The Scion tC was a three-door hatchback coupe produced from 2004 to 2016, sold as 2005 to 2016 model years.
Design and Introduction
As Toyota decided to end the production of the youth-focused Toyota Celiac sports coupe, the Scion tC was developed to take its place, without being a direct replacement. The tC, short for touring coupe did an excellent job at meeting the market demands, offering a stylish, sporty, and economical option with plentiful amenities and customization options. Overall, the Scion tC was a great success, comprising around 40% of total Scion sales. Although a two-door coupe, the Scion tC was built on Toyota's MC platform, which was also used for the mid-size sedan Toyota Avensis. The tC featured a 106.3-inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase and a total weight just under 3,000 pounds. It was the right size for drivability and fuel economy, while also giving sufficient passenger and interior cargo space, although the rear seat did have limited headroom as expected from a smaller sports coupe. The exterior design was rather modern and stylish, despite using minimalistic lines. Much of the body panels were rounded, but still gave a slightly aggressive appeal, especially when combined with some of the available accessories or aftermarket components. Unlike many sports coupes, the tC's C-pillar was relatively thin, making for excellent visibility all around. It also performed well in NHTSA crash test ratings through its use of four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock technology and front, side curtain, and driver's knee airbags.
Engine and Available Features
The first generation Scion tC was powered by a 2.4L inline-4 engine that produced a respectable 161 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. It was paired to a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Like many things about the tC, owners could opt for more performance by adding a TRD supercharger, bumping power output to a quite impressive 200 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Overall, the tC was well-appointed with power windows, cruise control, premium stereo, and a panoramic sunroof. Other more luxurious features included 17-inch wheels, turn signals on side mirrors, and many other available options. Plus, the tC was well-known for third-party parts and accessories, making it an excellent choice for those who like to customize their vehicles away from factory options. Scion understood this demand and released the Spec Package as a result, which instead of adding more premium features, it was constructed to be a stripped down variant to be heavily tuned after purchase, even going so far as to replace the standard 17-inch wheels with basic 16-inch steel ones as most buyers would throw on aftermarket ones anyway.
Scion tC Second Generation Updates
While the Scion tC performed well with sales through its first generation, the figures started to drop in the late 2000s, leading Scion to release the second-generation update in 2010, sold as a 2011 model year. This still used the same chassis as the Toyota Avensis, which had now moved to an improved MC platform with the same 106.3-inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase. The exterior styling was modernized while keeping many of the same design elements from the past generation. It traded out the more rounded look for some sharper lines, and now included a thicker C-pillar that is more common in the sports coupe designs. The headlights and taillights were also heavily redesigned, giving an enhanced look with sleeker elements throughout. Under the hood, a 2.5L inline-4 was now used, producing 180 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque, a significant improvement over the previous generation. It was now offered with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, plus a more responsive electric power steering system and standard vehicle stability control. The TRD supercharger option was still around for the early second-generation years. The tC remained popular with the aftermarket customization crowd, but it didn't quite live up to the success of the early first generation. Some reports point to the introduction of the even more sporty Scion FR-S 2+2 coupe, which created a serious in-house competitor for the youth-focused brand. Nonetheless, Scion continued to provide performance-focused suspension along with many premium features, like a touchscreen infotainment system and LED lighting systems, usually found on more premium vehicles.
Looking Back on the Scion tC
The Scion tC did extremely well during its initial years, selling around 75,000 units for two years, then gradually trailing off to around 20,000 units per year for the majority of the late 2000s and early 2010s. As Toyota discontinued the Scion brand entirely in 2016, the tC was also phased out of production. The tC still had a dramatic impact for the brand, making it into many racing events and still holds a place in the heart of many automotive enthusiasts. It was an excellent choice that provided an opportunity for many to start learning how to turn a wrench, improve their vehicle to their liking, and even take it out on the track for some fun. In a world filled with the choice between extremely practical but often dull cars or overly expensive luxury vehicles with higher performance, the tC offered a nice option that hit higher-performance, sporty targets while also keeping the price low.