2005 Scion tC Road Test

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Do you remember your first car?

I know I do. It was a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 2 door hardtop. I just got my driver’s license and I needed a set of wheels to show my school buddies that I had arrived. That five year old Ford was all I could afford at the time and it forced me to learn how to fix cars (I believe the ’57 Ford made a consumer magazine’s list for one of the most unreliable cars ever made). I had no choice. It was either fix it myself or revive my old Schwinn from the shed. Peer pressure would not allow the second choice, so I rolled up my sleeves and prepared for the first of countless busted knuckles.

Source: CarDomain
Category:$16,000 – $18,000 Compact Hatchback Coupe
should buy
this car:
The perfect first car for a couple or single college student looking for reliable, economical transportation
that is easy on the eyes
cars in
this class:
Chevrolet Cavalier or Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Spectra, Pontiac Sunfire,
Saturn ION, Volkswagen Golf

While I enjoyed working on that old car, I didn’t enjoy getting stranded when it decided to show me who was boss. That is why as soon as I could afford it, I sprung for my first new car. It was a 1964 Oldsmobile Jetstar I (the journalists of the day considered it the poor man’s Starfire) and it fit me to a T. It was sporty, had a big engine, and the girls went crazy over it. Of course, most of my salary went to paying it off and keeping it filled with gas, but I do have fond memories of it just the same.

Most young people today are a bit more practical than I was back then, but they still want their first car to be eye-catching and fun to drive. I can’t think of a better car to fit that bill than the new Scion tC. The good looks of this car are obvious. The reliability is second to none (read Toyota). And it is economical, fun to drive, and very reasonably priced to boot. A well equipped Scion tC can be had for about $16k and that includes the Panorama Moonroof. (it comes standard on all tC’s) If you don’t like shifting yourself, the automatic transmission version is $800 more.

Why is this the ideal first car? For one thing, it is equipped with the Toyota Camry 4 cylinder power train which, in this light car, provides plenty of performance without sacrificing good fuel economy. For another thing, that $16,000 base price includes such upscale standard features as power windows, mirrors and door locks, glass roof panel that extends all the way to the rear seat, air conditioning, and even 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. In fact, the only option that can’t be installed by the dealer and has to be ordered with the car from the factory is the front-side and front & rear curtain air bag package.

This is a happy looking car that will appeal to young people as much as it is liked by the well seasoned baby boomer folks who are getting tired of the SUV image and are looking to make a more personal statement.

There are still people who don’t recognize the Scion brand. Pronounced “Sigh-on”, this new brand from Toyota was designed to capture the imagination of young people who want something that is different from the cars that their parents drive. (isn’t that always the case?) The Scion line-up currently consists or 3 vehicles: The xA, which is a tiny, funky looking 5 door wagon (sort of), the xB which I think looks like an Amana laying on its back with windows cut into it, and our tC coupe (I guess xC was taken by Volvo). The tC has a more conventional look than the other two, but many people think is as cute as a button.

Walking around this Scion or sitting behind the wheel, most people agree that this car looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. Fit and finish are flawless and upscale looking. The cloth seats are comfortable with a pleasant choice of material for the seat inserts. The manual driver’s seat is adjustable for height and cushion angle as well as the normal for-aft and seatback angle. I was able to quickly adjust the seat for a good fit. The rear seat area was small, but had enough room to hold a couple of limber adults in reasonable comfort, provided that the tall ones crouch a bit. Another unusual feature back there is that the rear seatbacks will recline, provided that there is room in the cargo area. The cargo area is accessible through a wide hatch and is very usable.

The instrument cluster consists of three dials with black markings on a silver background. Not the best contrast for easy reading, but not bad either. At night, the numbers light up on a dark background.

The central dashboard stack was a bit unorthodox with the sound system behind a flip open panel and a large rotary knob that controls the temperature inside the cabin.

The Panorama Moonroof is an interesting feature. The entire roof panel is made of tempered glass with the front section power operated so that it can be tilted up or fully opened. The sunshade retracts into the central cross member to expose both the front and the rear passengers to the sky.

Power is provided by the smooth 2.4 liter 4 cylinder Double Overhead Cam 16 valve engine that is the same one that powers the Toyota Camry. Horsepower is 160, which is more than enough to blast you from a standing start to 60 mph in around 7.5 seconds and be smooth while doing it. That’s about the same as my hot Jetstar-1 with its monster V8 did back in 1964. Running shoes are quite substantial as well with 17 inch alloy wheels and meaty P215/45ZR17 Z-rated performance tires. Oh I forgot to mention, this performance wheel & tire combination is also standard for that $16,000.

On the road, this car was as smooth and quiet as the more expensive Camry. The ride was well controlled and the body felt as solid as the proverbial vault. The tC absorbed ruts and broken pavement as though it were a much larger car. But it’s the winding country roads that made this little buggy really shine. This is a fun car to whip and toss, with plenty of grip from the performance rubber. All this without sacrificing a comfortable ride. And the tC stops as good as it goes with its 4 wheel discs and standard ABS.

Now, I know that a number of my colleagues who write for the auto enthusiast publications would say that this car doesn’t feel like a real sports coupe. The steering isn’t sharp enough and the suspension allows too much bounce to be considered a serious sports car. But that’s not what this car is all about! The average person who is eying this car will probably never explore anywhere near the limits of this car’s handling envelope. If they bought a car with those aggressive sports-car like handling capabilities, they would be very unhappy with the harsh ride that goes along with sports car handling. I think that this Scion has the ideal compromise that most people are looking for in a personal coupe. Rest assured that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to quickly steer or brake to avoid a sudden “traffic malfunction”, the tC will not let you down.

This car has a list of options that are as long as my arm, but only one of them must be ordered from the factory. That is the side air bags. Everything else can be dealer installed. Only 3 things must be decided when the order is placed: The color, the transmission (5 speed stick or 4 speed automatic), and yes or no on the side air bags.

Some of the other options include: a 6-disc CD changer, 18 inch Alloy wheels, Fog Lights, Ground Effects Kit, TRD Performance Exhaust, Bazooka Subwoofer,Carbon Fiber Engine Cover… The list goes on and on. These options can be ordered with the car and either installed at the port of entry (the Scion tC is manufactured in Japan) or dealer installed. The best part of this is that all these items have been engineered to fit and work properly with the Scion tC and all are covered by the Scion factory warranty.

So what else is available in that long list of options you ask? Everything from neon lights under the dash to an engine supercharger (coming soon) for a serious horsepower boost. You would think that you stepped out of the new car showroom and walked into a speed shop. Toyota is looking to completely change the concept of buying a new car to appeal to a new generation of young people who are looking for individuality.

This new Scion gives you your money’s worth and then some. The tC is a cool ride that will make any first time car buyer feel good about their choice long after that new car smell wears off.


Engine Type2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve with variable valve timing.
Horsepower160 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque163 @ 4,200 RPM
Fuel Recommended

Regular Unleaded.

Transmission (std)
Transmission (opt)
5-Speed manual transmission
4-speed automatic transmission
Drive TypeFront-wheel drive
Tires – Standard

P215/45ZR17 all season tires

Overall Length174″
Turning Diameter36.1 ft Curb to Curb

Curb Weight

2,905 lbs.
Fuel Tank

14.5 Gallons

Miles Per GallonEPA city 22, hwy 29
Acceleration 0 to 607.5 sec.
Base Sticker Price$15,950 + $515 destination charge

2005 Scion tC

Standard Equipment
(Partial List)

Major Available Options

For more information on the tC, visit

Click a star to rate this article
[Total: 0   Average: 0/5]

Charles Ofria

Automotive Expert

Charles Ofria was an automotive journalist who was active in the automotive industry for over 40 years. During the '70s, he was owner-operator of Ofria Automotive, a thriving auto repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. During that time he became involved with auto mechanic training when he set up courses to help prepare mechanics to take the then new A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic certification exams.

File Under : Reviews Tagged With : , ,
Copyright ©2020, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Carparts Email Subscribe