I have owned my car for 5 years and have had the manual transmission input shaft bearing replaced twice in 58,000 miles at $3,000 a piece. Noisy cabin and rough ride. Interior door panels and sunroof rattle a lot. Motor is great. If you buy this car make sure it is a automatic transmission.
My particular model is a 2014 with a Six-speed manual. I have had it since the late spring of 2014. My choices were down to three cars: the 2014 Corolla S manual, the Scion FR-S and the tC. My criteria was relatively simple, first it HAD to be a manual. Secondly, it had to have decent cargo room. During my test drives, the Corolla was crossed off. While it is a good car with some incredible features and nice looks, Toyota gears the manual paired with its 1.8L more for fuel economy, so the gear range is spaced rather widely apart and I wasn't as keen on its very high revving engine. The FR-S had good performance and very good gear selection. But while it is a good car for somebody who can garage it during the winter, it doesn't make the most practical machine where my average commute to work is about 20 miles and measurable snowfall is a possibility from November to May. So I settled on this. As a plus, the tC is a hatchback, which I prefer to trunks.
Performance-wise, it is not an FR-S, but the power to weight ratio of the car is very good for its size. The 2.5L engine is the exact same unit found on the Camry and it is the closest thing to a bullet-proof engine you can find. Problems with this powerplant are very rare and it has a 10,000 mile oil change interval with Synthetic oil from the factory. It uses a timing chain instead of a belt, so it will easily go over 100,000 miles with only the chain tensioner needing to be adjusted once in a while (all this meaning lower cost of maintenance). The shift throws feel very good, as does the clutch pedal. Because it is a front wheel drive, it tends to under-steer a little bit while under power, but you can still drive it like a knucklehead if you wish to. At the same time, it calms down nice for long road trips. Gas mileage is not as good as a Camry even with the same engine due to how it has been geared, but if you stick to non-ethanol regular gas and/or premium it hits the target MPG numbers nicely. In my case, short shifting helps to gain a little more MPG in the city, so I tend to average right around 29.5 to 30 MPG for my mixed road commutes (even with the AC on and going full blast).
Seat comfort is very good IMHO, mainly because Toyota put about the same amount of padding in these seats as the Camrys and what I like most is I have enough room to stretch out and adjust my posture in the seat a little during long drives. By comparison the FR-S seat, while comfortable, is form fitting like a fighter cockpit and I can only tolerate that for so long. Rear seat comfort is excellent As for the factory Pioneer sound system... put it on the "Powerful" setting and it will make you feel like you are in a live concert. Trust me, include testing out the sound system as part of your test drive and it will probably win you over. Others might complain about the interior and dash being "cheap plastic" but I will give Toyota credit, after two years of use it has not developed any rattles or squeaks. Road noise is not excessive in my example and I like how the engine sounds at highway speeds. After 10 years of use, it will probably be the same. One extra I splurged for during purchase was the BeSpoke Audio, which gives me Aha and a factory navigation system. Aha works well, but I seldom use the internet radio because it is a real data hog. Instead, I have nearly 3000 tunes loaded onto two memory sticks, which I alternate in the standard USB port. The navigation feature works great and is easy to understand/use.
I have only encountered two drawbacks with my tC. First, the nose sits a little low, so be careful if you go up a steep driveway or park near a curb to avoid scrapes. Secondly, while the tires are good for all-season use, major snowfall or snow with ice underneath can cause problems as they are NOT snow tires. You can get around, but plan your driving route accordingly.
If you go for a used tC, the 14 through 16 models are pretty much identical for the most part. The 16 adds a smart key with push-button start and a rear window wiper (both first offered on the 2014 limited production Monogram series tC). I am considering trading in my 14 for a 16 so I can get these features. The 16's radio has a 7 inch touch screen and to do it, they sacrificed the CD player. In my case, it should be possible to swap in my 2014 radio since the 16 doesn't have a backup camera. Other than that, the engine, wheels, body, moonroof and interior are identical. If you shop for used, get a Certified one with a good maintenance history and the added warranty coverage (it will likely have new tires as well). A new one will give you standard Scion Boost/Toyota Care with 2 years, 25,000 mile paid maintenance. Not sure what Scion going away in 2017 will do to resale values, but mechanically the car is as solid as any Toyota and can last decades with proper maintenance while looking good as well.
Some people get pretty basic first cars, and there's nothing wrong with that. I was lucky to get something a little more than that. The 2014 tC has seen a pretty drastic exterior styling change from 2013, and while some say its bland (how?), I think it's just what this car needed. The lines are sharp and aggressive, and takes several styling cues from the F-rs. While the front grille and rear diffuser are nice, it really is a bit too much plastic. The wheels are also very nice. The interior is very well laid out, and the standard touch-screen display is great, but again, a little too much plastic. The ride is pretty good for its class, the acceleration is good, and the steering is above avg.
Touch-screen pioneer display, good transmission, perfectly weighted clutch, comfortable seating position, well laid out interior, steering wheel controls, very nice standard wheels, cool headlights, Led's, awesome panoramic sunroof w/ moon roof, excellent rear seat room, decent acceleration, lots of accessories (be careful not to spend too much!)
Cut back on the plastic trim on the interior, replace the plastic grille upfront with a metal mesh grille, give the steering a little more feel, while the clutch is good for beginners it needs more "feel" to it, add some color options to the interior.