferior. A BeSpoke audio upgrade ($1,198) improved sound on Scion’s seven music channels and voice commands and navigation requests were easily understood.

LIKES: Price, looks, mileage, handling, ride, interior DISLIKES: Noise, smallish dashboard screen
BOTTOM LINE: An attractive, affordable choice for first-time car owners
SCION tC 2014
Base price w/destination fee $20,965 ($26,066 as tested)
Curb weight 3,113 lbs.
Wheelbase 106.3 inches
Length 176.6 inches
Width 70.7 inches
Engine specs 2.5-liter, ODHC, I-4
Horsepower 179 hp at 6,000 rpm
Torque 172 lb.-ft. at 4,100 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable automatic
EPA Rating 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway
Range 14.5-gallon tank, regular
Performance 0-60 in just under 8 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years. View more reviews at http://www.nvdaily.com/columns/tom-crosby & http://www.nvdaily.com/columns/tom-crosby.