2006 Scion tC

tCool, tClean, and tCrisp

by Scott Corlett

Recently, we spent a week in the 2006 Scion tC sport coupe tearing around San Francisco. We were highly thankful for the three-door subcompact when we negotiated jammed parking lots on our last minute shopping trips for Thanksgiving provisions. The tight-turning tC is a snap to park and its easily accessed hatchback cargo space holds enough turkey and fixings to sate a crowd of hearty eaters.

The day after Thanksgiving, we really should have filled that cargo space with gym bags; instead, we plopped our carb-laden bodies into the tC’s firm, heavily bolstered, cloth seats and went for a drive along the Pacific’s edge. Our guilt for bypassing the treadmill dissolved as we hauled tail through the twists and turns of Highway 1. As we returned from that rigorous workout, we were glad for the leftovers still in the fridge.

Scion’s other two offerings—the iconic boxy xB and the city-street-loving xA (see our review)—are aimed straight at the young and stylized. The tC has broader appeal – its sleek shell, tightly crafted interior, and quiet ride hint at the relationship, however distant, to its Lexus cousins. The tC’s interior is elegantly simple. We particularly admired the clean lines of the uncluttered center console where the MP3-capable audio system is hidden behind a retractable cover. The exterior displays an equal economy of style, with flowing sheet metal uninterrupted by needless garnish and glass that sweeps in just the right way.

By Saturday, we were ready to dance off the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin flan. We stuffed ourselves and three friends into the tC for a night out on the town. Thankfully, the front passenger area is roomy in all dimensions. But, the tall boys in back were whining more than usual. We helpfully suggested they recline their rear seats and enjoy the view out their second row sunroof. The complaining soon subsided and we again were able to hear the tunes from our iPod piped over the optional Pioneer stereo. After a couple of hours of sweaty dancing at The Stud, we all jumped into the tC and then raced home for one final pass at the leftovers.

Some leave their hearts in San Francisco – we left remnants of the tC’s standard 17” tires at several intersections around town. The 2.4-liter 160-hp four-cylinder engine—even mated to the optional power-sapping four-speed automatic transmission—shot us off the line and provided ample power for cop-rousing freeway cruising. The steering is more precise than we expect in cars of this class, and around town, the coupe takes corners quickly and surely. At high speeds, the tC’s handling—unlike that of numerous low-priced subcompacts we could name—remains solid and well-balanced. Anti-lock brakes are standard. Unfortunately, like a bad date, they are just too grabby for us.

In stark contrast to its Lexus cousins, the tC is equipped with only three standard air bags:  front bags for driver and front passenger and a knee bag for the driver. We suggest adding the optional front seat-mounted side air bags and the front and rear side curtain air bags, which cost $650. If you love to accessorize, Scion offers a slew of goodies ranging from illuminated cup holders to carbon fiber engine covers.

Combine the above-class design touches, the sporty engine, the standard treads, and—hold on to that drumstick—a $17,000 base price and the tC mashes its main competitors, the Honda Civic Coupe LX and the Ford Focus ZX3. In fact, the tC is so competitive in this price segment that Toyota retired its venerable Celica coupe. The tC is more than a great entry-level car; we think it is a great car with an entry-level price. Toyota launched the Scion brand in 2003 to capture genY consumers. With the 2006 tC sport coupe, Scion just might grab a few of us geriatric genXers in the bargain.

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