Last year, Adam had the chance to attend the special launch of the 2011 Scion tC in Austin, Texas. He had the opportunity to spend a little time in different models of the tC, powering this little coupe through the hills and twisties in and around Austin, and published a great First Drive write-up of the car. Now, I get this car for a full week to see what it’s really all about in an everyday driving environment.
Let me first start by saying that I am and always will be a V8 muscle car fan. Those that follow me on twitter and know me, know my daily driver is a 2008 Ford Mustang California Special – with a little Mach1 treatment, and a few other surprises that you’ll never know about unless you are brave enough find out for yourself. More to the point, I’ve never really been a big fan of the compact car, front-wheel drive, 4 cylinder engine craze. So when I get the opportunity to drive something like this tC for a week, I try and keep in mind that it’s never going to be as powerful as a muscle car, (after all, there’s no replacement for displacement) but it might be just as fun for half the price.
Let’s start off with the looks of the Scion tC. It definitely has the traditional coupe profile with a clean hatchback that allows easy loading of stuff. As we wrote about in the first drive, the new tC styling is made to be more masculine, and it shows. The lines are bolder and more aggressive, but with some of the styling coming out of companies like Hyundai and Kia, I was hoping for a little more from this Scion. Even down to the headlights and taillights, I was just expecting more. One thing that you do get out of the tC that you can’t get in its competition is the full glass roof, and that’s standard on all models. It’s a great touch if you can handle the Texas summers in a greenhouse of a car, but I’d still like to see more style from Scion going into this car.
This is an inexpensive coupe, and as so, you won’t see much as far as luxury inside. What it does have inside that we love is a 6-speed manual transmission. The cloth seats were slightly bolstered and comfortable, and the rear seats had plenty of room to fit some friends back there, even some bigger Texas guys. The rear seat angle can be adjusted to lean back more and helps with headroom for the taller passengers, but it’s still a 2 door coupe, and anything behind the driver is always a compromise. One of the things that we talked a lot about in this car from our first drive was the stereo. In this car we had the better, base head-unit that pushed 300 watts out of the 8 speakers. I’m really not sure if it was just something with the adjustments in this car, but it never really sounded as good as I was hoping from reading our first drive review.
The engine in the tC comes from the Toyota Camry. It’s a 2.5 liter engine pushing 180 horsepower and 174 ft-lbs of torque. This car didn’t have any TRD goodies attached to it, but it still handled itself well. The engine was peppy for the size of car you are driving and the cornering was done with ease thanks to the wider track performance-tuned steering, and larger brakes. As we said earlier, the model that we are in is equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. This helps with the sporty feel, and Scion claim that 30% of all tC’s sold will be with a manual transmission. You can get the tC in an automatic transmission too, that comes in a 6-speed as well, but we’ll stick with a stick.
The Honda Civic just isn’t doing it for us much these days. When you look at the 1.8 liter engine producing 140 horsepower, that’s 40 less than the tC. Also if you opt for the manual transmission in the Civic, unless you move up to the Si model, you are stuck with only a 5-Speed. When you look at options and pricing, you see you can get a base Civic for about $3,000 less than the tC, but if you want to jump into something that compares more with the tC in terms of performance, then you’ll be paying much more.
The Kia Forte Koup has surprised me more and more. If you read our first drive of the Forte 5, you’ll know that it’s everything we wanted the Civic to be. What about the Forte compared to the Scion? For starters, the 2.4 liter engine in the Forte gives you 171 hp. Still down on the tC, but much closer than the Civic. The Forte Koup looks good, but it’s still not out there styling wise. The price is more on par with the tC starting at $17k for a base Koup.
So what about the Genesis Coupe? First let’s hit the new Veloster. This is a crazy styled 3-door coupe with a hatch that is going to make a new mark on the compact coupe segment. The starting price should be well below the tC, and still give you great standard features. What we are not sure of yet is how sporty this car will be. The few initial reviews we’ve seen from journalist lucky enough to have already driven it question the performance side as well. On the other hand, you still have the Genesis Coupe as an option. Yes, the base price for a 2.0t is about $4,000 more than that of the tC, but if you are looking for a great looking sporty coupe, just see if it’s worth it. You get a rear-wheel-drive platform, six-speed manual transmission, and 210 horsepower. So if you can swing the extra dough, this might be the car you really want.
So what are people really buying? The tC was renewed to help revive the Scion brand. With struggling sales, Scion needs something to spark some excitement into the brand, yet they have already reduced their forecasted sales numbers for the year. When Hyundai and Kia are doing great in sales and Scion can’t seem to get a foot in, what’s next? Well you might just want to wait on the FR-S, the front-engine, rear-wheel drive sport coupe. Toyota has been developing this car for a while now, and you can read lots about it here, but this might just really be the car you want.