2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Introduction
You’re looking at one of the most underrated cars available today. This is the scowling new face of the 2014 Scion tC, an affordable, dependable, practical, and safe entry-level car.
Now, if you’re thinking that those are super exciting characteristics that explain why nobody pays much attention to the tC, you should also know that the 2014 tC is genuinely fun to drive, impressively equipped, and impossibly roomy inside. Plus, it can be upgraded with a bunch of performance and personalization parts from the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) catalog.
True, the tC is no FR-S, the vehicle currently responsible for making the brand’s pulse detectable by the young buyers that Scion covets. But the tC saves a whopping five grand compared to that rear-drive sports car, and is cheaper to insure. When you’re a Millennial who has finally landed a decent-paying gig with benefits but is still drowning in student loan debt, and who wants to finally move out of Mom and Dad’s house, that lower price tag makes all the difference in the world.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Scion makes it really easy to buy a 2014 tC. Pick a transmission, pick a color, and you’re basically done. The base car costs $19,965 including the $755 destination charge. Add the automatic, which includes new Dynamic Rev Management technology for 2014, and the price rises by $1,000.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows with automatic operation on the driver’s side, power door locks with remote keyless entry, power mirrors with LED turn signal indicators, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and cruise control. Every Scion tC also gets a panoramic glass sunroof, projector-beam headlights with an auto-off feature, LED front accent lighting, LED brake lights, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Sport-bolstered front seats are standard, with a manual height adjuster for the driver, and the rear seat includes a 60/40-split design.
In addition to these features, the tC is equipped with a trip computer and a multi-function display screen nestled between the gauges. A touchscreen audio system with a 6.1-inch display is standard, and includes Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, HD Radio, an auxiliary audio input jack, and a USB port. Safety equipment includes Smart Stop technology that makes it impossible for the tC to accelerate when the brake pedal is pressed, knee airbags for both front seat occupants, and a first-aid kit.
Think that represents value for less than $20,000? Yeah, me too. Especially when considering that the tC comes with two years or 25,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
There are options for this car, starting with a BeSpoke premium audio, infotainment, and navigation system ($1,198). I would also upgrade to the beautiful 19-inch TRD aluminum wheels ($2,199), and get the floor and cargo mat set ($184). A Toyota Racing Development (TRD) performance exhaust ($699), a TRD front strut tie brace ($285), and TRD lowering springs would bring the price to $25,929. Load a tC with all the extras, and you’ll close in on $30,000.
My test car didn’t have any of that stuff. It was a bone stock tC with a manual gearbox. If you like the color of the car in the photo, it is coated in Cement, a gray that looks flat but actually has a subtle metallic sparkle to it when you get up close and personal.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Design
- Restyled exterior
- New aluminum wheel design
- Upgraded interior materials
- Increased body rigidity
I won’t say that I don’t understand why the 2014 tC looks the way it does. I will say, however, that I much prefer the 2011-2013 model’s styling.
This year, the tC gets an aggressive new face that resembles the scowling FR-S. Vertical elements on either side of the bumper look like sporty brake cooling ducts but actually contain LED accent lights. The new wheels have a dark finish with machined faces, a look that is currently in style. Around back, the car appears to have aftermarket taillights and vertical elements on either side of the bumper that mimic those up front but hold reflectors, and the rear bumper mimics the FR-S, designed to appear as though it has a diffuser panel.
The result isn’t particularly appealing to me, though when equipped with the optional TRD 19-inch wheels, I can forgive some of boy-racerish cosmetic changes.
Inside, few apologies are required. Scion has upgraded the cabin with new materials and trim, and while nobody will mistake this for a luxury car, the effect is palpable. The tC’s interior is no longer the obvious explanation for the car’s affordable base price. Unfortunately, Scion put the kibosh on the interior upgrade budget before replacing the car’s fuzzy headliner. Were it lined with the same material used for the armrests, the tC’s interior would be even better than its price tag suggests.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- New two-tone fabric treatment
Making it easy to forgive the landscape of hard interior plastics it faces, the tC’s driver’s seat is exceptionally comfortable, offering height adjustment, good thigh support, and decent bolstering. Combined with the excellent steering wheel and softly padded center console lid and door panel armrests, the driving position is perfect. Too bad the orange on black gauges are illegible during the day. White numerals and pointers, please. Also, some softly padded upper door panel padding would be nice.
The front passenger’s seat lacks height adjustment, but remains comfortable with good thigh support. Even people with long legs can slide the seat forward by a surprising amount, thanks to a dashboard that sits far away and provides plenty of knee space.
The back seat is really quite amazing, delivering midsize sedan room and comfort in a small car. With the driver’s seat adjusted for my comfort, I can sit behind it and my legs don’t touch the seatback. Plus my head doesn’t brush the glass of the hatch, which is shaded from the sun. If the driver and front passenger are shorter people, a Scion tC probably feels like a limo to people riding in the back, in part because the seatbacks recline a little bit. Add the tilt-and-slide front passenger’s seat to the equation, and a tC can actually pull double-duty as a commuter car for families with older kids.
Now consider the size of the trunk. It holds 14.7 cu.-ft. of cargo behind the rear seats, as much as some family sedans. The 60/40-split folding rear seat expands room by a significant margin, though Scion does not provide an official maximum cargo volume for this car.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- Standard auto-off headlights
- Standard auto-up/down driver’s window
- New Scion Standard Display Audio system
- New Scion BeSpoke Premium Audio system
Historically, Scion has attempted to mimic the look and feel of aftermarket head units with its standard and optional stereo systems, right down to their bewildering ergonomics. That changes for 2014, thanks to the installation of a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen radio featuring relatively simple operation. Pairing to Bluetooth and streaming music is easy, and the sound system offers Natural, Hear, and Feel audio settings with distinct differences between each. Yes, there is decent bass, though probably not as much as you might want.
The upgrade equipment is Scion’s BeSpoke infotainment system, new this year and incorporating the stereo, a navigation system, and Aha access to 30,000 Internet radio stations, social media platforms, location-based services, and more.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes
You know what the Scion tC needs? It needs standard text-messaging capability, it needs a reversing camera option, and it needs to include Safety Connect telematics with the upgraded BeSpoke audio system. Safety Connect is the kind of service that automatically dials 9-1-1 when the car’s airbags deploy in order to speed rescuers to the car’s exact location. Why Scion didn’t include this stuff in the 2014 update, especially given the youthful target buyer, is a real head-scratcher.
Nevertheless, the tC is equipped with eight standard airbags, as well as a Smart Stop system that prevents the car from accidentally accelerating as long as the driver is pushing down on the brake pedal. It also has an unusual inclusion in the form of a first-aid kit.
2014 Scion tC Crash-Test Ratings:
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Scion tC receives a 5-star overall crash-test rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the car a “Top Safety Pick Plus” rating, thanks to its “Acceptable” performance in the new small overlap frontal-impact crash test. As this review is written, the tC is one of only six small cars to receive this rating.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- Updated automatic transmission with quicker shifts
- Dynamic Rev Management included for automatic transmission
- Modified suspension tuning to improve handling
- Revised electric steering tuning
A Scion tC might be more expensive than basic versions of its key competitors, but it is also more powerful. The standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine generates 179 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,100 rpm.
A 6-speed manual transmission powers the car’s front wheels, and the optional 6-speed automatic transmission is upgraded for 2014 to deliver quicker shifts. It also gets new Dynamic Rev Management technology, which matches revs on downshifts to make the car more fun to drive. Again, though, Scion missed an opportunity, namely to add paddle shifters to the automatic’s updated list of talents.
Regardless of which transmission you choose, the EPA says the tC gets 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg in combined driving. I averaged exactly 26 mpg, and I wasn’t shy about revving the car. My bet is that most drivers will do better.
In addition to upgrading the automatic transmission for 2014, Scion engineers re-tuned the tC’s steering and suspension, and stiffened the car’s structure, all with the goal of improving handling. Based on flinging it up, across, and down the Santa Monica Mountains on some of the best driving roads California has to offer, we’d say they deserve a bonus.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Though the Scion tC is front-wheel drive, and though it makes less than 180 horsepower, and though it weighs more than 3,000 pounds, this is an entertaining car capable of greater acceleration and handling than might be expected.
This engine revs freely and easily, and while it can’t match a Honda Civic Si or a Hyundai Veloster Turbo for sheer oomph, it also costs thousands of dollars less than those cars and includes free maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles.
The standard 6-speed manual gearbox offers fluid, positive shift action even if the throws are a little long. The clutch is light and easy to modulate, and the accelerator pedal is responsive, making it easier to rev match on downshifts. Notably, this car climbed the steep Camarillo Grade in 6th gear at 80 mph, never requiring a downshift. And while I didn’t get a chance to try the popular automatic transmission option, it sounds like Scion has made changes for the better.
Equipped with a thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed wheel that is excellent to both grip and spin, the electric-assisted steering exhibits only a hint of torque steer when accelerating hard out of a turn. Though effort levels are relatively light, the steering displays resolute on-center stability combined with sporty off-center responsiveness, unencumbered by the disconcerting oscillations and sloppiness that can characterize some electric steering systems.
Connected to 4-wheel-disc brakes with ventilated front discs and brake assist, the brake pedal is exceptionally easy to modulate, providing the driver with the ability to fine-tune pressure when driving in a spirited fashion or when creeping along in traffic. Brake fade did not exist on a warm testing day, despite repeated hard use to avoid rocks that had fallen onto the blacktop of my regular mountain test route.
The Scion tC’s suspension is tuned to deliver a decent ride quality combined with entertaining handling. On some dips and whoop-de-doos, it’s a little soft, which means enthusiasts might wish to turn to the TRD catalog for the strut tower brace and lowering springs. When pushed hard in tight turns, the tC exhibits the understeer that is characteristic of a front-wheel-drive vehicle, but the standard 18-inch wheels and 225/45 Yokohama Avid tires do a commendable job of keeping this car planted in a curve. Still, it might be worth upgrading to the TRD 19-inch wheels if you’re already spending extra on the TRD suspension upgrades.
The tC is easy to drive around town, delivering a combination of practicality and performance that makes it a zippy city car. On the highway it is fairly loud, but the standard stereo replaces unwanted wind, road and engine noise with the music of your choice.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Now living in the shadow of the coveted FR-S, the tC is a more practical machine than its new sibling, able to carry 4 sizable people plus a load of cargo in surprising comfort. It is a car that easily serves daily driver requirements rather than purpose-built performance, a car you can buy and drive across the country as easily as you can across town, a car that returns in equipment and style much more than it commands in price.
Obviously, I am a huge fan of the Scion tC, one of the best cars that nobody buys.
2014 Scion tC Sport Coupe Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Low price tag
- Excellent safety ratings
- Decent gas mileage
- Fun to drive
- Loud stereo
- Free maintenance
- Lots of cargo space
- Roomy interior
- Plenty of standard equipment
- Toyota Racing Development upgrades
- What, you need more?
- No hands-free text messaging capability
- No reversing camera option
- No Safety Connect telematics system
- No paddle shifters for the transmission
- Gauges illegible during the day
Scion supplied the vehicle for this review
2014 Scion tC photos by Christian Wardlaw