2014 Scion tC Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 4, 2013

The 2014 Scion tC coupe has an interesting personality, made a bit better this year, but it's standing in the shadow of the excellent FR-S sports car.

Scion has an interesting dilemma—and one that we have trouble having a lot of sympathy for. Its tC coupe, which was the performance model in the lineup, has been overshadowed and outclassed by the fantastic rear-wheel-drive FR-S—a coupe that seems to be just as practical as the tC yet more in touch with the sensory experience of driving. Wouldn't most tC shoppers rather have the more straightforward sports-car look and driving feel of the FR-S?

As we ponder that, there are still some reasons to choose the front-wheel-drive 2014 Scion tC—like ride quality, or features for the money. And as if in admission of the New Kid on the Block, Scion has dialed the tC up for 2014 with “more assertive styling.” With the current generation notchback coupe already buffed-up and chunkier in appearance over the previous, softer hatchback, this model was already far from subtle. But with LED accent lighting and taillamps, new upper- and lower grille treatments, new headlamps, and a blacked-out lower rear valance—plus new 18-inch dark-gray-finish alloy wheels—the 2014 tC does keep its look assertive, if a bit overwrought and high-shouldered. Inside, the design carries over, with enough design nuance where it counts, in the cut-tube gauges and M&M-shaped climate controls, but the big news is that Scion has upgraded all the materials, with lighter-colored fabrics.

There's nothing significantly new under the hood for 2014, but the tC remains a solid performer. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, is paired with a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic and can get to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds with the manual or 8.3 seconds with the automatic—this year adding downshift rev-blipping. The electric power steering feels good, as do the big all-disc brakes, and ride quality's obviously a priority, as the big 18-inch wheels and tires don't make things too harsh. For 2014, Scion does claim to have increased body rigidity and made “modifications to stabilizer bar hardware.” We'll update you later on exactly what that means.

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Don't expect any packaging magic inside the tC; all the usual rules of sporty coupes apply here. Accommodations are snug in front and in back, with tight headroom all around (a sunroof is standard and makes things a bit worse than they could be). One unexpected twist is that the back seat reclines a bit. Cargo versatility is also somewhat better than you might expect, with the front seats tilting forward easily and a trunk large enough (with deep side bins) for several roll-on bags. One thing that is bound to improve for 2014 is the fine details; Scion has subbed in some “premium materials,” and we hope that means quelling the abundance of hard plastics from previous model years.

The Scion tC has held strong safety ratings, with top scores from both the IIHS (Top Safety Pick) and the federal government (five-star overall).

Value for money has been one of the major selling points for the tC; for less than $20k, it includes things like power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; and a sunroof. For 2014 the tC becomes the first model in the Scion family to get Display Audio systems, with a 6.1-inch touch screen, HD Radio, and built-in Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio-streaming capability. In addition there will be an upgrade BeSpoke Premium audio system with Aha smartphone connectivity for integrated Internet radio. 2014 Scion tC shoppers, as before, have plenty of aftermarket appearance and performance upgrade possibilities available through the dealership. There's also a new Scion 10 Series model, in a special color, Silver Ignition, with details like silver seat belts, an LED-illuminated Scion badge, and sequential badging, plus LED running lamps, dual automatic climate control, and push-button start.

8

2014 Scion tC

Styling

The 2014 Scion tC eschews curves, in favor of creases in its coat and pops in its collar. Is it masculine enough?

From a design standpoint, the Scion tC has evolved, from the rather conservative, somewhat premium coupe it started as, to an edgier, sportier coupe in its current, second-generation form. More so than in the past, it arguably occupies the spot that the Celica used to in Toyota's lineup.

As if in admission of the more flamboyant Scion FR-S--a model that truly looks the sports-car part--Scion has dialed the tC up a little more for 2014 with “more assertive styling.” With the current generation notchback coupe already buffed-up and chunkier in appearance over the previous, softer hatchback, this model was already far from subtle.

But with LED accent lighting and taillamps, new upper- and lower grille treatments, new headlamps, and a blacked-out lower rear valance—plus new 18-inch dark-gray-finish alloy wheels—the 2014 tC does keep that promise of being more assertive, if a bit overwrought and high-shouldered.

Overall, the tC remains a more masculine plaything in appearance than what it actually is. Sharp angles, creased corners, and a brusque attitude make it recognizably Toyota from some angles but a little alien from others. From the Cylon-like helmet shaped into the rear roofline that's also a nod to the Nissan GT-R and Chevy Camaro, to the shoveled nose and tail that fall into line with an Eighties subtext, it's still a Celica at heart, we think, but less subtle.

Inside, the design carries over, with enough design nuance where it counts, in the cut-tube gauges and M&M-shaped climate controls, but the big news is that Scion has upgraded all the materials, with lighter-colored fabrics. It's as if Scion has put a T-square to the tC's instruments and controls, which can be good or bad to some eyes. And on the down side, there are some glaring lapses in finishes.

A fat steering wheel has a flat bottom, and begs your attention as soon as you slide into the wide, sculptured front seat. It's not enough to distract us away from the trifecta of differently grained plastics that hook up in an unnatural way right over the glovebox, but the cockpit wears red-lit gauges well, and those small, intuitive controls inject some much-appreciated function-over-form simplicity.

7

2014 Scion tC

Performance

The Scion tC is a strong performer among front-drive coupes--and it's received a little more tuning attention for 2014.

The 2014 Scion tC gets a few tweaks that should bring meaningful performance improvements and a somewhat stronger attitude; but the reality is that they're not going to punt the tC into the realm of other affordable performance coupes like the Ford Mustang, Mazda Miata, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, or even Scion's FR-S sports car. Instead, think of the tC as first and foremost an everyday-comfortable sporty coupe--with stronger chops than you might think.

There's nothing significantly new under the hood for 2014, but the tC remains a solid performer. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, is paired with a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic, and can get to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds with the manual or 8.3 seconds with the automatic—this year adding downshift rev-blipping.

Although we haven't driven the 2014 version with the revised automatic, we've found previous auto versions to nicely straddle the line between economy and performance, with smooth downshifts and respectable performance. Tuner-intending owners will opt for the nicely weighted manual--although we're always surprised by its crazy-light clutch uptake. Scion's skipping any kind of shift paddles for now, which we hate, but at this price point it's not much of a surprise.

The electric power steering feels good, as do the big all-disc brakes, and ride quality's obviously a priority, as the big 18-inch wheels and tires don't make things too harsh. For 2014, Scion does claim to have increased body rigidity and made “modifications to stabilizer bar hardware.” It's also retuned the suspension and added additional welds for improved dynamics. Look for an update here on how those updates work.

6

2014 Scion tC

Comfort & Quality

A relatively roomy cabin and good front seats make the cabin quite appealing, although plasticky trim never transcends the budget-constrained feel of it all.

The 2014 Scion tC is a rather tight two-door coupe, so don't expect any packaging magic inside the tC. All the usual rules of sporty coupes apply here.

Accommodations are snug in front and in back, with tight headroom all around (a sunroof is standard and makes things a bit worse than they could be). Those in front still fare much better than those in back, since the tC is merely a compact. But the front seats are great; they offer lots of grip and support, in the right places, and in the right amounts. There's a good driving position, thanks to their adjustability and strong side bolsters, and a tilt/telescopic driving position fine tunes it just right.

Headroom is far from extravagant, though. It has us wishing the standard sunroof could be an option instead--or for a 'sunroof delete' check box.

Back-seat space is tight, but adults can fit in a pinch. Entry and exit isn't bad, since the front seats have a memory function and flip and slide forward easily. The backrest reclines a few degrees, which almost guarantees a comfortable seating position, even if leg room is tight.

Cargo versatility is also somewhat better than you might expect, with the front seats tilting forward easily and a trunk large enough (with deep side bins) for several roll-on bags.

The fine details get an upgrade inside for 2014; the tC now has soft-touch material for the center armrest, as well as new lighter-color seat upholstery and some new “premium materials.” If that means replacing a few of the hard plastics, it's a step in the right direction.

The tC is a bit behind the curve compared to other Toyota and Scion models in bins, cubbies, and general stowage space. Scion puts its USB jack in front of the shift lever, and the shallow bin that's just ahead of it doesn't allow a lot of usefulness. The console itself is a bit too skinny, too, and the glovebox is small.

9

2014 Scion tC

Safety

With excellent crash-test scores, the tC is a safe choice for younger drivers who want a sporty car.

The Scion tC has held strong safety ratings, with top scores from both the IIHS (Top Safety Pick) and the federal government (five-star overall).

The number of airbags is now up to eight, including seat-mounted side bags along with side-curtain bags and a driver knee bag. Brake Assist and a brake-throttle override system are also included. But like many of its competitors, the tC doesn't offer advanced safety options such as blind-spot monitors.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the Scion tC earns a 'good' rating in all its relevant crash tests, including rear impacts and roof-strength tests. It's also earned an 'acceptable' result in the new small overlap frontal test--enough to garner the new IIHS Top Safety Pick+ accolade.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the tC in the small class of vehicles that get an overall rating of five stars. Although it receives four stars in the front-impact crash test, it earns five stars in side impact.

8

2014 Scion tC

Features

The custom catalog may get you spending more, but the fundamentals are great--and surprisingly affordable.

Value for money has been one of the major selling points for the tC; for less than $20k, it includes things like power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; and a sunroof. For 2014 the tC becomes the first model in the Scion family to get Display Audio systems, with a 6.1-inch touch screen, HD Radio, and built-in Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio-streaming capability. In addition there will be an upgrade BeSpoke Premium audio system with Aha smartphone connectivity for integrated Internet radio.

Otherwise we don't expect the pricing or positioning to change much for the 2014 Scion tC. It's very well-equipped, even at its base price of about $20,000, and as usual the Scion experience lets owners tweak the list with all sorts of custom equipment, from mild aero add-ons to more exotic upgrades and trims.

2014 Scion tC shoppers, as before, have plenty of aftermarket appearance and performance upgrade possibilities available through the dealership. There's also a new Scion 10 Series model, in a special color, Silver Ignition, with details like silver seat belts, an LED-illuminated Scion badge, and sequential badging, plus LED running lamps, dual automatic climate control, and push-button start.

7

2014 Scion tC

Fuel Economy

When compared to bigger, bulkier coupes, or true sports cars, the tC is a reasonably fuel-efficient pick.

The 2014 Scion tC doesn't quite live up to the standards of Toyota's hybrids, which soar to the top of their respective classes in gas-mileage ratings. The tC isn't all that much thirstier than you'd guess it to be, but it's surprisingly not any more fuel-efficient than a mid-size sedan like the Camry.

Despite an automatic-transmission recalibration for this year, the 2014 tC earns the same ratings as it did for 2013: 23 miles per gallon on the city cycle, and 31 mpg highway, whether you get either the six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed automatic transmission.

Because of their rather sporty, low gearing, to keep revs up and the attitude perky, we've seen real-world figures that are quite low--even relative to those EPA numbers.

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April 19, 2015
For 2014 Scion tC

Good quality and fun to drive

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This sporty coup is a blast to drive. I don' t care about 0 to 60 times and all the other ratings that the purest present. All I can tell you is the car is a blast. It has lots of room in the back and I was... + More »
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Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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