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Review: 2005 Scion tC

July 10, 2005 06:12 PM EST | Coupes , Scion , Toyota | Email to Friend

View large imageWith a price tag under $17,000, a ton of standard features and a fun-loving personality, we'd bet that the tC is going to be another big hit for the Scion folks.

Pros
High quality all around, unexpected safety and luxury features, tight handling, spacious cabin, bargain price.

Cons
A couple of odd design elements, drab interior color.

What's New for 2005
The tC coupe is the latest addition to Toyota's innovative Scion division.

With the Scion brand, Toyota is making a credible effort to understand the Generation Y market and give it what it wants without pushing it down its throat. Housed within Toyota dealerships, Scion salespeople are instructed to play it straight with consumers -- this means no-haggle pricing similar to Saturn dealers and the ability to get a car the way a customer wants it in about a week. And by offering over three dozen dealer-installed options, Scion hopes to give its buyers unprecedented opportunity to customize their cars on the front end. Unlike the xA and xB, which look like they could've come out of a comic book (and we mean that in a good way -- we like their funky yet practical style), the tC is a more mainstream design. Somehow managing to look a little pudgy yet sleek at the same time, the tC has a generic rectangular grille, headlamps with BMW-like "eyebrows" and a body that boasts crisp, clean lines. Still, there are a few head-turning elements. One is the deeply tinted glass panoramic roof that features a power sunroof above the front seats and a fixed glass portion above the rear compartment. Another is the set of double-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels that look as good as anything in the aftermarket. Both of these high-end features are standard. Inside the upscale cabin, high-quality materials abound, and features such as metallic accents, damped compartment doors, multiple adjustments for the driver seat and an outside temperature display further this impression. An elegant "waterfall"-style center stack flows into the center console, and both front seats slide forward to allow folks to get into the backseat. On the move, the tC feels eager to run thanks to its standard 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine. Borrowed from the Camry, this is a big engine for this class of car, where 1.7 to 2.2 liters is more the norm. With 160 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, the tC's motor handily beats what you'll find in cars like the Civic EX coupe (127 hp and 114 lb-ft), Saturn Ion (140 hp and 145 lb-ft) and VW Golf (115 hp and 122 lb-ft). Out in the real world, the tC's performance makes good on the promise of the spec sheet numbers. A broad power band means that there's strong pull down low and through the midrange, and when coupled to the sweet-shifting five-speed manual gearbox, the tC feels sportier than one might expect. Priced under $17,000, the tC should be yet another hit for Scion. After all, there's the strong Toyota reputation, the spacious and comfortable cabin, fine build quality, entertaining driving dynamics and plenty of standard niceties. Add in the ability to customize with your own personal touch and there's plenty to like about this affordable coupe.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
Like the other Scion models, the tC comes in one trim level and is chock-full of unexpected goodies such as one-touch up-and-down power windows, cruise control, air conditioning, keyless entry, mirror-mounted turn signal lights, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a 160-watt Pioneer sound system with CD player that is (XM) satellite radio-ready. The only factory option is a side airbag package, but there is a multitude of dealer-installed options. This list includes a CD changer, satellite radio, a subwoofer and a lighting kit for the footwell, just to name a few.

Powertrains and Performance:
Standard power comes from a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder borrowed from the Camry, with 160 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque. A smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a four-speed automatic available as an option. Fuel economy is estimated at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with the manual, and 23 city and 30 highway with the optional automatic.

Safety:
The tC comes with four-wheel antilock disc brakes (with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) as standard equipment. Side airbags for front occupants and full-length head curtain airbags are optional. Other standard safety features include a first aid kit, triple side door beams and a driver knee airbag.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Although the tC is a compact car at just 174 inches long (about the same length as a Honda Civic coupe), a relatively long (106.3-inch) wheelbase provides more than ample legroom, especially for those riding in the back. Rear passengers will also enjoy the split seat backs that can individually recline up to 45 degrees. Although it looks like a coupe, the tC is actually a hatchback, which means flexible cargo capacity. By folding down the rear seats as well as the right front seat, a load floor that stretches 103.6 inches is created, ideal for snowboarders and surfers. Cargo capacity is 12.8 cubic feet with the rear seats in use and a whopping 60 cubic feet when they're folded down.

Driving Impressions:
The tC features a fully independent suspension (with a double-wishbone setup in the rear that maximizes interior space) and the same tires that are on the Lexus IS 300 -- Z-rated 215/45R17 Bridgestone Potenzas wrapped around those eye-catching 17s. The result is a precise, well-weighted feel and flat, composed cornering. Ride quality is firm, but compliant enough to absorb most bumps and ruts on battered city streets. The 2.4-liter engine's broad power band contributes to the fun with plenty of pull down low and through the midrange.

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