It’s not always about the rich; executives who work high atop the glass palaces or spend their days sweating over the Dow Jones. The vast majority of us are working Joes. We have to save every dime, agonize over every expense. We see the ads for Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and the like and think, sure, they’re nice but do I want to drive a nice luxury car or eat?
The point is that for most of us the thought of having a 50, 60 or 70 thousand dollar luxury automobile in our driveway is nothing more than a dream. This is never more true when we are you, in our early 20s perhaps just out of college or entering the work force. We can’t afford to pay a high rent, much less buy a new car. Instead, we end up with an old beater or a very cheap newer car that isn’t much fun to be seen in, let alone drive.
There is a car company though that would beg to differ with that.
Scion, whose parent company is Toyota, specializes in making cars that not only are affordable, but fun to drive. Since 2002 Scion has been filling a niche quite nicely; making cars designed to appeal to the younger generation, at prices that actually make them affordable for those young people on a budget. The tC (the tC according to Toyota stands for Touring Coupe, no explanation for the mixed case) is a fine example of that. Introduced in 2004 the small affordable sports coupe has been a great seller for Scion and the 2014 model continues the tradition the little coupe has had since its debut ten years ago.
But there is a problem
Recently we were given a 2014 Scion tC to drive for a week. Truth be told, although skeptical at first, in the end we absolutely loved it. The problem? We are way out of the demo; over 50 with the ability to afford to put something in our driveway other than a car around $20,000. But after tooling around Florida for week in the tC, we had to ask ourselves, why would we want to buy something more expensive? Why would we want to spend all that money when we can get much of the same in a car for a lot less?
The 2014 tC is offered in a base trim level and a special edition "10 Series.” It’s actually a “3” door liftback; this feature by the way gives a lot of room to carry whatever and is actually a very smart part of the design. The standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a panoramic sunroof, a height-adjustable driver seat, and a leather-trimmed tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. You also get reclining and folding 60/40-split rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio and an eight-speaker Pioneer sound system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display. There’s also a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface.
The limited-production 10 Series adds distinctive silver paint, 18-inch dark-finished alloy wheels, projector beam headlamps, illuminated badges, LED accent lighting, an illuminated "Scion" center console panel and premium stitching on the seats and steering wheel.
One thing Scion is known for is the wide selection of dealer accessories available, including 19-inch wheels, performance parts for the suspension and drivetrain, and like we had in our test model, an upgraded BeSpoke touchscreen audio system which includes navigation functionality and smartphone Aha app integration for connected audio and social media services.
At first we thought that we would have been spoiled by testing the FR-S last year. No way could this tC stand on its own we thought. Surely the tC will get lost in the FR-S shadow. We were so wrong. The tC can stand on its own and does so brilliantly.
For 2014 the tC got a bit of styling upgrade. There are new headlamps and an all-new hood that extends lower toward a more open, muscular grille with an embedded tC logo. The new upper- and lower-grille treatments are bordered by LED accent lighting. With a nod to the FR-S, which is selling very well by the way, beneath the rear bumper a new black-out valance features an FR-S style, lower-center trim piece and lower perimeter reflectors and new advanced LED tail lamps.
Make no mistake, this is not an FR-S, far from it. There is more interior room and less power on the road. But hey that’s okay, not everyone wants a sports car that you have to pry yourself in and out of. They don’t need to explode off the line when the light turns green. Some people need room to carry the things a young family needs for everyday life.
The interior of the tC has been upgraded with premium materials and lighter color fabric on the seats and the headliner and that is evident when you climb in. The gauges are well laid out and easy to read and the touchscreen responds well. The upgraded sound system delivers the music with deep bass and a clear resonance and despite not being electric, the seats are adjustable to just about anyone.
On the road power is delivered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that provides 179 horsepower at 6,000 RPM. It’s available either with a six-speed manual transmission or an updated six-speed automatic that features Dynamic Rev Management technology. We had the automatic and truth be told, the transmission delivered the power to the road in a way we have not seen before.
In traffic the tC seemed always ready to respond with the gear shifts matching just what was needed perfectly. As it turns out the Dynamic Rev Management technology is also adopted from the FR-S. It quickly blips the engine to match its revs to gear ratios on downshifts, limiting driveline shock and adding to the driving experience.
Overall that experience can be summed up in one word: awesome. The tC is no FR-S but it glides effortlessly through traffic and gets excellent fuel mileage; while it is rated at 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway or 26 mpg mixed, we got just over 30 mpg in mixed conditions.
The bottom line on the Scion tC is this: If you are a young family looking for a sporty little coupe that will fit your lifestyle and still allow you to afford groceries, the tC is a great choice. However, even for those of us who can afford a bit more, the tC is still worth a look. It’s a fun little car that is well build and will leave you smiling at the end of your daily commute. And leave some of your hard earned cash in the bank.
The 2014 Scion tC is a fine balance of responsibility and sporty fun and the reason Scion should be around for a long time to come.
The 201 Scion tC
MSRP: (As tested) $21,005
Engine: 2.5 Liter 4 cyl. 179 hp @ 6000 RPM, torque: 172 ft-lbs. @ 4100 rpm
MPG: (estimated): 23 city /31highway mpg /32 mixed
MPG: (As tested) 33 (mixed conditions)
Width 5 ft. 10.7 in
Height 4 ft. 7.7 in.
Length 14 ft. 8.6 in.
Ground clearance 0 ft. 6.3 in
Wheel base 8 ft. 10.3 in.
Front head room 37.7 in.
Front leg room 41.8 in.
Front shoulder room 55.4 in.
Rear hip room 48.5 in.
Rear head room 36.4 in.
Rear leg room 34.6 in.
Rear shoulder room 52.1 in.
Basic 3 yr./ 36000 mi.
Drivetrain 5 yr./ 60000 mi.
Free maintenance 2 yr./ 25000 mi.
Roadside 2 yr./ 25000 mi.