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2014 Scion tC Review: Aggressive Styling Inside and Out Makes a Better Sport Compact

The Scion tC has received a refresh for the 2014 model year that includes a substantial facelift on the outside, a sportier interior and a lightly reworked suspension setup that all work together to make the 2014 tC more attractive and more fun to drive than the 2013 models.

While I prefer rear wheel drive sports cars like the Scion FR-S, Ive enjoyed previous stints behind the wheel of the front wheel drive Scion tC. Since being introduced back in 2005, the tC has offered a mix of sporty driving, solid fuel economy and a low purchase price – making for one of the best overall sporty cars in America but even with the new generation that was introduced for the 2011 model year, the tC still looked a bit too friendly. The first generation was downright cuddly in terms of exterior design and the harder lines of the second generation were a big step in the right direction but it still lacked that special something to make it stand out in the segment. The 2014 model year facelift is that special something and thanks to the aggressive new look, the tC finally has a look that matches its attitude.

The 2014 Scion tC comes very nicely equipped with a base price of $19,965 (including destination) and you can have all of the fun of that the tC has to offer for that low price. However, if you want a sportier look and an improved sound system Scion has an impressively long list of options that can make your tC fit your tastes. My test car was equipped with the TRD Performance Exhaust system ($699), 19” TRD wheels ($2,199), a high profile rear lip spoiler ($444), illuminated door sills ($375), carpeted floor mats ($184) and the BeSpoke sound system that adds premium sound, navigation and hands-free phone control for $1,198. All said and done, my test car priced out at $25,064 with all of those options above.

The Exterior
The exterior refresh is really the biggest news for the 2014 Scion tC and while the car is shaped very similarly to the 2013 models, the changes to the front and rear go a very long way in making the newest model year tC so sporty. The second generation tC which was introduced for the 2011 model year was substantially sportier and far less rounded than the 2005-2010 tC but the 2014 model year refresh takes the aggressive nature of the front drive Scion sport coupe to the next level both in the front and out back.

The new front end of the 2014 Scion tC is the star of this show as the angry face of the tC makes it one of the most aggressive looking cars in the segment. The large central grille area has a far sportier look with sharply chiseled headlights mounted on both side of the angular front fascia. The lower portion of the front fascia is widened with the fog light bezels mounted towards the outer corners and an integrated splitter design molded into the chin area of the front end. The angular headlights flanking the massive central grille opening make for a much sportier face but the basic shape of the front fascia with the accentuated flare towards the bottom really makes this new tC look more like a sport compact wearing an aftermarket body kit.

Along the sides, the 2014 Scion tC doesn’t differ much from the 2013 models but the revised headlights and taillights do make the side view a little sportier as well. The doors and roofline remain unchanged for 2014 but as you can see in the images shown here, my tC test car was fitted with a set of great looking gloss black 19 inch TRD wheels that bolster the sporty look of this compact hatchback. At $2,199 these TRD rollers are pricey but they look great…enough so that I would call them a must have feature for anyone not planning on swapping to aftermarket rims. The optional TRD rear spoiler is also a great addition to give the tC a more aggressive silhouette and while the Cement gray paint wouldn’t be my first choice – I would configure the exterior options for my own Scion tC exactly like my test car.

As is the case with the front end, the back end of the 2014 Scion tC has been given a far more aggressive look that you would have previously been forced to seek from the aftermarket. The new lower rear fascia includes a large blacked out area that extends up into the middle of the rear bumper area with bold flares on each side holding the reflectors and giving the rear end of this car a far more aggressive stance. The taillights are similar in their shape but the red lenses of the 2013 model year have been replaced with a clear lens setup with a collection of LEDs providing plenty of light out back.

Even with the 2011 model year refresh, the Scion tC struggled to stand out in the crowd but the changes made for the 2014 model year allow this affordable sport compact to shine in a segment where looking sporty is every bit as important as being sporty. The angry looking front end and the chiseled rear end work nicely with the lines of the second generation tC while also combining forces with the clear taillights to give the new tC a distinct tuner crowd look. This is a sports car that finally looks the part from front to back and I’d give the styling of this 2014 tC a very sound A+.

The Interior
The 2014 Scion tC received a handful of slight interior upgrades that give it a sportier, more cockpit like feel than the outgoing models. The centerpiece of this refresh is the flat-bottomed steering wheel that is sculpted to offer a variety of comfortable hand positions with some minimal sound system controls on the left side spoke. The tC features fairly standard analog gauges that wont wow you with technology but they fit the interior nicely and continue to bolster the sports car feel. What should wow you is the standard 6.1” touchscreen stereo control face which includes a variety of buttons and knobs around the perimeter for those who don’t like touch controls and thanks to the BeSpoke sound system upgrade – this large screen also allows for easy use of the optional navigation system. You wont find a fancy multiple zone climate control system but with the three traditional knobs located below the touchscreen and just in front of the shifter, the driver has easy access to adjust the interior temperature of the tC without much thought. This isn’t an interior that is packed full of gadgets but when optioned up with the BeSpoke system, the 2014 tC offers everything that the average new car buyer wants and maybe a little more.

The standard two-tone cloth seats aren’t going to blow away many luxury buyers but these deep-bolstered seats do a great job of keeping the driver and passenger firmly in place during stints of spirited driving and they are also pretty comfortable for daily driving. Some drivers and passengers with very wide hips and broad shoulders might find these seats to be a bit tight but I thought that they were very nice in terms of grip and comfort with plenty of head room, leg room and knee room for front riders. Surprinsgly, the rear seat of this compact hatchback also offers quite a bit of leg room and while you arent going to want to put a pair of 6’5” friends in the back for a long car ride, this is a cabin that can comfortably get four adults from point A to point B – especially if the driver and front passenger are shorter than 6 feet tall. The longish roofline of the tC provides a bit of extra head room for rear riders and the large range of motion displayed by the front seats makes for easier loading and unloading from the rear seats than you get with many 2 door hatchbacks.

Two features which I especially liked from the interior of the 2014 Scion tC are the standard two panel sunroof and the optional Illuminated door sills. These door sills display the Scion logo and with the push of a button on the center console you can change the color of these sills and I really like that feature in all of the modern cars that offer it. What can I say – I’m a sucker for being able to customize a vehicle at the push of a button – even if it’s something as simple as interior lighting. As for the dual panel sunroof, this glass roof treatment allows both front and rear riders to get a good look at the sky and while only the front panel opens to let in fresh air, I love the fact that those seated in the rear can also get the sunroof experience.

The 2014 Scion tC isn’t loaded to the hilt with high tech gadgets that drive up the price but with a high end sound system featuring touchscreen controls and quality speakers, comfortable and sporty front seats, roomy rear seats, a very impressive sunroof and a ton of cargo space under the hatch – the 2014 tC leaves you wanting for very little. Sure, there could be a set of heated and cooled leather seats, an even higher end infotainment package and other modern niceties but this isn’t a car that is about luxury so there is no need for many of those features to be nestled into this roomy, affordable sport compact.

The Drive
The 2014 Scion tC is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that provides 179 horsepower and 173lb-ft of torque to the front wheels by means of a proper 6-speed manual transmission. I’ve driven the tC with the new automatic transmission as well but someone who really enjoys driving should absolutely opt for the standard manual transmission as it offers great fuel economy and more “fun to drive factor” than the self-shifting gearbox. Although 179hp and 173tq doesn’t sound like a whole lot of power, the Scion tC is light enough that the available power makes this car a blast to drive whether you are accelerating away from a stop light or blasting through the twisties. The clutch is very forgiving and the short throw shifter does a great job of guiding you from gear to gear so a manual transmission novice shouldn’t have a hard time learning how to get through the gears quickly. Once you have gotten a feel for how and where the tC likes to be shifted, this sporty Japanese hatchback offers great acceleration on the low end and when cruising at speed.

The steering, chassis and suspension system of the 2014 Scion tC has been stiffened for a more engaging sports car feel in terms of handling and the changes have done a great job of making the tC feel even more like a proper sports car. In some cases, prior models were accused of being more of a economy hatchback but these revisions for the 2014 model year allow for little questioning the sporty nature of this car. This is a car that you can toss into a sharp turn at speeds with a fair deal of confidence that it will stick to the road without much fuss and with only a slight suggestion of body roll. The 2014 tC feels planted while cornering whether you are slicing through a desolate back road or cruising through a long sweeping turn on the highway and even at very high speeds, the 2014 Scion tC handles anything that Detroit highways can throw at it with the greatest of ease. Having spent quite a bit of time behind the wheel of the Scion FR-S, I can say that the rear drive FR-S offers slightly better handling in tight quarters than the tC but the front drive tC offers very comparable road hugging qualities to that of the FR-S when you are out on the open road.

More impressive than the fact that the 2014 Scion tC handles better than the outgoing model year is the fact that Scion was able to achieve this improved handling without killing the ride quality of the car for daily driving. Mind you, the Scion tC is a sports car so there is a much more rigid ride than you have with any of the other Scion (other than the FR-S) but the ride isn’t excessively rough. Your grandma might find the ride to be too rough but your girlfriend – who can appreciate the trade off of some ride quality for improved handling – won’t complain about the tC being too rough when you are out cruising. Also, anyone who is looking to buy a front wheel drive sports car will almost surely find that the ride quality is very good when you consider how well the car handles in almost every driving venue.

Although Scion made a bunch of changes to make the 2014 tC sportier, they did so without compromising fuel economy and with expected figures of 23mpg around town, 31mpg on the highway and a combined number of 26mpg – it is one of the most fuel efficient sporty models sold in America according to the EPA. During my time driving this tC, I was able to meet that 26mpg average (26.1 to be exact) and that came with an even mix of fairly aggressive driving around town and 6th gear cruising on the highway. I expect that someone who lives in an area as flat as mine who doesn’t drive as hard or as fast as I do will be able to exceed the EPA numbers and those drivers who spend lots of drive time on uncongested highways can certainly expect to get better than 30mpg on long highway drives.

The Final Word
While the number of 2 door sport compacts has dwindled a great deal over the past half decade, the Scion tC continues to improve even though it doesn’t have a whole lot of competition. This isnt the best performing compact sports car in the US – its not even the best performing compact sports car in the Scion lineup – but for those who want the surefootedness of a front wheel drive sports car with solid fuel economy that will seat four people more comfortably than anything on the market today, the Scion tC is an even more attractive option for 2014 than it was in the previous model year. Scion has done a great job of taking a car that was already a ton of fun to drive and making it more fun to drive and more aggressive inside and out. If you are looking for a sporty daily driver that will easily fit a young family with a price all loaded up around $25,000…and a base price under $20,000... the Scion tC is one of the best choices on the market today.

Updated on May 11, 2018.