The 2006 Scion tC represents parent company Toyota's stab at a sporty coupe that will attract a young crowd with its looks, performance and ease of customization. Starting at a base price of $16,200 ($22,867 as tested) with a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty and 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, the 2006 Scion tC certainly looks the part. But does the Scion tC have what it takes to please the tuner crowd, or will clever empty-nesters co-opt the sporty hatchback for their own thrifty ends?
The Scion tC shares few styling cues with its stablemates, the boxy xB and the Chicklet xA. If anything, the tC reminds me of the mid-90s Toyota Celica. A low, low roofline arches over the body. The top of the tC is a visual expanse of glass, one continuous car-wide arch from the base of the windshield to the bottom of the back glass, seemingly supported on both sides by the complimentary arch of the car's frame. Very cool and, since the roofline is so low (the car is 55 inches high), easy to admire. The back deck concludes rather abruptly, and the front overhang is also short, ending in an egg crate grill. The whole effect is very modern, sleek and clean, but tasteful and not flashy. Build quality is top-notch, with great paint and details. Even though it wouldn't look out of place in a video game, I wasn't embarrassed to drive it on a public road.
My test car was equipped with some optional body parts. A $995 Ground Effects kit and $385 Rear Spoiler Lip made the tC look even more race ready, though economy-minded buyers might blanch at the price. In addition, my tester was equipped with $425 Fog Lights and an 18" Alloy Wheel/Pirelli Pzero Nero tire upgrade that added $1,565 to the price tag. Ouch! Customization hurts my wallet!
In the Driver's Seat
The tC's uncluttered dash means less confusion. More manufacturers should follow this example.Jason Fogelson
Here comes the part where I talk about how big I am. But, get this, I didn't have any
trouble getting in to the tC! The seats are comfortable, a little over-firm, but manually adjustable for height and angle. The low roofline made me constantly aware of the top of my head, but would be perfectly adequate for puny drivers under 6'. Though there is a back seat in the tC, don't try to get adults back there unless you're planning a kidnapping. I was trapped in the back seat for a few panicky moments while taking pictures of the dash. Let me tell you, it's a long reach to the door handles from the back seat.
The tC's dash is great. Well organized, attractive and easy to read, it's a testament to clever interior design. It would have been easy to go crazy with high tech displays, but the simple analog gauge cluster is just right. The center stack of audio and climate controls also works well. A hinged plastic door conceals the tC's booming Pioneer stereo, unifying the look of the dash. I wish the plastic door were a little more substantial, but it should last with careful handling.
My tester was equipped with a $59 shift knob that became quite a conversation piece due to its ergonomic shape and steel mesh insert. Skip it.
On the Road
For all of its sporty looks and aspirations, the Scion tC is quite ordinary on the road. Equipped with a $525 TRD Performance Exhaust System, my tester sounded great, revving with the "blatt" sound that boy racers so desperately crave. Unfortunately, the tC's acceleration doesn't live up to the hype. It's not slow, it just doesn't live up to the promise of its sound.
With independent strut, double wishbone rear suspension and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, the tC handles and stops quite nicely, aided by its low center of gravity. My tester had a $225 Hotchkis Front Strut Tie Bar installed, and exhibited very little body roll or lean. Steering is very sharp, maybe a little too sharp at times. We have rain grooves in some of our freeways here in Southern CA, and the tC's handling was upset by the grooves, wandering in lanes. It was probably a function of steering, suspension and tire selection all conspiring against the car, but it was unpleasant to say the least.
The 5-speed manual transmission was a breeze to use. A light clutch, smooth throws and well-spaced gears make manual operation a pleasure. Drivers without much stick shift experience will learn quickly in the tC. It's just the right amount of car for a new driver.
With optional accessories, my Scion tester looked ready for racing.Jason Fogelson
I think that Scion has really hit the target with the tC. If I were a high schooler looking for my first car, I might be bugging my parents for a tC right now. And if I were a parent, I'd give it serious consideration. I'd certainly choose to add the $650 Side Impact and Side Curtain Airbag package to the tC, a great safety option that's well worth the investment. The tC seems like a car that a young driver could grow with and enjoy. It gets decent gas mileage (22 in the city, 29 on the highway, according to EPA estimates) and offers reasonable performance out of the box. Scion and the aftermarket offer a myriad of appearance options and performance options, which seem like the stuff of great incentives. Start your kid off with the base tC, and reward good grades and a good driving record with upgrades. Withhold horsepower upgrades as long as you can.
Of course, if you're considering a new car for your teen, there are plenty of other options in the price range. A base MINI Cooper, Hyundai Tiburon, Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus or Honda Civic should all be on your list for consideration.
Empty-nesters are expected to keep their mitts off the tC and leave it for the kids. But you know what they say... youth is wasted on the young.