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2014 SCION TC 3-DOOR LIFTBACK Review By Steve Purdy

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2014 Scion tC

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

This humble reviewer always appreciates having a small car with manual transmission and sporty character to play with all week, in this case a soft gray (they call it Cement) little Scion tC coupe with a liftback – hence the “3-Door” designation. Scion is Toyota’s youngster’s division and this little coupe is designed to appeal to them. I’m an oldster, but I still like it.

The front-wheel drive tC gets a much needed styling update for 2014 (more bold, gaping front fascia, sculpted character lines and shapely hood) that gives it an improved and modernized visual character contributing to its roll as the quick and stylish entry in the Scion lineup alongside the xB little box, iQ city car, xD square back and the new rear-wheel drive sports car co-designed with Subaru called FR-S. Of the Scion lineup only the FR-S starts above 20 grand MSRP and only the FR-S is rear wheel drive. No all-wheel drives vehicles are offered in the Scion lineup.

It seems odd that Scion would have two small sporty coupes but tC and FR-S are very different. The former is an entry level, front-wheel drive, economy car-based coupe and the latter a rear-wheel drive specialty car designed on an entirely different platform to essentially fill the role of halo car for the brand. Can Scion sustain both? Perhaps.

Our test car shows a base price of $19,210 with standard manual transmission. Add another grand for the automatic. For that modest price we get 18-inch alloy wheels shod with low profile P225/45 all-weather tires, panoramic moonroof with tilt and slide, LED turn signals, front LED accent lighting, projector beam headlights, Pioneer audio with touch screen display, sport steering wheel with leather trim, keyless entry and all the power amenities we now expect on all cars. Options on our test car include a performance tuned exhaust, expensive 19-inch wheels, extra-premium BeSpoke audio, rear spoiler and some extra accent lighting. The bottom line shows just over 25 grand. For that price you might want to consider the FR-S.

A “Monogram Series” tC is available for a couple grand more and comes with leather-trimmed seats, matching shift knob, 19-inch wheels, the BeSpoke audio and some other extras.

Inside we see better materials than last year and a nice simple layout. There is nothing particularly luxurious, stylish or elegant about this interior but the quality looks good and the style works. I’m not fond of the smallish audio control screen but it accommodates more options than we could have with simple buttons and knobs. Despite having the screen there is no rear view camera. Seating is comfortable and roomier than we might expect. Interior volume is about comparable to other small coupes. The rear seat has more leg room than some but I wouldn’t want to try to squeeze into it.

Ingress and egress to the front seats were easier than expected, in fact easier than last week’s Lexus IS. I still bumped my head getting into the driver’s seat but didn’t have to squeeze my oversize middle as much. Rear seat backs fold to add cargo space, though we have an impressive 14.7 square feet event with seatbacks in place. The hatch feels a bit heavy. It may need more robust struts.

Only one engine powers the tC, a 2.5-liter, 179 horsepower four-banger making a good 172 pound feet of torque. With the manual transmission it’s good for a 0-to-60 time somewhere in the low 7 seconds with plenty of grunt to get up to speed quickly, but you need to keep it near or above 3,000 rpm to feel like you’re scooting at the max. The engine feels light and free revving. We understand that the revised six-speed automatic shifts more quickly than the previous model and features rev matching as well. The clutch has an exceptionally smooth take up and is easy to drive without jitteriness. EPA rates the tC at 23 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway and 26 combined on regular fuel. We managed 26.5 in our week of varied driving.

On the road at speed it’s not the quietest of its ilk but neither is it the noisiest. It feels like a small sporty car with handling that is crisp and electric power steering precise. Both freeway and back road driving is pleasant and competent. Suspension design is conventional struts up front but unusual in the rear with a double wishbone independent design. Decent size stabilizer bars at both ends keep everything feeling tight.

The tC comes with all the airbags and other safety equipment you’d want and it scored “good” (the highest score) in the IIHS’s new moderate-overlap and other crash tests including roof strength, a test result of which many cars of this size often fall short.

Scion’s warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Small sporty cars, mostly sedans, as a genre have blossomed in recent years with some wonderful products out there vying for your attention and your dollars. Coupes, though, are less common. The Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra lead that pack. The Scion tC represents a good value compared to these so should be on your radar when shopping in this market.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved