2010 Scion tC: Attracting younger drivers with cool elegance
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
When Toyota created Project Genesis in 1999 in an effort to attract the younger generation of buyers, they introduced the Toyota Echo and spiffed-out Celica and MR2 models. Three years later they launched Project Exodus, an effort designed to separate the new-Gen cars from the Toyota marque.
That second plan evolved into the Scion badge and by 2005, the third member of the scion line, tC was born. The marketing approach has worked, as Scion's average buyer age is the lowest in the industry, at 39 years old – don’t be put off by 39 (the actual average driver is much younger), as Toyota’s average buyer is 54, and a significant segment of Scion buyers are parents who purchase the vehicles for their high-school-age and college-age children to drive.
Built as a hip “price” vehicle with upgrades available to customize and personalize the car, tC has become the perfect base vehicle for the tuner or performance and style crowd.
For 2010, tC has remained ostensibly unchanged from 2009, though it is available in a new paint color -- Nautical Blue Metallic replaces Blue Ribbon Metallic.
What also remains unchanged are tC’s cool factor, its excellent fuel economy and price and its drivability.
On the outside, tC is a two-door hatchback coupe that begs for upgrades with available body kits. Having said that, its lines are clean and its dimensions sing out maneuverability, easy parking and economy. Measuring 174.0 inches long, 69.1 inches wide and 55.7 inches high on a 206.3-inch wheelbase and 5.2 inches of ground clearance, tC is offered in one trim level that is packed with standard amenities. tC starts with angular shoulders, classic grillework and front headlights, panoramic moonroof with power retractable front glass panel and dual manual sunshades, 17-inch split six spoke alloy wheels with graphite finish, P215/45Z R17 tires, auto-off headlamps, chrome exhaust tip, fender-mounted antenna, side mirrors with turn indicators and variable intermittent front wiper.
In its 2.4-liter incarnation as was my test ride, tC is NOT a track car, though its standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, urges out better low-end torque than many other vehicles in its class. Mated to a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission, my tC hummed out 161 horses and 162 lbs.-ft. of torque. However, there is a dealer-installed supercharger available that thunders out 200hp and 184 lbs.-ft. of torque.
My standard test tC was a vehicle one buys for looks, style and economy, not power, and my best track times were 8.7 seconds for a zero-to-60mph run and a steady 16.6 seconds for a quarter-mile.
On the autocross, tC is quick turning and capable. A break in the turn and quick pedal mash picks up some decent times. The front-wheel drive system and its 2987-lb. curb weight are stable stabile with only slight yaw and relatively little top-wobble. The Toyota Direct Ignition system, sequential multi-point fuel injection is attentive and the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, is compliant, if a bit loose. The independent front suspension with MacPherson struts; and independent double-wishbone rear smooth out most road irregularities but the cabin is a bit noisy as road sounds make their way into the cockpit handily.
Estimated fuel consumption of 21/29 is on target, as my full weeks of tests in varied conditions revealed an average of 24.6mpg.
The cabin is clean and roomy for its class. With seating for five interior accommodations measure 37.6 inches of front headroom and 36.6 inches in row two; 41.6 inches of row one leg room and 33.6 inches in the second seats, with 54.3 inches of legroom in the first row with 50 inches for second-row passengers.
The cockpit may contain a lot of plastic, but it is packed with such amenities as auxiliary audio and iPod input ports, Pioneer 160-watt maximum output AM/FM/CD head unit (MP3/WMA CD and satellite-tuner capable) with iPod compatibility, six speakers, Pioneer subwoofer, Scion Sound Processing, a user-customizable welcome screen, and Sound Retouch digital equalization for clearer MP3/WMA-CD sound.
tC also includes as standard: air conditioning; center console box with cover; cruise control; Deep orange instrument panel illumination; driver and passenger power windows with one- touch auto up/down with jam protection; driver’s seat with adjustable height and front seat bottom angle (thigh support); first-aid kit; fully reclining front seats with sleeping function; one-touch walk-in with track and seat angle memory (driver’s side); outside temperature gauge; tachometer and trip meter and tilt three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls.
Safety measures include standard driver and front passenger airbags SRS, standard driver’s knee airbag, standard front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags SRS, first-aid kit ; Anti-lock Brake System with Electronic Brake Distribution, tire pressure monitoring system and engine immobilizer.
Scion tC is base priced at $17,100, my test tC was adorned with the following options: Pioneer Premium audio system $389; XM Satellite radio $449; BLU Logic hands-free system $299; Rear lip color-keyed spoiler $385 and destination charges of $750 for a drive-off price of $19,372.
The 2010 Scion tC … it is a car ripe for tweaking, but also sweet on its own.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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