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2005 SCION tC Review

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MODEL: Scion tC 
ENGINE: 2.4-liter DOHC I4
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 160 hp @ 5,700 rpm/163 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm 
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 106.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 174.0 x 69.1 x 55.7 in.
CARGO: 12.8 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway
PRICE: $19,335 (includes $515 delivery, processing and handling fee)

The last time I drove a tC it was much squarer, had right-hand drive and a leaky top. This tC, from Scion, is much more civilized, doesn't have a leaky top, and has a lot more performance. And, as much as I like MGs, this one looks better, too. In my eye, this is the best-looking Scion so far.

Scion's third entry into the youth market didn't follow the "x" naming routine of the first two cars. Why? Volvo has an XC Cross Country station wagon and Scion (or Toyota) couldn't impinge on the naming rights. So Scion went with tC. I have been informed that Scion will go through the alphabet until it gets to Z, at which point they aren't sure yet what the one after that will be named.

Your "normal" tC carries a base price of $15,950. Our tester carried a base of $16,000 because it was "Release Series 1.0, number 967 of 2,500" (there was a plaque in the back of the transmission hump cubby that said so). This $1,775 option included "Absolutely Red" exterior paint, color-tuned fabric, upper and lower grille enhancement, 18-inch 7-spoke alloy wheels, billet oil cap, battery tie down, special door sills, and floor mats. The bottom line ends up being $19,335, which in my mind is outside the price range of the youth market at which they're aiming. This is sad, because the tC is a great looking car with a ton of performance for its size. On the other hand, kids drive BMWs to the high school down the block from my house, so maybe I'm not with the times.

The 18-inch wheels definitely will appeal to younger buyers. However, with the low-profile tires mounted on them, the ride is harsh. Again, this might be my aging ride preferences.

The Scion line would be ideal for the implementation of hybrid technology, yet Toyota has chosen not to use it on these platforms. Instead, the tC is powered by a 2.4-liter double overhead cam I-4 that's rated at a strong 160 horsepower. With the standard 5-speed manual transmission, this is enough for some spirited performance. I felt the tC might even have benefitted from a smaller engine, in the 1.5- to 1.7-liter category.

The 5-speed manual transmission was vague, however. I was never confident which gear I was in until I eased the clutch pedal out and listened for the engine rpms. Downshifting was always a challenge. Was I in fourth or second, third or (gasp!) first. Fortunately, the reverse detent was strong.

Handling was very good on my favorite hill test road. It also was decent on the highway, as long as there weren't too many tar strips to add bumpiness through the tires.

I liked the instrument panel, with the tachometer off to the side. The audio controls are hidden by a fold-up panel. Audio consisted of an AM/FM 6Cd changer. The HVAC was good, but with the small interior volume of the car I found myself constantly changing it to find an ideal temperature.

The seats were comfortable front and rear. The front seats fold and slide forward for rear seat access. There was surprisingly good rear leg room. My daughter also confirmed that the ride back there was decent. There are two cupholders in the two-level front console and two more in the rear.

I would probably keep the rear seats folded flat for the extra cargo space. My golf clubs, for example, didn't fit in the trunk without folding the seats.

Under the hood, everything is exposed for easy service and maintenance.

Scion now has three vehicles aimed squarely at the youth market. The tC is the best-looking. Granted, our tester was special and carried a higher price tag than one would like, but other than that, it was a neat car that was a fun ride.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate