Saturday, October 22, 2011
2010 Scion TC
The 2010 Scion tC is a two-door hatchback coupe that parent company Toyota has aimed squarely at the 20-something crowd. These drivers likely want rides that are stylish, customizable and affordable, and the tC is a success on all three counts. Note that the tC is not a performance car, so if it's back-road thrills you're after, we'd advise you to look elsewhere. Otherwise, there's just not much wrong with the tC, even though it's now entering its sixth year of production.
As has been the case since the car's debut, the tC offers a comfortable ride and adequate handling for most tastes. A notable tC feature is its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which provides more low-end grunt than most cars in this class. Fuel economy isn't impressive, though, so there's a penalty for that extra displacement and punch.
The 2010 Scion tC also boasts a cleanly styled cabin with an accommodating rear seat. Two adults can fit back there, a rare feat for a car of this nature, and the seatback even reclines. The hatchback's cargo area is also roomy with the rear seats up; flip them down and you'll have 35 cubic feet of maximum cargo space.
In addition to the tC's solid list of standard equipment, there are numerous accessories available at the Scion dealership, including stylized wheels, body kits, upgraded stereo systems and various interior accents. Additionally, if the 2.4-liter engine leaves you wanting more, the dealer-installed supercharger boosts horsepower up to 200. That puts the tC's straight-line acceleration (and price) in the same league as pocket rockets like the Honda Civic Si coupe, Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI; however, all of the above are far more engaging to drive. Our advice would be to set your sights on the base tC and cross-shop it with other compact two-doors like the regular Honda Civic, the base Mini Cooper and the Volkswagen Rabbit.
Inside the 2008 Scion tC are first-rate materials. There aren't a lot of different grains and textures, and the swoopy brushed-metal center stack housing vents, sound system and climate control system are a marvel of modern design. Scion has pumped up the volume a bit for 2008, adding metallic accents that match the center stack to the steering wheel spokes and door-mounted grab handles. Everything fits together beautifully, works intuitively and looks great.
The front bucket seats look and feel like they were designed for racing, but that doesn't mean to say they're too narrow or too hard. We found them very comfortable, with enough fore/aft adjustment to suit tall American drivers regardless of age (including our tall and, shall we say, experienced correspondent). The driver's and shotgun seats can be reclined all the way down into what Scion calls a sleep position.
The core model's rear seats recline through 10 stops and 45 degrees to convert the interior into a conversation bin. With seats up, there's more than 26 inches of cargo length there; with the second seats dropped, almost 60 inches; and with the front passenger seat folded over, almost 104 inches of cargo length available.
Attention to detail is evident in the mechanical seat position memory on the front bucket seats, the 60/40 split folding rear seat, the dead pedal for the driver's left foot, fully closing vents, and a cover for the stereo faceplate.
The three-pod instrument panel is amber-illuminated, deeply tunneled and easy to use, day or night, as are the balance of the instruments and controls. The metal-tone center console features a cast-aluminum temperature control dial flanked by soft-touch electronic buttons and an LCD display showing exterior temperature, seven fan speeds and a clock. Shutter-type flush-closing dash vents complement the center console's waterfall design.
The Pioneer single CD system that comes standard on all Scion tCs (even the Spec Series) features a user-customizable welcome screen, MP3 capability, four speakers and 160 watts. Sirius and XM Satellite Radio are optional.
The head unit allows iPod owners to listen to their tunes through the car speakers and to control song selection and read stored information through the head unit's display. Also standard (on core models) for 2008 is a Pioneer six-inch subwoofer with 35-watt maximum power, tuned specifically for the tC. This compact unit is mounted in the under-floor storage area, keeping it out of sight and leaving the cargo floor clear.
The optional premium audio adds the ability to download skins to play on the head unit's organic electroluminescent (OEL) faceplate. These so-called skins include images, four-second video clips, and eight-second movies from Pioneer's website. Pioneer software also allows customers to burn their own images and movies onto a CD and upload them onto the head unit.
The premium audio system comes with rear head unit outputs, allowing the addition of external amps to boost power to additional speakers and subwoofers. Scion claims that none of these modifications will affect the operation of head unit's standard features.
Both the standard and premium head units feature Scion Sound Processing (SSP), which allows listeners to choose from three pre-set equalizer settings; Automatic Sound Leveling (ASL); and Sound Retouch Technology (SRT), which provides clearer CD sound quality.
The somewhat bland styling of the 2005-07 Scion tC was intentional, offering a blank canvas for hot-rodders and customizers. Frankly, we liked its look of purposeful performance. The 2008 Scion tC certainly looks more sophisticated, but whether it looks better is a matter of taste.
Most changed is the front end, where the headlight housings now contain three sharply defined separate lenses for high beams, projector-type low beams, and amber turn signals, all arranged in a subtle diagonal. The top and bottom grille textures no longer match, with a fussy diagonal-oval mesh up top that fades to solid at the sides; and horizontal slats down below. It's a bit busy to our eyes, and spoils the simplicity we admired in the previous design.
The diagonal three-element theme continues around back, where each smoke-gray taillight housing contains three small round lenses, the larger two of which overlap. As before, a thin, LED center stop light appears gray until it lights up; and the bottom edge of the bumper sports a prominent horizontal pout.
Otherwise the outside isn't much changed, and that's a good thing. Even the standard six-double-spoke alloy wheels are carried over from last year.
The doors are quite long for such a small car, and the door handles are of the reach-around-and-pull variety that we like. The long rear side window suggests a two-door sedan more than a hatchback coupe, and makes the design flow from front to rear gracefully. Wheel arches are exaggerated, suggesting that larger tires and wheels will be fitted as soon as the car is bought. (Or the buyer can opt for the 18- or 19-inch wheels from the dealer).
One of the most surprising bonuses the tC brings is its panoramic glass sunroof, designed without gaskets for a tight, no-creaks fit. It filters 97 percent of UV rays and 100 percent of infrared to avoid sunburned occupants. All of the body panels fit tight and straight, and quality flows from every pore.
Powered by an all-new 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, the latest tC is now more powerful and more fuel efficient than ever. At first glance, the new tC might look similar to the outgoing model, but it rides on a new platform and is in fact sporting some noteworthy changes to the sheetmetal.
The new 2.5-liter four-cylinder, sourced from the Toyota Camry, cranks out 180 horsepower in the tC, a 19 pony improvement, and Scion says it is more efficient than before. A new intake manifold design and a sport-tuned exhaust are said to improve the tC's sound, too.
A pair of new six-speed automatic and manual transmissions replace the outgoing four-speed automatic and five-speed manual transmissions as well. The new six-speed manual- or six-speed automatic-powered tC coupes are rated at 23 city, 31 highway.
These new fuel economy numbers represent a sizable improvement, as the outgoing five-speed manual returned just 20 city, 27 highway, with the outgoing four-speed automatic tC achieving 21 city and 29 highway.
The 2010 Scion tC comes with antilock disc brakes, front side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag as standard. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal crash tests, the tC earned a perfect five stars for driver protection and four stars for passenger protection. Side-impact testing yielded five-star ratings for both front and rear passengers.
The 2010 Scion tC handles nimbly enough, though you certainly won't confuse it with a sporty rival like the Mini Cooper. Ride quality is relatively compliant for a budget-priced compact coupe. The 2.4-liter inline-4 pulls eagerly at low engine speeds, a welcome departure from the high-revving power delivery that's more the norm in this segment. The manual transmission is smooth-shifting, but it exacts a notable penalty at the pump.