2007 Scion tC Review – Sporty Little Coupe That Won't Break Your Bank Account

Monday August 6th, 2007 at 12:88 AM
Posted by: AKramer

by Alex Kramer

Scion tC sport coupe

Introduction

Ten years ago I wouldn’t have considered buying any car that wasn’t small, sleek, and sporty. If you couldn’t throw it around a cloverleaf at 50+ miles an hour with a grin plastered to your face, I wasn’t interested. Nowadays, I look for more mundane, practical features when car shopping, such as cargo space, air bags, fuel economy, etc. But every now and then I wish I could throw practicality out the window and buy a car just because it’s fun. Enter the Scion tC. Can Scion satisfy with this hip and sporty little coupe?

Pros:

  • Understated yet attractive styling
  • Peppy engine and slick shifter
  • Solid suspension and smooth ride
  • Toyota build quality
  • Great value

Cons:

  • All-season tires loose traction way too quickly
  • Diminutive rear seat and trunk
  • Overall style is bit too conservative

Driving Impressions

Although I was only able to test drive the tC for a few hours, most of that time was spent on some narrow twisty backroads in the Santa Cruz mountains. After throwing the car around some tight turns and punching the throttle up some steep hills, the one word that describes the tC best is solid. For a car that is priced under 20 grand, the level of composure and refinement is striking. Where most other affordable compacts start to buck and bounce when the road gets bumpy and the speed goes up, the tC handles each dip and weave with aplomb. If you closed your eyes you might even think that you’re in a more upscale coupe, such as an Acura TSX or Audi A4, which is a nice compliment, but it also indicates that the tC isn’t the unrefined pocket rocket that some might desire it to be.

Scion tC sport coupe Scion tC sport coupe - door panel Scion tC sport coupe - back seat headroom

Build

As soon as you open a door or touch a nob or switch, there is no mistaking that this is car is built by Toyota. Everything has a solid feel to it, with no cheap plastics or other cost concessions that scream “this car costs less than 20 grand!” In fact, I’ve been in quite a few more expensive cars that had bigger gaps between the doors and more rattles from under the dash.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

For front seat passengers, the Scion is the perfect little coupe. The seats are supportive and the controls are arranged to be both functional and stylish. Move to the rear seat and it’s an entirely different story. Headroom is practically non-existent and your shoulders will feel scrunched in the hollowed out bucket seats. The rear trunk is also quite small, even for a 2-door coupe, and don’t be surprised if even a moderate size suitcase barely fits.

Scion tC sport coupe Scion tC sport coupe

Performance

For a car that weighs over 3,000 lbs and only comes with a 4-cylinder engine, this little coupe has a surprising amount of scoot. If you’re doing 35 mph and need to pass someone, just punch the throttle and you’ll be at 50 in no time, which shows that careful attention was paid to maximizing not just horsepower, but also torque. Having owned several other small 4-cylinder cars where you’d need to keep the engine at close to redline to get any decent acceleration, this was a nice surprise. The 5-speed manual transmission is also a treat, with smooth, effortless shifting at any speed.

Handling

Given that the tC weighs over 3,000 lbs, handling is obviously not going to be in Mini Cooper territory. Combine this relatively high curb weight with cheap all-season Yokohama tires and a suspension that is tuned more for ride quality than all out performance, and you have a less than thrilling combination, especially at the limits. Having said that, the tC handles the twisties quite well, so long as you keep it at about 8/10. Try to gain those last few tenths of performance and you’ll easily induce understeer and start to slide around quite a bit. Although this is fun, in a Tokyo Drift kind of way, it’s also dangerous and actually slows you down.

Scion tC sport coupe - speedometer

Styling

The metallic maroon color of our test model is quite striking, and makes for a nice initial visual impression. The standard 17 inch alloy rims also help set the car apart from most other compacts, including Toyota’s own Corolla. However, the tC’s exterior design errs a bit too much on the conservative side, in my opinion, especially for a car company that has marketed itself as being unique and edgy. Granted there are numerous options you can buy that would add some spice, such as larger rims/tires and body kits, but as is the tC is rather vanilla.

Value

This is where the tC really shines. With a base sticker price well under $20,000 and lots of features that come standard, as well as lots more that can be added, the tC is a steal. I can’t think of any other car that even comes close. You can get other compacts that have more performance (Honda Civic SI, VW GTI, Mini Cooper S), but each of those will set you back at least a couple grand more. The few others that are comparable in price (Cobalt SS, Pontiac G5) don’t have the build quality or reliability. If I were a young 19 year old, working part time at Starbucks, saving every penny for that sweet first car, the tC would be the perfect choice.

Scion tC sport coupe

Who should buy it?

With an attractive sticker price, solid performance, and options galore, the Scion tC is obviously aimed at the younger crowd. However, given the Toyota reliability and excellent overall value, I’m guessing Scion will be selling quite a few of these little coupes to older, more mature customers looking for a fun car for little cash.

Build

Interior

Performance

Handling

Styling

Value

Overall

Rating

4.5

4.0

4.5

4.0

4.0

5.0

4.5/A-

An appreciative thank-you goes to Stevens Creek Scion for graciously providing the Scion tC demo car. This review would not have been possible without their support and help.

stevens creek scion

stevens creek scion contact

www.scion.com

>> See all of the Scion tC pictures in our photo gallery

>> Read the Scion tC consumer reviews submitted by the CarReview.com community

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