By Cars.com EditorsFebruary 19, 2014
About the video
Despite the 2014 Scion tC’s diminutive size, Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays says the front-wheel-drive hatchback is a lot of car for the money. For around $20,000 with destination, the redesigned Toyota-made tC gets Avalon-like exterior styling cues.
(upbeat music) Hi, I'm Kelsey Mays for Cars.com here with the tC, a small front-wheel drive hatchback with coupe like styling from Scion.
The tC has a number of updates for 2014, and it remains a lot of car for the money as two-doors small cars go, but there are some pretty glaring shortcomings. We'll take you through them. A pretty aggressive refresh of the second generation tC happened for 2014, and if you didn't know that Scion was a property of Toyota, well, now you do, because this really reminisces the Avalon, Toyota's full-sized sedan that was recently redesigned, thanks to things like a very broad lower grill here and redesigned headlights. Now, 18 inch wheels are standard on the tC, and overall length is about 177 inches, that's a little bit short of coupe versions of the Honda Civic and the Kia Forte, but Scion makes very good use of the space, thanks to this upright roof line here that stays flat. It doesn't even start to really descend in until you get all the way to this point here, just ahead of the rear fenders. That opens up a lot of backseat room, unfortunately, that does also play against forward visibility, which pulls the windshield and the A pillars all the way up here. Let's take a look inside, and show you what that does. Everything gets pulled forward in front of a very long dashboard here, and the A pillars can kinda sit in your field of vision looking forward. The roof line, also very short vertically, so especially if you sit high, you end up having to kinda crane your neck forward here to see things like stoplights if you're at the front of an intersection. Anybody who owned a first generation tC in the late 2000s knew that it actually had really, really good cabin quality. If the redesign were a movie sequel, it would be "Speed 2: Cruise Control", because everything got worse. Now, we had all hoped that Scion would write the proverbial ship, so to speak with this 2014 update, but I gotta warn you, it still crashes into that beach town. Lots of hard plastics here along the upper doors, no trim along even the door handles here. Even the supposed padded areas along the door armrest and the center armrest have very little of it. This center armrest, speaking of which, rattles around a lot as you open and shut it. Scion didn't care to control the glove compartment opening at all, just kinda clatters down. The climate controls are a clumsy mess, you can feel kinda the louvers changing as you change the fan direction here. The gauges, red gauges, they seem like they're about 10 years old, and they get lost in the shadows here, behind these instrument portals. A pretty raddy headliner here surrounds a dual sunroof, a nice touch, but the sunshade for it feels like it's some kind of old tarp. Drivability shines, especially compared to some of the smaller 4-cylinders in other compact two-door cars. Scion's 2.5 liter makes a 179 horsepower, a 172 pounds feet of torque, very smooth even power across the rev range. It doesn't rev to the highest RPM that smoothly, but really easy to drive, a lot easier to drive actually than the FRS, which is Scion's rear-wheel drive coupe. There's a 6-speed manual transmission in our test car, a little bit longer throws than in the FRS, less precise than that, but still very well geared here. It doesn't dump you out of one gear into very low RPM for the next gear. The optional 6-speed automatic transmission, Scion says, has faster shifting for 2014, it also now has downshift rev matching. Scion says it tweaked the suspension and steering field for 2014. Our test car has optional 19 inch wheels versus those standard 18s, but it still feels less brittle than before. Cushions out small things, manhole covers, potholes, stuff like that, pretty well. Now, where it does come undone a bit is over rises and falls in the road where the tC loses a lot of composure there. Handling, pretty decent, the car under steers early on, obviously, it's a front-wheel drive car and that layout is gonna produce that sort of thing, but you can work the tail out reasonably well enough, especially, if you lift off the gas a little bit mid corner. Not too bad there, pretty entertaining. The thing about the tC is that it's cheap. Including destination charge, the base model can be had for around $20,000, which puts it right in the thick of Honda Civic and Kia Forte coupe territory, and it's a few thousand dollars cheaper than Detroit's muscle cars, and about five grand cheaper than Scion's own FRS. Now, for that, it comes very well equipped. Standard features include things like the big wheels, the dual moonroof, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a big back seat, and a little more oomph under the hood than in some of its Asian competitors. Now, you have to consider that against some of the visibility issues, and certainly the big issue, which is cabin quality in the tC. Does that make it worth it? It's up to you, but if they were our money, we think there are better choices out there. (car engine revving)