There are sports cars, and there are sporty cars. Sports cars have all of the performance to go along with their evocative styling, while sporty cars just look the part. Even though it boasts rather quick acceleration, the 2013 Scion tC falls into the sporty category, as it doesn't quite deliver the type of driving entertainment that its sleek exterior would suggest. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
While the Scion tC doesn't rail through corners with the agility offered by its new Scion FR-S stablemate, it also doesn't require the sort of sacrifices in terms of features and comfort that a car like the FR-S demands. The tC's softer suspension tuning makes for a comfortable and smooth ride while providing just enough cornering fun at low speeds. For many people, the tC's long list of standard features and roomy rear quarters will be more valuable than the grin-inducing responsiveness of its sibling.
The 2013 Scion tC isn't the only sporty coupe or hatchback worth looking at, however. The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe and 2013 Hyundai Veloster are worth serious consideration thanks to their superior fuel economy and value. The Volkswagen Beetle offers more distinctive styling and greater refinement, though it can't match the Scion's utility. And while the Honda Civic coupe isn't quite the gold standard it used to be, it's still an appealing small car. But overall, the tC is worthy of consideration for the youthful driver who puts a premium on style and features rather than pure performance.
The 2013 Scion tC is a compact, five-passenger hatchback coupe that is offered in two trim levels: base and Release Series 8.0.
Standard features include 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), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker Pioneer sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB interface and RCA output jacks.
The limited-production RS 8.0 (only 2,000 will be made) gets different 18-inch wheels, a lowered suspension, an aerodynamic body kit, sport center-exit exhaust, paddle shifters (automatic transmission) and special interior trim.
Aside from an automatic transmission, there are no factory options. However, there are a number of dealer-installed items including satellite radio, upgraded audio, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, seven-color interior mood lighting, remote ignition, a cargo cover, foglights and a rear spoiler.
As with the exterior, the 2013 Scion tC's interior gives off the appearance of a sporty car. The rim of the thick-rimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel looks as though it was pulled from a racecar, while controls are canted toward the driver and the well-bolstered seats further lend an air of sportiness. 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 Scion tC does have notable advantages. Cargo space is one, as the tC's hatchback design can accommodate up to 14.7 cubic feet of stuff and the folding rear seat creates 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.
In an effort to play to the younger demographic, the Scion tC's standard sound system features a wealth of features that are offered as options on some of its rivals. Unfortunately, the layout of the controls isn't all that intuitive and poorly labeled. The optional BeSpoke audio upgrade remedies this with a large touchscreen interface and also adds social media connectivity through Facebook and Twitter.
The front-wheel-drive 2013 Scion tC is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine that produces 180 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional.
In Edmunds 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 2013 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 car accelerates significantly more quickly and the engine doesn't suffer from the rather agricultural droning that plagues it when the automatic transmission is in place.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Scion tC include 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 123 feet, which is average for this segment.
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.
A new Release Series 8.0 trim debuts for the 2013 Scion tC.