2014 Scion tC. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jacob Black
Once the darling of the Scion range, the tC suffers these days in the shadows of its more glamorous, younger sibling, the FR-S. But a 2014 refresh gives the tC a boost in aesthetics and a mild boost in handling, helping Scion maintain its youth-sector status with a stylish and funky tepid-hatch.
The first time you sit in the tC is a rewarding experience. The centre stack is angled aggressively toward the driver, the plump steering wheel’s flat bottom allows plenty of space for your thighs and the bolstered, deeply scalloped seats welcome you aboard. The display is Spartan and simplistic, harkening to the days when cars were for driving. The control knobs for the air conditioning system are large, simple to use and again, angled right at the driver. Aside from the 1993-orange colours of the instrument cluster, this is a remarkable example of a driver-focused cockpit.
Once settled in, you turn the good old key (refreshing) and your right hand drops down to the gear selector.
“Oh. Auto.” Anyone would think I’d just stolen his puppy the way my colleague slumped in the seat, but those two sentences summed up the car perfectly. It looks amazing, it feels amazing – at first. Then the sporty façade begins to slip away.
Using the automatic gear lever to make that point is not entirely fair. This tester was fitted with the optional automatic, probably because the PR folks at Toyota looked at my waistline and realized I’m quite lazy. The tC does come standard with a manual, which I think would enhance the driving experience.
2014 Scion tC. Click image to enlarge
The 2.5L four-cylinder engine manages a reasonable 179 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque, but not until the driver really rips into the rev range. Peak horsepower and torque come on at 6,000 and 4,100 rpm respectively. Something about an automatic gearbox makes revving that high seem cruel, and I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it. Despite the less-than-spectacular output figures, the tC’s exhaust note is loud and snarly and helps invigorate the driving experience. The six-speed automatic comes with the same rev-matching technology as the FR-S and blips the throttle automatically during down shifts.
If you really want to muck about, the gear shifter in the automatic model can be pulled sideways to activate manual mode. The box changes quickly and obeyed my commands without the computer second-guessing me, and the automatic throttle-blips helped make this process fun.
With only 1,417 kg to shift (1,398 in the manual) the 179 hp engine does a good job of getting you into gaps in traffic, just pull the lever sideways, pull it back to down change and voila, sweep into the next lane. “Pull it back?” you ask. Yes, sadly the tC’s manual shifter is oriented the wrong way, forward for up, back for down. That is the only gripe I had with the gearbox.
Handling in the tC is assertive more than aggressive. The body roll is limited thanks to some beefy stabilizer bars, and in the 2014 model extra weld points have been added to improve the chassis rigidity. The front rides on Macpherson struts braced by the aforementioned stabilizer bar while the rear gets a double-wishbone. 18-inch P225/48R18 tires keep the tC planted on the road and I never once felt like I was at the limit of adhesion. Despite the confident and composed ride though, the tC lacks nimbleness and doesn’t respond to input as snappily as I’d like.
Essentially, it’s a Toyota: competent, solid, reliable, and forgiving – but not particularly lively. And that’s a good thing.
With a base price of $21,490 the tC is an excellent option for anyone who wants a car that looks great and is fun without being skittish and challenging. The tC will track true in most corners and the electric steering is tuned just a touch on the light side.
Still, you get the impression the tC is about raunchy, sporty looks, rather than raunchy, sporty behaviour.