The 2014 Scion tC sport coupe doesn't get much love from enthusiast-oriented car magazines, but we think that's actually a good thing. Why? Because it underscores the fact that the tC is a civilized car. It doesn't have an obnoxiously loud engine, it doesn't ride like an ox cart and it doesn't have a cramped interior.
On the contrary, it's a sensible Toyota-built coupe with just enough sportiness to remind you that you didn't buy a Corolla.
Of course, your Scion dealer will be happy to make your tC look and sound like a performance car. The Scion experience is all about accessories, so if you want an aggressive exhaust or a lowered suspension, for example, you can get it at the dealership without jeopardizing your warranty.
But underneath its frequently flashy veneer, the tC remains a practical Toyota product that should provide a pain-free ownership experience. We know that's not the stuff magazine covers are made of, but for real-world drivers the 2014 Scion tC is a pretty cool package.
What's New for 2014?
The tC receives new front- and rear-end styling with LED accents, redesigned wheels, retuned suspension and steering, a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen, and a newly optional premium stereo with navigation and Aha smartphone connectivity, as well as an updated automatic transmission that shifts more quickly and matches revs on downshifts. There's also a limited-edition 10 Series model in honor of Scion's 10-year anniversary.
What We Like
Sporty attitude; decent back seat; handy hatchback; cool tech features; extensive personalization options; good value
What We Don't
Not quite as capable as it looks
The front-wheel-drive tC is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 rated at 180 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. The transmission options are a 6-speed manual and a quick-shifting 6-speed automatic. Either way, the tC packs a pretty decent punch, as this is the same engine that powers the larger, heavier Toyota Camry sedan. Given its peppy performance, the 2.4 does pretty well on the fuel-economy front, checking in at 23 miles per gallon city/31 mpg highway with either transmission.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Scion tC is offered in two trim levels -- base and 10 Series -- with many optional accessories.
The base tC ($19,965) comes with 18-in alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, a panoramic sunroof, a height-adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, a first aid kit, a tilt-telescopic flat-bottom sport steering wheel and an 8-speaker 300-watt Pioneer audio system with a 6.1-in touchscreen, HD radio, and iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
Available extras include 19-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a rear spoiler, a BeSpoke infotainment system with navigation and Aha mobile-app integration, and a variety of mild performance aids such as lowering springs, performance brakes and a sport exhaust.
The 10 Series ($22,195), offered in a limited production run of 10,000 units, comes with special silver paint, xenon headlights, illuminated exterior badges, keyless entry with push-button start, silver seat belts, electroluminescent gauges, dual-zone automatic climate control, a solar-powered illuminated shift knob and 10 Series badging.
The tC model's back seat illustrates the advantages of basing a sport coupe on an existing sedan (in this case, the overseas Toyota Avensis). Unless the front passengers are unusually tall, full-size adults should be able to ride in back for miles without complaint. Rear headroom is the most significant limiting factor.
The cargo capacity seems average-plus at first blush -- 14.7 cu ft -- but that's just the start of it. The tC is a hatchback, believe it or not, and if you open that lift gate and fold down the rear seat backs, you'll have nearly 35 cu ft of cargo space, which puts the tC in a dead heat with the xD 4-door hatchback.
The 2014 Scion tC comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee, full-length side curtain).
In government crash testing, the tC scored a perfect five stars overall, including four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the xB its top rating of Good in all crash-test categories except the new small front overlap test, where the tC was deemed Acceptable (the second-best rating of four).
Behind the Wheel
In our interior evaluation, we deemed the tC model's front seats a welcome departure from Scion's ho-hum norm. The prominent side bolsters are clearly designed to hold you in place when the going gets twisty. The thick, leather-wrapped, tilt-telescopic steering wheel has a wide range of adjustability, and it sports a race-car-style flat bottom that reminds us of the wheel in the mega-expensive Audi TT RS.
The tC model's gauges are straightforward, comprising an orange-illuminated tachometer and speedometer housed within separate hoods. The 3-dial climate controls couldn't be simpler, and the entire central control panel is canted toward the driver for a cool cockpit-like feel. We've seen some complaints about the tC model's interior quality, but we respectfully disagree. Sure, the plastics are hard to the touch, but they have distinctive graining and the overall ambiance in the tC model's cabin is hardly cheap.
On the road, the tC is a solid introduction to the joy of driving. Thanks to standard stability control and an appetite for understeer, this Scion is highly unlikely to behave unpredictably. What it will do, though, is get enough g-force going in corners to whet a driver's appetite. At the same time, the tC has a civilized ride, and road noise isn't a problem by sport-coupe standards. We're fans.
Honda Civic Si -- More focused on performance than the tC, the Civic Si is a little quicker if you wind it out to the redline. The tC has closed the gap considerably, though.
Ford Fiesta ST -- It may be a 4-door hatchback, but the turbocharged ST is more fun than just about any 2-door car. And it's attractively priced.
Kia Forte Koup -- The new-for-2014 Forte Koup offers a cool turbocharged engine that matches the Fiesta ST model's power and easily bests the Scion's.
The base tC is a great value, particularly given how much standard equipment Scion throws in. We still prefer the manual, but the new automatic is unusually responsive.