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Can you be cool and practical? Skinny jeans and high-heeled shoes would indicate otherwise, but the Scion tC proves that it just might be possible. It certainly seems pretty cool, with a coupe body style, sharp looks and a variety of customization opportunities for younger buyers accustomed to getting things the way they want them. Scion has also frequently updated the tC's audio systems, which has given it a leg up as iPods and iPhones have gradually taken over the world.
At the same time, however, the tC's coupelike roof line masks hatchback utility with its impressive cargo capacity and a surprisingly spacious backseat. Moving dorm rooms or taking your friends out on the town is consequently much easier with the tC than it is with traditional coupes. This ability to be both cool and practical is indeed the tC's primary appeal, although sharing a reputation for reliability with Toyota (Scion's parent company) is also a compelling attraction.
Used Scion tC Models
The current-generation tC debuted for 2011. The following year brought standard Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, as well as the Release Series 7.0 that sported flashy yellow paint, a body kit, black wheels and keyless ignition and entry. For 2013 there was the similarly themed but very red Release Series 8.0, whose highlights also included a sport-tuned suspension, a center-exit exhaust and, for those fitted with the automatic transmission, paddle shifters. Although otherwise similar, note that these tCs lack the current version's updates that include revised styling with a much more aggressive face, an improved automatic transmission (with rev-matched downshifts) and slightly retuned suspension and steering systems.
The first-generation Scion tC was produced from 2005-'10. Like the current car, it was a two-door hatchback coupe with five seats and a single trim level. Standard equipment included 17-inch wheels, air-conditioning, split-folding-and-reclining rear seats, keyless entry, full power accessories with one-touch power windows, a dual-pane sunroof, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a premium sound system. An iPod interface was added for 2008, making the tC one of the first vehicles to get such a feature.
A considerable number of optional features and accessories (from the factory or dealer-installed) were available on the Scion coupe. Most notable was the airbag package with side and head curtain airbags, so make sure to note whether a used tC is so equipped. Other mods included interior and exterior styling add-ons, 18-inch wheels, audio system head unit upgrades and Toyota Racing Development (TRD) performance parts.
Power came from a strong 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine good for 161 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual was standard and a four-speed automatic was optional. Fuel economy was one of the tC's detriments, with an EPA combined rating of 24 mpg for the automatic -- about the same that most midsize sedans offer. There was a dealer-installed TRD supercharger available that raised engine output to 200 hp.
Inside, this tC's layout was very similar to that of the current car, with a roomy reclining backseat and generous hatchback trunk. There wasn't as much front seat legroom, however, and the steering wheel did not telescope. The tC's cabin had an upscale look and feel thanks to high-quality materials (for the time and class) and metallic-look trim pieces. An elegant "waterfall"-style center stack flowed into the center console, with a panel that covered up whichever of the many available stereo faceplates were affixed to the car.
In Scion tC reviews, our editors commented that this tC was enjoyable to drive, though hardly a sport coupe. Although its acceleration figures weren't stunning, the tC was quick enough for typical urban use. As with the current car, we were most impressed by its ability to be both stylish and practical, noting it was an ideal car for the youthful demographic for which it was intended.
This original tC changed very little during its run. However, there were minor exterior and interior updates made for 2008 -- including the addition of an iPod-specific interface. There were several updates made to the available stereo systems over the years as well, along with new items added to the extensive optional features list. A decontented, tuner-intended version known as the Spec was available for a few model years (ending in 2008) and could easily be picked out of a crowd by its unique paint colors and badge-less grille. The Release Series 6.0 for 2010 looked similar, but it actually had more equipment than the norm.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new Scion tC page.