The best-selling Scion tC always seemed best aligned with the brand's youth-targeted focus. After all, nothing quite attracts the kids like a two-door body style, racy 17-inch wheels and a fairly muscular engine. The tC easily has enough performance to be a fun ride, even if it doesn't fit the traditional mold of a high-revving Japanese sport coupe.
But then, the 2008 Scion tC is more about achieving a balanced set of virtues. Thanks to a well-tuned suspension, its willing handling peacefully coexists with compliant ride quality. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood has meatier low-end torque than smaller-engined competitors like the Honda Civic coupe and maintains decent fuel economy, too. The interior feels well-crafted, and it's rare for a sport coupe to have a rear seat that's so accommodating.
Of course, being a Scion, there's plenty of opportunity for shaping the car to one's liking. While the tC's styling got spruced up for the year, dealers have a wide array of wheels, spoilers, graphics and interior trim pieces for creating one's own look. Even more notable is an optional supercharger that boosts horsepower up to 200 and puts the tC in closer competition against the Civic Si coupe, Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI. However, the supercharger is rather pricey, especially when you include the additional labor costs of having it installed at your Scion dealer.
The 2008 tC's base price, on the other hand, is entirely reasonable. Starting at around 16 grand and not ranging much higher, the 2008 Scion tC represents a value even a full-grown adult can appreciate.
The 2008 Scion tC sport hatchback comes in two trims: the stripped-down Spec and the higher-grade base model. Standard features on the Spec trim include 16-inch wheels, air-conditioning, split-folding and reclining rear seats, keyless entry, full power accessories and a Pioneer CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack. Step up to the base trim and the list grows to include 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, cruise control and one-touch up/down windows. The only factory option is a package containing side airbags for front passengers and full-length curtain airbags for all side occupants.
Though the Scion tC is the size of an average compact car, its longish 106.3-inch wheelbase provides ample legroom for passengers in all seats. Rear riders will also enjoy the split seat backs that can individually recline up to 45 degrees, and owners will appreciate the wide hatchback opening and 35 cubic feet of cargo space (with the rear seats folded). The interior is mostly lined with high-quality materials, and the standard Pioneer sound system is both crisp and powerful. About the only downside to the tC's interior is its somewhat skimpy headroom.
Standard power for the Scion tC comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 161 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque. It provides acceleration that's ample though not outstanding. Sold as a dealer accessory, the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) supercharger takes you up to 200 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard on the tC, with a four-speed automatic optional.
Although not as sharp or engaging as newer rivals like the Civic or Mini Cooper, the 2008 Scion tC features flat, composed cornering and a nimble feel. Its aggressive 17-inch wheels provide plenty of grip, and its brakes are strong and fade-free. Ride quality is firm, yet compliant enough to absorb most bumps and ruts on battered city streets. The 2.4-liter engine has a nearly equal supply of horsepower and torque, resulting in relatively strong pull from both low and high speeds. We'd advise buyers to go with the manual transmission, as it has crisp shifting action and a smooth clutch. Automatic-equipped tCs are less enjoyable, as the four-speed can be hesitant and indecisive during enthusiastic runs on back roads.
The 2008 Scion tC comes with antilock disc brakes, a first aid kit and a driver knee airbag as standard equipment. Side airbags for front occupants and full-length head curtain airbags are optional. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal crash tests, the tC earned a perfect five stars for driver protection and four stars for front passenger protection. A Scion tC without the optional side airbags earned four stars for front and rear side impact testing.
The Scion tC heads into 2008 sporting fresh front and rear styling, an updated instrument panel and new seat fabric. As in other 2008 Scions, an auxiliary audio input jack now comes standard.