The 2009 Scion tC makes me feel old.
I'm not a tuner, one of those people who want to accessorize his Japanese racer with neon lights, lift kits and spoilers that look like card tables.
But I'm not a typical Scion customer, by at least 20 years -- though I'm sure there are lots of people in their 40s who want to recapture some of their youth with this cute little coupe, which starts at $17,800.
And lots of customers can't resist from the hundreds of options available for this cruiser -- making it an off-the-shelf tuner's dream.
My test vehicle topped $24,000 and Scion champions, the people at Toyota dealerships who specialize in selling the three Scion vehicles, say some customers have double the price of their vehicle stocking if full of nearly limitless options. It's possible that every tC sold is different than any other tC sold -- and that's the appeal of this vehicle for many of the people.
It's all about customization in today's plug-and-play society: my test car included ground effects, fog lights, a pedestal spoiler, rear LED tail lights, satellite radio, 18-inch seven spoke wheels, a sport muffler, under-the-dash illumination and front strut brace.
Most of these options are cosmetic, but there are some performance enhancements available as well. The sport muffler gave my tC that higher pitched sound that made me want to put some Beano in the gas tank when I filled her up.
The tC is a practical city cruiser though. Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine offers plenty of pep around town. The engine produces 161 horsepower and 162-pound-feet of torque. My test vehicle includes the four-speed automatic transmission that seemed to clunk through the gears when being pushed from red light to red light.
The car handled itself well through town. The 106.3-inch wheelbase and overall short body (174 inches) give the tC a go-kart feel. The steering is clean and the return to center is precise. For a coupe under $20,000, it's a fun car. When I tried more mild acceleration, the four-speed was much smoother.
My only complaint regarding its performance was the braking, which felt like it required a very heavy foot on the pedal. This could be a product of the car's small rotors (10.8 inches on the front) and the car's lightweight body -- weighing in under 3,000 pounds.
The light body also made the tC feel a little floaty on the highway when cruising 70 mph.
However, losing pounds does help the tC hit 29 miles per gallon on the highway (with the automatic transmission) and 21 mpg around town.
Inside the tC offers 41 inches of legroom in the front, more than enough room for a 6-foot middle-aged man. The cabin is open and sporty, with comfortable well-bolstered seats and a techno-feeling dash. There are neat little covers that go over the stereo, which can operate your iPod.
The back seat, however, is cramped. There is only 31.6 inches of legroom. Even climbing into the back leaves you out of breath as you contort your body to squeeze in. Stuffing a third person back there might require a marriage license in some states.
I like the exterior. It has a generic stylish look that is appealing. In a way, it's a blank canvas, ready for a customer to start adding kits to change its simple and clean lines.
The smooth curve of the roof line and the wide front end, the long doors of the coupe, the steep windshield and the tight-fitting tires are all elements that make this car worthy of second glances.
Whenever I see a tC, I start looking for things the owner decided to change, and typically, there's something: a unique spoiler or an interesting paint scheme.
The key to the tC is the choices it provides. The underpinnings make it capable on the road. The options make it appealing to young customers.
The tC may not help me recapture my youth -- 41 may not be middle aged nowadays, but I'm definitely on the back nine in the golf course of life -- but it can provide an affordable fun car. I don't need all of the options, and don't understand some of them, such as the purple neon light under the dash that reminds me of black velvet paintings and head shops. There are some parts of my youth I don't need to discover again.
A fun car, however, is good at any age and the tC fits the bill.
2009 Scion tC
Type: five passenger compact coupe
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmission: Five-speed manual, four-speed automatic EPA gas mileage (city / highway):
Manual: 20 mpg / 27 mpg
Automatic: 21 mpg / 29 mpg
Rear: Independent double wishbone
Steering: power-assisted rack-and-pinion Turning circle: 36.1 feet
Front: 10.83 inch ventilated discs
Rear: 10.59 inch solid discs
Anti lock brakes: Standard
Tire size: 17 x 7 inch (18-inch wheels optional) Dimensions (inches):
Ground clearance: 5.2
Interior dimensions (inches)
Headroom: 37.6 / 36.6
Legroom: 41.6 / 31.6
Shoulder room: 54.3 / 50
Hip room: 53.2 / 47.3
Trunk space: 12.8 cubic feet
Manual: 2,932 pounds
Automatic: 2,987 pounds
Fuel tank: 14.5 gallons
3 year / 36,000 mile comprehensive
5 year / 60,000 mile powertrain
5 year / unlimited miles corrosion perforation