The 2012 Scion tC
Patrick Rall's picture

The 2012 Scion tC - fun, efficient and affordable

While the arrival of the new rear wheel drive FR-S may overshadow the front wheel drive Scion tC, those who want a very low priced, front wheel drive sports coupe that offers impressive fuel economy without compromising power should check out the Scion tC.

I recently had a chance to spend some time in the 2012 Scion tC and while my test vehicle was equipped with no options, it still offered a surprising amount of content – both inside and out.

The Exterior
My 2012 Scion tC was finished in Sizzling Crimson Mica and fitted with standard 18” aluminum split spoke design rims – both of which come with no additional charges whereas many automakers charge extra for similar paint options and 18” wheels. Up front, the tC comes with standard projection style headlights (that provide plenty of light even without the help of fog lights or driving lights) and a sporty lower front fascia filled with matte black plastic grills. The long, flat hood leads back to a low, sleek greenhouse that flattens out to make room for the gorgeous panoramic moon roof…which is also standard. The rear glass slopes smoothly from the roofline to the subtle lip spoiler integrated into the trunk lid. That long roofline and sloping rear glass also allow for an impressive amount of headroom in the backseat compared to other small coupes on the market.

Along the sides, the 2012 Scion tC fills the large wheel openings with the aforementioned 18” aluminum wheels wrapped in all season performance tires. The body line of the tC is very high, running from the upper edge of the hood, trhough the very top of the doors, into the rear quarter panels and ending at the rear spoiler – all of which gives the car a very fluid, slippery look from the side. The rear end of the 2012 Scion tC sits high, bolstering the aggressive design of this compact sports coupe and that molded lip spoiler adds to the upward design. The rear face of the tC is very upright, angled towards the front of the car with a hard body line separating the trunk lid from the lower fascia.

Overall, while some folks criticize the Scion brand as a whole, there is no question that the 2012 tC has the kind of bold, aggressive design that a compact sports coupe needs to survive in the segment. Also, those who are buying a tC can chose from a near-limitless lineup of exterior items from decals to spoilers and more to add to the sportiness of the tC.

The Interior
Inside, the 2012 Scion tC really shines in the compact sports coupe segment with a stunning amount of goodies for a car under $20,000. Keep in mind, my test car was fitted with no options so everything mentioned is standard equipment for the “base model”.

First off, the 2012 Scion tC comes with power windows with driver’s side auto down, remote keyless door locks, a leather trimmer steering wheel with stereo controls, the large panoramic moon roof and a Pioneer sound system featuring AM/FM/MP3/CD and USB connectivity, HD radio and 8-speakers scattered throughout the cabin. This standard sound system is impressive for a base model system, combining quality sound output with a very easy to use system.

The front bucket seats are comfortable for longer rides but the deep bolsters provide a firm grip during stints of spirited driving. The back seats also have a deep lower bolster area which adds a little sports car feel for rear riding passengers. With the driver’s seat adjusted to accommodate a 6 foot tall driver, space is a bit tight behind the driver’s seat but with the passenger front seat at a reasonable distance from the dash, there is room for two adult passengers and one child behind the driver. With a shorter driver, seating four adults would be possible – albeit a little cramped. For me, the tC provided plenty of space for a one passenger and one child while still having some space in the back seat for packages in addition to the roomy “trunk” area. When you don’t have any rear passengers, the back seats both fold down with a 60/40 design and doing this substantially increases the amount of cargo space in the Scion tC. Also, thanks to the long roofline, there is more headroom for the rear passengers than you find in many compact sports coupes.

The 2012 Scion tC offers an impressive lineup of amenities and a surprising amount of seating space in a cock-pit style design that caters to the driver but is comfortable for everyone.

The Drive
The 2012 Scion tC is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that churns out 180 horsepower and 173lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via 6 speed automatic transmission. This is enough power to allow the tC to leave a dead stop with a little tire spin as it quickly accelerates but if I were buying a new tC, I would be opting for the 6-speed manual transmission. There is nothing wrong with the automatic and for those who do not want a manual transmission – the automatic in the Scion tC is quick shifting under hard throttle but I prefer to row my own gears. That being said, the 6-speed automatic transmission in the 2012 Scion tC shifts quietly and smoothly when driving calmly around town but when you put the hammer down, the automatic shifts harder and more aggressively – just as you would expect from a compact sports car.

The 2012 Scion tC is a compact sports coupe and the suspension offers the kind of ride that I expect from a car in this class. The ride is rigid and feels very tight with little body roll when hitting the corners hard. This is the kind of car that your grandma might complain is “too rough” when cruising at 75 on the highway but if you are buying a sporty model – the Scion tC chassis and suspension feel exactly how they should. The tC feels light and nimble when cutting through twisty roadways and when hitting longer, sweeping turns at higher speeds, there is only a slight amount of understeer as you accelerate through the turn. You can definitely feel the road surface, especially at higher speeds, but I consider this to be an acceptable trade off for the successful handling capacities of the sporty little Scion.

The 2012 Scion tC comes with an EPA fuel economy rating of 23 miles per gallon around town, 31pmg on the highway and a combined figure of 26mpg. When I drove the tC harder (with plenty of self-shifting and higher speed driving) with a 50/50 mix of highway and city driving, I averaged around 24.9mpg over the course of a tank. However, when I drove the car more normally, observing speed limits within reason and cruising on the highway around 70-80mph, I was able to get 26.9mpg over the course of one tank of gas. I suspect that someone who does a great deal of highway driving in an area where there are lower speed limits, these folks could present average fuel economy figures closer to 30mpg.

The Final Word
The 2012 Scion tC offers solid power, impressive fuel economy and a fun to drive factor that can be hard to find in affordable compact sports coupes. Standard features like the panoramic moon roof, the sport seats, the Pioneer sound system and a remote keyless entry system – all for under $20,000 – makes the Scion tC an incredible bargain. Add in the 180 horsepower 4-cylinder engine and the ability to get better than 30mpg on the highway and you have a content rich, affordable sports coupe that will seat two adults and two kids. The Scion tC is ideal for someone looking for a sporty, efficient car that won’t break the bank – especially if the prospective buyer is single or married with one or two kids.

Note: the weather was miserable during my time in the 2012 Scion tC so rather than a dirty car sitting in the rain – check out pictures from Scion of the tC, inside and out.

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