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Heels On Wheels: 2012 Scion tC Review

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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Scion tC – standing for touring coupe – is a compact three-door liftback with a sporty and fresh appearance, plus a racy cabin design that includes bolstered seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Geared for youth on a budget, which pretty much encompasses anyone under 25 years of age these days, the tC features infotainment hands-free technology like Bluetooth and iPods.

I drove a 2012 Scion tC with the singular engine, a 180-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that was re-tuned last year and a six-speed sequential shifting automatic transmission. The Scion tC is what you call “mono-spec” or available as one model with the following standard features: keyless entry: a panoramic moonroof; front bucket seats; steering wheel audio controls; an eight-speaker Pioneer audio system with USB port and Bluetooth; and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Optional equipment included a $699 TRD performance exhaust; $2,199 upgraded nineteen-inch TRD alloy wheels; $444 rear lip spoiler; $469 security system; and a $1,999 seven-inch touch-screen navigation system. My fully loaded Scion tC price came to $26,368 with destination charge.

The Scion tC took on a redesigned last year, with all-new styling and enhanced performance on the 2.5-liter engine. I had tested a more modestly equipped under-$20k 2011 model, citing the vehicle as safe, reliable and stylish. I do have bigger expectations for this aimed-to-impress, fully loaded 2012 Scion tC. Competitors are the Civic Si and the all-new Hyundai Veloster.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The tC sees some standard interior upgrades this year such as Bluetooth and a moonroof, which are pretty excellent additions. The cabin understandably has a snug feel – it’s a coupe – but the bolstered seats are settled too high. In terms of infortainment, the acoustics are impressive as is the navigation screen size. Techies will especially appreciate the large knob that mimics the iPod's ring wheel for menu exploration. But the use of cheap plastic at every which angle dampens the interior excitement a tad. The cargo area is well-constructed and thought out, but the flat dimensions will limit your baggage size.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the tC the highest score of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests, making it a recommended Top Safety Pick. It also has the highest 5-Star rating from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Cost Issues: The Scion tC has a starting price of $19,305; a top-of-the-line will run you almost $26k. A base 2012 Hyundia Veloster runs $17,300 and includes a multi-function seven-inch touch-screen display with voice recognition, Pandora internet radio, and the their in-house connectivity system, Blue Link, that allows you to share your vehicle location with friends, start your vehicle from a remote location, and post your fuel economy results using the Eco-Coach feature to the owner’s website.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Scion tC is sporty enough around town, but not overly impressive at high speeds or during cornering, the latter mostly due to limited steering response. Throw in a droning automatic transmission and rough high-speed manners, and the tC starts to feel all show, no go.

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The saving grace is an available Release Series 7.0, sporting a flashy yellow paint job, black eighteen-inch wheels, a lower body kit, keyless start and accented black upholstery, of only which 2,200 will be made. Consumers need to also test the all-new Hyundai Veloster’s 138-horsepower 1.6-liter Gasoline-Direct-Injected (GDI) four-cylinder engine working with a sophisticated six-speed EcoShift dual clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. (No that's not me sprawled out there.)

The Green Concern: The Scion tC gets 23 miles-per-gallon city and 31 highway for a combined 26. Not only does the Veloster offer a more impressive powertrain, almost twice the highway fuel eocnomy at 40 miles-per-gallon.

While the 2012 Scion tC looks the part of a racy sports coupe and remains competitive with new standard additions, it lacks road refinement and impressive acceleration. The tC’s upgraded touch-screen navigation also pails in to a few standard infotainment graphics found in a competitor like the Hyundai Veloster.

2012 Katrina Ramser