Sure, the FR-S grabs the lion's share of attention when talk turns to Scion these days. But after the xB micro-van gave Scion its foothold a decade ago, the tC quickly became a popular coupe purchase for buyers looking for extra style and performance. The updated 2014 Scion tC doesn't stray far from this formula.
Considering the FR-S's popularity, it's perhaps no surprise to see the 2014 tC adopting similar styling cues, such as a more aggressive front fascia, a more sculpted hood and new wheels. There are also upgrades inside the cabin. A 6.1-inch touchscreen now comes standard with the tC's sound system, as do steering wheel audio controls and Bluetooth. Those conveniences are certainly appreciated; however, an abundance of hard plastic trim doesn't exactly enhance the cabin's ambience.
Under the hood, the tC's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine actually loses 1 horsepower, down to 179 hp now. But more notable this year is the revised automatic transmission that shifts more quickly and now rev-matches downshifts. This latter feature makes for smoother, virtually imperceptible downshifts and also provides a slight performance gain. Scion has also retuned the car's suspension and steering and stiffened the body structure with the goal of making the car feel sportier and more enjoyable to drive.
Meanwhile, the affordable tC still boasts a roomy interior fitted with plenty of standard equipment and an overall character that's more relaxed, comfortable and approachable than the FR-S. Granted, although the tC provides a fairly sporty drive, you'll still want to get something like the FR-S or a Mini Cooper if you want a car with truly razor-sharp, ultimately involving handling. But among competitors like the Kia Forte, Honda Civic, Hyundai Veloster and Volkswagen Beetle, the 2014 Scion tC is a solid pick for a fun and quick compact car.
The 2014 Scion tC is a compact, five-passenger hatchback coupe offered in a base trim level and a special edition "10 Series."
Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a panoramic sunroof, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-trimmed tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, reclining and folding 60/40-split rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker Pioneer sound system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface.
The limited-production 10 Series adds unique silver paint, 18-inch dark-finished alloy wheels, projector beam headlamps, illuminated badges, LED accent lighting, an illuminated "Scion" center console panel and premium stitching on the seats and steering wheel.
A wide section of dealer-sourced accessories is also available, including 19-inch wheels, performance parts for the suspension and drivetrain, and an upgraded BeSpoke touchscreen audio system. The BeSpoke system includes navigation functionality and smartphone Aha app integration for connected audio and social media services.
Like its updated outward appearance, the tC has an interior design that evokes a sporty personality. From the thick, flat-bottom steering wheel, cradling seat bolsters, and controls canted toward the driver, the tC strives for a high-performance sports car feel. The cabin's ambience is sullied somewhat by the abundance of cheap plastic trim and thinly padded armrests.
From the standpoint of practicality, the tC is one of your better choices. The rear seats have above-average legroom, and getting in and out of the back is pretty easy by coupe standards. Behind the rear seats the tC can hold up to 14.7 cubic feet of luggage, while folding the rear seat yields additional cargo space. The hatchback body style also means it's easier to load bulky items in the tC than it is for traditional coupes like the Civic or Hyundai Elantra.
In years past, Scions stood out for their above-average sound systems, but for 2014 the playing field is much more level. That said, the optional BeSpoke audio system is worth the money considering that it provides a navigation system and smartphone integration that connects Internet radio, Yelp and other popular social media applications.
The front-wheel-drive 2014 Scion tC has a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that generates 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, while a six-speed automatic -- now with a rev-matched downshift feature -- is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, a tC with a manual transmission covered zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. An automatic did the same sprint in 7.8 seconds, both respectably quick times for this class of car.
The tC returns EPA-estimated fuel economy of 23 city/31 highway and 26 combined mpg regardless of transmission. These are decent numbers, but many competitors do even better.
The 2014 Scion tC's 179-hp four-cylinder engine makes good power for the class, especially at lower rpm. If you're up for shifting your own gears, the six-speed manual is a good choice, as it's easy to operate. But the more popular automatic is just fine, especially this year given its ability to execute smoother, quicker shifts.
Around city streets, the tC is entertaining to drive, and the ride quality is pretty smooth. This year's suspension and steering tweaks have bolstered the tC's performance credentials. Well-weighted, precise steering and the car's light-on-its-tires nature make it enjoyable to drive through turns.
Standard safety features on the 2014 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 stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average distance among its class.
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 moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side impact and roof-strength tests.
The 2014 Scion tC adopts new styling cues, some upgraded interior features, an improved automatic transmission and a retuned chassis. There's also a special 10th anniversary model.