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Scion tC gets much-needed upgrades, but are they enough?

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2014 Scion tC

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For 2014, Toyota has given the Scion tC’s exterior some new styling touches, upgraded the interior, and packed the cabin with enough technology to satisfy all but the geekiest of the techno geeks.

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But in a competitive field that includes such traditional sales stalwarts as the Honda Civic and VW Beetle, you may have to wonder if that is going to be enough for the youth-oriented brand to remain viable in the future.

Sales of the tC for this past January were down 12.4 percent over numbers for January 2013, which company officials blamed in part on bad weather around the country.

But the annual report for 2013 was no less discouraging with only one Scion model, the highly praised FR-S sports car, showing a gain over the previous year. And even it has started off 2014 on a low note.

Sales of the tC were down 15.8 percent in 2013, according to the December sales report.

Nevertheless, the company reports it has no plans to discontinue the brand as GM has done with Saturn, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile in recent years, though last year it did give Toyota dealers the option of ditching Scion. Reportedly, few have, however, even though the company has no plans for any new models over the next couple of years to spark up the Scion lineup.

Which brings us back to the tC, which has accounted for about 40 percent of the Scion sales over the last 10 years.

Introduced as a more traditional vehicle than the funky xA and xB models that got the Scion brand off to an impressive start in 2003, the tC is a five-passenger hatchback that has been given a sportier appearance for 2014.

The front fascia features an all-new hood and new grille and headlight treatments. The rear features LED tail lamps and a new valance below the rear bumper, and, if you squint, the tC’s profile has a bit of the look of a Dodge Challenger or Charger. (Be sure to squint.)

Toyota gave the Scion tC an upgrade in the quality of materials throughout the cabin. They are not yet premium level, but are a big improvement. Cheap is the word that comes to mind for the previous the interior of the previous generation tC. That’s no longer the case.

The tC features the all-new Scion Standard Display Audio system with a 6.1 LCD touchscreen, which, the company boasts, is the first such system to be standard in non-luxury brands. The system includes Bluetooth compatibility, HD Radio, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. A leather-trimmed steering wheel also is standard.

The new tC comes with a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine that is rated at 279 horsepower with peak torque of 172 pound-feet at 4100 rpm. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. Though reports are that Toyota has improved the optional six-speed automatic, the manual still gives the driver an opportunity for an enhanced experience behind the wheel.

Fuel mileage is rated the same with either transmission -- 23 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway, respectable enough but not up to some competitors like the Civic coupe (28/36) or the Hyundai Elantra GT Hatchback (24/34).

Pricing for the Scion t/C starts at $20,005 (including destination and delivery) for manual transmission models and $21,005 for those with the automatic. A special edition Series 10 tC in recognition of the Scion’s 10th birthday carries MSRPs of $22,235 for manual models, $23,235 for automatics.

For more information such as some features and specifications, check out the accompanying slide show.

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