Recovering former glory is an elusive feat. Just ask Christina Aguilera or the 2012 Scion tC. In case of the former, we'll leave it up to the folks at TMZ to tell you why. In the case of the latter, a cautious redesign and some worthy new rivals haven't done the tC many favors.
During the mid-2000s, the tC was one of the most popular affordable coupes on the road. Yet like most things that are attractive to young shoppers, the tC's popularity waned over time. The second-generation tC, introduced last year, is intended to recapture some of the model's former fame. Indeed, there is a lot to like here with the latest tC, including an attractive value proposition, hatchback versatility and snappy performance. The tC also takes into account the younger generation's affinity for electronics with a standard audio system designed specifically for an iPod.
Although the tC has a number of overtly sporty touches (such as a beefy flat-bottomed steering wheel and well-bolstered seats), it's more show than go. Even the new Release Series 7.0, with its aggressively styled body kit, is no hard-edged sports machine. That said, the 2012 Scion tC's combination of broad power delivery, pleasant driving dynamics and supple ride will likely appeal to a broader spectrum of drivers than would something with a peaky engine and stiff underpinnings.
Then there's its styling, which was a big reason for the tC's early popularity. We wonder if the 2012 model is fresh and exciting enough to be considered cool. We'll let you decide, but the fact remains that the 2012 Scion tC still has plenty of appeal. We would still suggest checking out some other competitors, including the Honda Civic coupe and Kia Forte Koup. The all-new Hyundai Veloster is also worth serious consideration given its innovative three-door design and superior feature content, but the practical yet enjoyable 2012 Scion tC has plenty to recommend it, despite its existence out of the spotlight.
The 2012 Scion tC is a compact, five-passenger hatchback coupe available in two trim levels: base and Release Series 7.0.
The base tC comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a panoramic sunroof, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, reclining and folding 60/40-split rear seats, driver track and seatback angle memory (for rear seat access), and an eight-speaker Pioneer sound system with CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB interface and RCA output jacks. Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity is also standard this year.
The Release Series 7.0, of which only 2,200 will be made, comes exclusively in "High Voltage" yellow and adds a lower body kit, black 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition/entry and yellow-accented black upholstery.
Aside from an automatic transmission, there are no factory options. However, there are a number of dealer-installed items, including a navigation system, satellite radio, upgraded audio, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, seven-color interior mood lighting, remote ignition, a cargo cover, foglights and a rear spoiler.
Though the tC isn't especially sporty to drive, the interior does its best to indicate otherwise. The rim of the flat-bottomed steering wheel is incredibly thick, as if pulled from a racecar. The controls are canted toward the driver and the very comfortable front seats are nicely bolstered. These aspects of the interior might be a bit contrived, but they work well. Unfortunately, the interior is filled with hard, flimsy plastics that seem cheaper than those found in the cabins of the competition. In particular, the center armrest is rock hard.
Yet the tC does have notable advantages. Cargo space is one, as the tC's hatchback design and folding rear seat create a relatively cavernous cargo area that puts other compact coupes to shame. The rear seats also recline and feature impressive legroom, meaning even 6-footers can sit back there. Front seat room is also generous.
Scion identifies the stereo as a key attribute for young drivers, and as such, the tC gets a standard head unit that would easily be an upgrade (or not available at all) in its rivals. Its iPod interface is especially impressive, as a large knob mimics the iPod's ring wheel, allowing the user to control volume and explore the various menu items displayed on the sizable screen. An upgraded head unit with an even larger screen and navigation capability is also available.
The 2012 Scion tC is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine good for 180 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional.
In performance testing, a tC with a manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, while a tC with an automatic did it in 8 flat; both are quick for the compact coupe and hatchback class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined regardless of transmission. These are respectable numbers, but most other competing models are notably more fuel-efficient.
The 2012 Scion tC can best be described as "urban agile," meaning a car that's responsive and involving enough to keep you entertained when comfortably commuting around town, but not so sporty that you'd relish driving it on a back road somewhere. The steering doesn't provide much feel, and the stability control has a tendency to kick in frequently during aggressive driving. The Scion tC won't put you to sleep, but you will have more fun in other coupes.
Meanwhile, the 180-hp four-cylinder engine provides good power for the class, especially down low in the rev range. If you're game for shifting your own gears, the six-speed manual is the best choice, as the engine accelerates significantly quicker and doesn't seem to suffer from the rather agricultural droning that plagues it when the automatic transmission is in place.
The 2012 Scion tC comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front knee airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front headrests. In Edmunds.com brake testing, the tC came to a stop from 60 mph in a respectable 123 feet.
In government crash testing, the tC received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the tC earned the highest score of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
For 2012, the Scion tC gets an upgraded base audio system, which features Bluetooth audio streaming and HD radio capability. The limited-edition Release Series 7.0 also debuts, sporting flashy yellow paint, a body kit and keyless ignition/entry.