If you have ever taken a class in economics, then you were most likely taught the economic cycle. The cycle explains periods of growth and decline in a economy via four different parts; expansion, boom, recession, and depression. A perfect example of this cycle in action is Scion. The youth-oriented brand which came on the scene in the early 2000’s experienced massive growth for the first few years. In fact, 2006 was its best year ever with sales reaching 173,034 vehicles. But since that time, Scion has been seeing its sales drop precipitously with 2010 being the worst year with 45,678 vehicles sold.
2013 was a mixed bag for Scion. On one hand, the brand told its dealers that they can drop their franchise with no penalties at all and that new products wouldn’t be here till 2016. On the other hand, Scion is slowly crawling back up in sales. 2013 saw sales reach 68,321 vehicles thanks to two models; the FR-S coupe and refreshed tC coupe. So what is it about these two models that are keeping Scion afloat? We’ve driven the FR-S and now its time for the tC to help us answer this question.
For the refresh, Scion tweaked the tC’s exterior to make it look more like the FR-S coupe. This is apparent in the front as there is now a longer hood that sits slightly lower than the previous model. The fascia has been slightly altered as well with a new bumper and grille layout. While not pulling the illusion of the FR-S fully off, the refresh does make the tC more interesting to look at. Other changes for the 2014 refresh include a set of LEDs on the bumper and a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels.
One area that Scion left mostly alone with the tC’s refresh was the interior and that’s a good and bad thing. Let’s start with the negative on the interior. The look and quality of the materials used in the tC looks like they come out of a mid to late-nineties vehicle. I get the tC is a cheap coupe, but with competitors such as the Honda Civic Coupe and Hyundai Elantra Coupe stepping up with the materials used in their interiors, Scion really needs to step up.
Aside from the materials, the tC’s interior does everything else very well. Front-seat passengers are treated to cloth-covered seats with moderate side bolstering. Back-seat passengers will find a surprising amount of legroom. Headroom is surprising good if you’re under six feet. Cargo space is very generous with tC getting 34.5 Cubic Feet thanks to Scion’s decision of making the model a hatchback.
Equipment is generous on tC will all models getting a flat-bottom steering wheel, dual-screen sunroof, telescoping steering wheel, power windows, and a 8.1-inch touchscreen head unit. My tC tester was equipped with the optional BeSpoke Premium Audio package which adds aHa internet radio and navigation. While the interface looks like something from the Windows 95 era, it’s a very straightforward system and quick to respond. One downside is that to get SiriusXM satellite radio, you need to pony up an extra $449 on top of the $1,198 price tag for the BeSpoke system.
For thoughts on the powertrain and ride, see the next page.
Under the tC’s hood is a 2.5L four-cylinder with 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. To access all of that power, you’ll have be ready to put the pedal down or close to floor. Otherwise, the tC feels like it can’t get out of its own way. This is somewhat surprising since the tC only weighs 3,113 pounds. A manual transmission is standard, but my tester came equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission with a Dynamic Rev Management system that blips the engine when downshifting. When left to its own devices, the transmission is quick on the upshifts. Downshifting is another story as it takes a few moments for the transmission to realize it would be a good idea to do that. This is very annoying when I was trying to make a pass on the freeway or merging and I found myself throwing the automatic into the manual mode when making a pass because it would be quicker. The dynamic rev management system is one of those systems that you either think is the coolest or stupidest feature. I personally liked it because it added a sense of excitement when I pushing the tC.
On the fuel economy front, the EPA rates the 2014 tC at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. My week’s average landed at 27.2 MPG.
Along with the changes to the exterior, Scion worked on improving the tC’s handling. This includes revised stabilizer bars, electric power steering system, new struts, and more welds in the body to make it stronger. The changes really make a difference as the tC is a really fun coupe to push around. Body roll is kept to a minimum and the grip from the low-profile tires were excellent. Steering really didn’t have much feel, but the heavy weight more than made up for it. Out of all the compact coupes, the tC has to be the best driving one.
But there is a downside to changes made by Scion, the tC is a rough rider when it comes to day to day duties. The suspension will send up every bump and road imperfection there is known to man, making for a very uncomfortable. Also, a fair bit of road and wind noise comes into the cabin. Those who are thinking about a tC for long-distance trips might want to reconsider.
After spending a week in the Scion tC, I can see why its a big seller for the brand. The tC packs a lot of driving fun for not that much money. Add in the loads of standard equipment you get for the price, and tC makes a very good case for itself. But I do wonder if the tC can keep up this run of success, especially considering that Honda has launched a refreshed Civic coupe, Kia making huge strides with the new Forte Koup, and the Hyundai Veloster which has a pricetag that undercuts the tC by $2,000.
Disclaimer: Scion Provided the tC, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder with VVT-i
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 173 @ 4,100
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26
Curb Weight: N/A
Location of Manufacture: Tsutsumi, Japan
Base Price: $20,210.00
As Tested Price: $23,166.00 (Includes $755.00 Destination Charge)
BeSpoke Premium Audio - $1,198.00
Rear Lip Spoiler - $444.00
Illuminated Door Sill - $375.00
Carpeted Floor Mats and Cargo Mat - $184.00