I began my week with the 2015 Scion tC, a sporty front-wheel-drive coupe, in a comparative frame of mind and the car didn’t always shine. By the fourth day, however, I was driving the tC on and for its own merits, of which there are many.
The comparisons that kept popping up at first were the Hyundai Veloster, Kia Forte Koup and Honda Civic Coupe, all of which I quite like. So it was hard to get them out of my head at first. More significantly, though, I was continually musing over the Scion FR-S, an even sportier coupe with rear-wheel drive! It’s only five thousand dollars more and just looks that much more fun.
But the tC has a rumbly way of charming the driving enthusiast whose head may be up in the clouds back to the road, greeting you there with the gift of a smile. In short, do give this one a test if you’re shopping in this class of car.
Those merits include?
The Scion tC is a good-looking car, streamlined and sexily recumbent. The “cosmic grey mica” colour, straight from the marketing department, sounds better than what others might call shiny black and looks killer in the shade. With a ground clearance down at just 161 mm, you’re bending a lot for access but once in, you’re comfortably centered at a command post.
2015 Scion tC, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The tC is so deft, it almost crab walks. That lowness promotes agility, supported by a spine-numbingly good and firm suspension: Macpherson (please tell well-meaning younger auto geeks with vlogs it’s pronounced mac-fur-suhn not mick-fear-sin) Gas Struts up front, and double wishbone in back, both with stabilizer bars. And low to the ground, the tC has a long sloping rear window. So long and sloping it sensibly has its own wiper.
The tC boasts a nicely sized steering wheel and quite sharp rack and pinion electric power steering. It feels good, encouraging constant contact with both hands. The quasi-leather grip feels genuine enough in the mild weather we’ve been having. Beyond the comfortable size, everything on and around the steering wheel is sensibly laid out. The volume and infotainment mode controls are at the left thumb and cruise control is just inches away from the right. So your eyes rarely need leave the road, which you can see well on most angles.
The automatic transmission with paddle-shifting sport mode costs $1,300 more. That’s a pity but we’ll spare you the usual lecture with its tacit belief that paddles are for the weak in spirit. Besides, for that extra whack of cash, the 2015 tC’s sport transmission is pretty damn fine! It doesn’t Big Brother you, but allows you to hold a gear longer and switch when it reaches that 6,000 rpm mark not recommended in the owner’s manual.
Some cars’ computers assume you’ve forgotten that you should be paddling (and you probably did because paddling’s a drag compared to old school shifting) so they switch automatically, robbing you of the last bits of transmission fun. The tC’s computer respects your right to enjoy and milk each gear to its potential.
2015 Scion tC engine bay, driver’s seats. Click image to enlarge
So, assuming you have to share your car with someone who won’t drive stick, stay in sport mode as much as you can. The responsiveness is delightfully quick. It was from experimenting with shifting that I truly started to appreciate the joys of the tC and started looking forward to the next drive.
Indeed, in basic drive mode, the automatic tC is almost sluggish to get up to speed — at least for such a speedy looking little car and most definitely after you’ve used the paddles. And no wonder: the automatic transmission adds 25 kilos to the total weight.