2006 Scion tC
2006 Scion tC Expert Review: Autoblog
At last the Scion tC is here. After reading countless reviews about this
coupe it's finally here in the Autoblog Garage. The dark blue coupe is quite
striking in person. I'm continually impressed with the Scion color palette
and the blue is a complimentary hue to the European body of the tC.
Taking a long walk around the tC there are a few things that are immediately
First is the snub nose and tear shaped headlights a la BMW. It
is quite a striking look and unlike anything else in the price range. The
rear end and its large taillights are a mixture of Euro and Japanese tastes.
Once you get inside the quality feel everyone talks about becomes evident.
First the door closes with a heavy thunk, perhaps too heavy. This is a far
heavier door than an economy coupe should have and feels more like the GTO’s. The test car’s driver side door also features a loud creak when opening and closing. Not a good first sign. More noises will pop up as we go on.
The brushed aluminum
gauges are perhaps the
nicest I’ve seen on any car
regardless of price. When lit up with a subtle amber glow they’re even more
attractive. This is the time when the multiple colors on the stereo make no
sense. I have mine set to matching amber so the clock, a/c, gauges and
stereo all match. The look is very nice, very elegant.
The rest of the interior is equally as nice, although not as striking as the
gauges. The seats are very supportive and the nice cloth fabric seems like
it will bear well over time. The plastic has a weird wood-like grain to it.
A little funky but not horrible. Then there’s the roof. When I first heard
there were dual sun roofs I assumed they both opened. Then I read only one
did and I couldn’t figure out what the point was. To give your friends
something to stare at when they’re crammed in the back seat? The roofs
definitely take away from much needed head room. I’m almost touching the
ceiling with the seat down as low as possible and I’m only 5’ 10.5.
So I’m grumbling about the roof for a second and realize something. This is
pretty close to a targa top. You know, targa like a Porsche. Then I look a
bit more and realize it really is an amazing feature for a $17,000 car. Now
I’m really ready to drive it.
Now that I've gotten a few miles under my belt in the
tC I feel a bit more comfortable commenting on the
performance of this sharp little coupe. In almost every arena the tC is a winner.
Handling is perhaps the car's best attribute. Cornering is sharp, the steering precise and when you're throwing the tC around some twisting roads a smile crosses the face.
I’m also pleasantly surprised by the engine and transmission. The manual is very smooth and has the feel of
something more sedate, like a Honda Civic. But the clutch and engine it’s mated too offer much more torque and power
than the Honda. My only complaint with the powertrain is a clinking sound after shifting and sometimes after mild
acceleration. At first I thought it might be the transmission but then it started making noise even when I was in gear
and just used more gas. Maybe a loose muffler? No it seems tightly in place. The mystery remains.
The car feels solid despite the odd clink and rattle here and there. But I’m surprised at the noises since the less substantial feeling xB was free of any such complaints.
As others have said the seating position isn’t perfect. But the way I have it set-up is ideal for serious driving and the seats are very cozy. My left foot doesn’t rest well on the clutch pedal which is actually positioned lower than the brake pedal. I’m not sure if this is because of the aftermarket pedals that are installed but it should be lined up with the brake pedal to make the shifting more comfortable.
I’ll take to the highway in tomorrow’s report and shoot some more images of the roof, cargo area etc. Read Day 1 here.
Hitting the highway in the tC you'll notice noise right away. Sure there's the standard road noise that is expected in any non-luxury car these days, but what surprised me was the unusual amount of wind noise for such an aerodynamic looking vehicle. The wind howled during a morning drive on the tollway and the sun roof did continue to rattle when closed. I shut the sunroof covers, one of the few flimsy touches to the car, to keep the noise out and that helped a bit.
Handling on the highway was very nice. Taking banks at high speed is a joy and at no time does the handling hesitate to sparkle. The tC continues to feel solid under foot and through the wheel while the suspension quiets bumps admirably. Out of the tollway gate I abused the clutch and the tires chirped going into second. I tried again later in the day on a suburban road but this time I wasn’t as harsh. I was rewarded with very pleasant acceleration to 60 mph. Scion did the performance part of the car right even if it isn’t mind numbingly fast. We’ll have to investigate what the available supercharger will do to the top speed.
The cargo room is also a real bonus (photo). While the hatch isn’t very deep, easy to flip down rear seats offer enough room for large objects, like the new desk chair I bought at the local office store. Unlike some readers, I still find the majority of the interior materials of very high quality and would rate them up there with Volkswagen.
An update on the creaky driver’s side door: I noticed the rubber around the bottom of the window was warped as shown in the picture below. I think either the car was in an accident, explaining the creaking, or the entire door itself was defective from the factory. I’d guess accident.
Ending my time with the Scion tC and reading through the numerous reader write-ins (that weren't jabs at VW for some reason) it seems the vehicle's greatest asset is value and not its considerable performance. Although some will say that performance works its way into the value column as well.
During my week in the tC I was continually surprised by the numerous features the $17,000 coupe had hidden everywhere. The automatic windows for both driver and passenger, both up and down, were terrific and should be in every car with power windows. The headlights turned off automatically which was a welcome treat. I don’t think I can live without them now either, especially as winter approaches and daylight hours are short.
The dual sunroofs were really cool and I wish I had more friends to fill the back seats and more sunny days to fully enjoy them. Spacious cargo room was also a bonus and the fold flat rear seats were a snap to lower and raise. Little things like a padded armrest and lit cubby hole (to find change on tollways at night!) are what really endear the tC to everyday drivers and not strict car enthusiasts.
However, if I were in the market for an affordable car to equip with performance goodies it would be the tC. Right off the lot there is already considerable performance value in the engine and even more in the suspension. You wouldn’t have to upgrade wheels or tires for a while either. In fact the first thing I would buy would be the factory or dealer installed supercharger. Not voiding the warranty on something like that would also influence the purchasing decision for me.
Oddly enough my one pet peeve with the Scion line is the stereo choice. Yes it is nice to have a standard 6-disc changer and all that power. But when it sounds like a muddy mess playing 75% of my discs what’s the point? None of the CDs I selected sounded crisp or clear on any of the settings. Often you have to turn up the volume to a high level to get a decent quality and in the end I was listening to talk radio so I could take note of all the creaks and clanks the sunroof and undercarriage was making. I think a quick trip to the dealer would probably fix the noise issues from a mechanical standpoint. But I’d have to take a trip to Circuit City to fix the stereo problem, and that would be coming out of my own wallet. For a line that is so in tune with buyers that value music I’m shocked they have really missed the quality of the sound the Pioneer stereo produces in their vehicles.
But considering everything you get for your money in the tC, having a custom stereo set-up might be the first order of business and wouldn’t really bother me as a buyer. The supercharger still might trump the stereo in order of “necessity.”
New Car Test Drive
High-quality, affordable sport coupe.
The Scion tC is an affordably priced but well-equipped coupe that benefits from Toyota's attention to quality, durability and reliability. Though inexpensive, it is anything but cheap. The body panels fit tight and straight, and quality construction is evident.
The engine is quiet, smooth, and plenty powerful, and the car is surprisingly quiet underway. Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine generates 160 horsepower and gets an EPA-rated 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Steering, ride quality and handling are commendable. Its four-wheel disc brakes are powerful, and ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution come standard. A full array of airbags is available to enhance safety.
Interior materials are first-rate, and attention to detail is evident. The bucket seats are comfortable and there's enough room to suit tall drivers. A 160-watt stereo is standard and, the 2006 tC gets a host of audio upgrades including compatibility with that latest must-have accessory: the Apple iPod. The tC offers a menu of options that allow owners to build cars unique to their tastes. The tC was launched as an all-new nameplate for 2005, so there are no major changes for 2006.
The Scion tC ($16,200) comes with all the major comfort and convenience items built in, including air conditioning, power steering, brakes, locks and mirrors, a tilt wheel, a 160-watt Pioneer AM/FM/6CD, sport bucket seats with cloth seating and position memory, two-tiered console, reclining front and rear seats, keyless entry, engine immobilizer, cargo cover, and a dozen other items.
Scion tC is powered by a 160-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It comes standard with a five-speed manual; a four-speed automatic is optional ($17,000).
Safety features include an optional side-impact and curtain air bag system ($650) designed to provide torso and head protection in a side impact, the latter the leading cause of death in side impacts. A knee airbag is standard, along with the mandated dual front airbags. Anti-lock brakes and Electronic Brake-force Distribution are standard.
An optional upgrade for 2006 models allows iPod users to control song selection through the car's stereo head unit.
More than 40 freestanding options are available, ranging from shift knobs to a supercharger kit good for 200 horsepower. Special Toyota Racing Development (TRD) items include 18- and 19-inch wheels, a lowering kit, struts and shock absorbers, rear anti-roll bar, a high-performance clutch, a quick shifter, a stainless steel muffler, and a shift-point indicator light kit.
The look of the Scion tC is one of purposeful performance. The somewhat bland styling of the Scion tC was intentional as it's supposed to offer a blank canvas for hot-rodders and customizers. It doesn't come with spoilers, rocker moldings or wings, but all the ingredients are there.
The panorama glass roof is an unexpected bonus in this price class, designed without gaskets for a tight, no-creaks fit. It filters 97 percent of UV rays and 100 percent of infrared to avoid sunburned occupants.
The doors are quite long for such a small car, and the door handles are of the reach-around-and-pull variety that we like. The long rear side window suggests a two-door sedan more than a hatchback coupe, and makes the design flow from front to rear gracefully. Wheel arches are exaggerated, suggesting that larger tires and wheels will be fitted as soon as the car is bought (or the buyer can opt for the 18- or 19-inch factory wheels and tires).
The body panels fit tight and straight, and quality leaks from every pore.
The Scion tC was the first true Scion and it remains the best of the bunch. Incidentally, while the other Scion models are named xA and xB, the tC is so named because xC would have infringed on Volvo's naming system.
Inside the Scion tC are first-rate materials. There aren't a lot of different grains and textures, and the swoopy brushed-metal center stack housing vents, sound system and climate control system, is a marvel of modern design. Everything fits together beautifully, works intuitively and looks great.
The front bucket seats look and feel like they were designed for racing, but that doesn't mean to say they're too narrow or too hard. We found them very comfortable, with enough fore/aft adjustment to suit tall American drivers regardless of age (including our tall and, shall we say, experienced correspondent). The driver's and shotgun seats can be reclined all the way down into what Scion calls a sleep position.
The rear seats recline through 10 stops and 45 degrees of recline to convert the interior into a conversation bin. With seats up, there's more than 26 inches of cargo length there; with the second seats dropped, almost 60 inches; and with the front passenger seat folded over, almost 104 inches of cargo length available.
Attention to detail is evident in the mechanical seat position memory on the front bucket seats, the 60/40 split folding rear seat, the dead pedal for the driver's left foot, fully closing vents, and a cover for the stereo faceplate.
The three-pod instrument panel is amber-illuminated, deeply tunneled and easy to use, day or night, as are the balance of the instruments and controls.
The Pioneer single CD system that comes standard features a user-customizable welcome screen, MP3 capability, four speakers and 160 watts. A 10-inch subwoofer is optional and XM Satellite Radio is available at extra cost. The head unit has been redesigned for 2006 with a knob for volume control, a welcome change. And all 2006 tCs get new steering wheels with audio controls built in.
The iPod upgrade allows owners of the nearly ubiquitous music player to not just listen to iPod tunes through their car speakers, but actually control song selection through the car's stereo head unit. If you don't have the extra cash or don't have an iPod, all tCs come with an auxiliary minijack on the console to allow you to listen to your own music through the car's speakers. However, it doesn't allow control of the player like the upgrade does.
The Scion tC is fun to drive. The engine is quiet, smooth, and plenty powerful in a 2900-pound car, and at full throttle, it sounds powerful without being intrusive, because it has a valved muffler that opens up at high rpm and can be worth as much as 5 horsepower.
The 2.4-liter double overhead cam, 16-valve engine is tuned to 160 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. This engine has been around Toyota in one form or another for many years and it has been continuously improved for power, torque, quietness and reliability. It comes with electronic variable valve timing for good low end torque development, and twin balance shafts for smoothness.
Choosing between the five-speed manual and four-speed automatic involves tradeoffs. The automatic is easier and, remarkably, more efficient, while the manual offers quicker acceleration performance. The gearing in the four-speed automatic means it's not the hot setup for drag racing, with an overall ratio of just over 10:1. The five-speed manual is nearly 15:1, delivering much quicker acceleration in first gear. However, the automatic does move out smartly. And it's obviously much easier to live with in the stop-and-go and slow-and-go, eliminating the need to exercise your left leg on the clutch pedal. Unlike most cars, the tC gets slightly better highway mileage with the automatic because the manual has a lower 4.235 axle ratio.
The steering, ride quality and overall handling of the Scion tC are commendable. Ride quality and stability are enhanced by its 106-inch wheelbase, longest in the class. It steers with a hefty touch, but accurate pointing, and transitions are easy and without drama. That's because the tC has a low-cost MacPherson strut front suspension coupled with an expensive independent double-wishbone rear suspension not found on many cars in this price class. Bridgestone Potenza tires are standard.
The brakes are quite powerful for a car this light. The pedal feel and travel is very much to our liking, with almost no dead space at the top of the pedal travel. The ventilated front and solid rear discs are generously sized (10.8 inches front, 10.6 inches rear) and, as mentioned, ABS and EBD come standard. ABS allows the driver to brake and steer in a panic braking situation; EBD automatically balances braking forces front to rear, improving stability under hard braking and helping reduce stopping distances.
The Scion tC delivers on the promise of stylish and sporty transportation at affordable prices. A long list of options and accessories let owners personalize it. It also offers a good foundation for owners who want to increase its performance capabilities.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw is based in Dearborn, Michigan.
Scion tC ($16,200).
Options As Tested
side and roof air bags ($650).
Scion tC ($16,200).
2006 Scion tC Information
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