Are mainstream coupes on the endangered species list? If not, they should be. The Honda Civic is the last front-wheel drive coupe on the market. Two doors aren’t extinct yet, but their demise means cheap two door coupes will be hard to find in about ten years. For now, we can console ourselves with this 2006 Scion tC, which still looks pretty decent.
When I think of Scion, I think of the xB and tC. Given its design, the xB was arguably the one vehicle people associate with the division. But the coupe was the vehicle that resonated with me the most. Toyota didn’t build terribly exciting vehicles during the 2000s. The tC bucked that trend.
Scion promised to deliver customizable vehicles at a no-haggle price. Their feature content was designed to appeal to millennials. Overall, the first generation xB and tC were compelling vehicles. Toyota eventually screwed that up, as Paul famously demonstrated. This particular Scion is likely destined to serve a member of Gen Z.
Will younger drivers like the tC? If they’re looking for something with decent creature comforts, then yes. It’s got cruise control, keyless entry, a panoramic moonroof, and a digital climate control system. with A/C. Perhaps more importantly was the standard 160 watt Pioneer sound system. A previous owner replaced the original head unit with a newer Kenwood model. A wise decision that enables the Scion to offer Bluetooth and a USB input for something like an iPod. But dedicated audio players are something for older people who still haven’t fully warmed up to streaming music. In reality, a Gen Z driver is probably using their phone for Spotify.
Cloudy headlights aside, the vehicle seems pretty clean. It will likely surprise anyone unfamiliar with the tC’s powertrain. The coupe inherited the Camry’s 2.4 liter four cylinder, which boasted about 160 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque in this application. It also featured a double wishbone rear suspension. These were impressively sprightly vehicles for the time.
I experienced a tC just once, but it was dynamic enough to leave an impression on me. Toyota definitely geared the coupe for drivers who would appreciate a car with a composed ride. Its handling was decidedly Germanic and quite different from anything else in the Toyota lineup at the time.
With the Camry’s powertrain and a $3500 asking price, this Scion is a decent value. I’d be happy taking it home for $3000. Even at 140k, this car has a lot of life left in it and I suspect its future owner will be a satisfied customer.
You can find the ad for this tC here.
Calling a Scion exciting is like calling tofu meat
I think $3500 is too much for a 14 year old car with unknown mileage and service history. If the front vent is broken, there maybe other trim pieces broken as well. How badly was the factory wiring harness butchered to install that old timey aftermarket radio? The spoiler maybe OEM, but it looks aftermarket. If it is aftermarket, the holes drilled into the trunk to install it may cause leaks.
The 2.4 has some complaints on the internet and some class action lawsuits about high oil consumption.
Another are I would check out is the bottom of the car. I noticed it has some rusted fasteners and radiator supports on the top side of the engine bay. If parts on the top is rusting, how much worse is the bottom of the car?
The AZ engine is notorious for weak piston rings and a Northstar-like head bolt thread issue leading to external oil leaks, hot spotting, then warping. One of Toyota’s worst engines. They did limited free fixes for the piston ring problems, but have ignore the head issue.
Also, these were all produced without a head unit. The “factory” units were actually dealer installed. Or the buyer could take it without a head unit, a set up meant to foster customization. Scion was definitely of its time.
I seriously considered a tC for my commuter car when they were new; I even toyed with the idea of getting the TRD factory supercharger kit… In the final analysis I couldn’t really justify the expense of the kit and installation and the supercharger was a lot of the appeal of the car for me.
I knew two people with Scions who really liked them; unfortunately for Toyota none of us were even close to Toyota’s target demographic age.
I, too, considered a tC when shopping a replacement for the disappointing ‘13 Beetle Convertible tDI I had owned for only 18 months. I was in my early ‘50s at the time, so also not in the target demographic.
Ended up with a Honda Fit, and the Scion brand went away not long after.
A tC was my first choice for a new car in 2007 until I drove a VW Rabbit which drove better and was a bit more practical, especially since I bought the four-door (I originally wanted a coupe, but the Rabbit two door was decontented from the four door that year). But there’s alot I liked about the tC. It looked way more expensive than it was with style that belied its low price, was a good value with an extensive standard equipment list, was surprisingly practical (roomy reclining rear seat, hatchback), and had good ergonomics. All that plus Toyota reliability.
Scion loved to talk about how customizable the tC was, but nobody who remembers when you could pick and choose from 50 factory options and at least dozen colors would be fooled. Your only real choice was the single option (an automatic transmission) and your choice of six paint colors. The interior was any color you wanted as long as it was black. Yes, Scion did offer about 40 dealer-installed accessories, but most of them looked like generic items from Pep Boys. You did get a warranty from Toyota and could roll the costs into your financing. Actually, for a few years Scion did have a second trim level below the “regular” tC, a base model with smaller steel wheels, a fixed glass roof rather than an openable sunroof, and no cruise control or leather wrapped wheel. But Scion refused to call it a base model, instead preferring to sell it as as a tuner-oriented car for people who would bin the original wheels anyway. I’m guessing most people who bought the cheaper “spec” version just wanted a more affordable car.
As a car the tC presented a very compelling value, I recall the price was very attractive when new, loads of equipment and attractive alloys and I always figured that subliminally the “tC” stood for toyota Celica.
Even at $3500 this doesn’t seem bad at all, it walks all over yesterday’s used taxi with twice the miles.
What would keep me away is that although it’s listed as a “By owner” ad, it very much looks like a dealer, both from the style that the ad is written in and especially the dealer inventory key tag visible in the photo with the center stack. So to me it’s already shady and there will be plenty of others out there.
I always thought tC was touring Coupe but toyota Celica works too!
I always wondered what the JDM name of this car was. Although it may be like a Celica mechanically, I know it’s not one. Did one of Toyota’s dealer chains sell this as their Celica equivalent?
They were not sold in Japan, actually. In other parts of the world it was known as the Toyota Zelas.
I really liked these upon their debut; Good looking, you got a lot for your money, and panoramic roofs were still somewhat a novelty, especially at this price point. Then I drove one… Way more Camry than Celica, that’s for certain. For me, it was a hard pass. The second gen. was more appealing to me, as the rear seat was humongous for a coupe and actually could be reclined if so desired, making the staid dynamics more tolerable, relative to the functionality factor. Either were certainly no Celica, dynamically ( a low bar to begin with )…
The first gen also had a very roomy, reclining back seat, with nice armrests, storage, and cup holders too. I was really impressed with how they managed this under what looked like a sleek low-slung coupe roof.
By using the same relatively long wheelbase as the Avensis sedan/wagon, whose platform the TC used. Typically a sporty coupe would have a shorter wheelbase, but not in this case. So the seating was essentially the same, except for a couple of inches less headroom.
My former housemate and another friend had a couple of these for a while. Ben replaced his with a Kia Optima, I don’t know what Joe got.
I never drove it but I rode in it several times and agree with GMAC310 that calling it exciting is like calling Tofu Meat. ANYTHING can be exciting if driven with enough verve and usually young men bought these cars, the same young men who might have bought a Pontiac Grand am. They wanted something which looked sporty, definitely sportier than a corolla/Camry, but had excellent reliability and a reasonable back seat and was reasonably priced. It definitely LOOKED sportier than a Corolla/Camry and sounded and felt like it.
I don’t really understand why the Scion brand went away. I know it wasn’t selling well at the end, but part of that was that a lot of the product had gotten stale and Toyota had stopped pushing it. Scion was always inside a Toyota Dealer, so toyota didn’t have the expenses of a separate channel, showroom, and dealer space. The idea of a more fashionable, younger, hipper brand with no haggle pricing is very appealing. Nobody wants to be Buicked or Oldsmobiled. The current success of the Soul, which is similar to the Xb, should have said Toyota could have had a niche. Perhaps young folks wanted something slightly less staid?
Nobody remembers the Xa.
These were interesting when they were introduced but they had a few drawbacks to me so I passed.
For a small car, the gas mileage isn’t great, thanks to that large engine. Sport Compact Car magazine tried to modify 1 of these and quickly realized that the chassis was not able to be modified to relieve the strong understeer.
And it’s too bad, but Toyota/Scion just couldn’t seem to update the looks of ANY of its cars. Either you like the first generation or you moved on, the 2nd generation was almost a clone of the 1st.
My niece, with a freshly-minted nursing degree, bought one of these as soon as she got her first job. It suited her perfectly. Now she drives a GMC Terrain.
I have a tc and still runs great! Planning on getting another vehicle but keeping my oldie around
It always felt more like Scion marketing was aimed at 1990s gen Xers than millennials. As a millennial the brand felt like an artifact of late 90s extreme product marketing, which their earliest products, the xA and xBs prefixes seem to reenforce.
The tC was a rather boring design to me, coming off the previous generations of Celicas it spiritually replaced, it was just a conventional 3 box melted bar of soap kind of design that was about as fresh and interesting to look at as a 1997 Nissan Sentra coupe. All it had were gimmicks like the glass roof and the “customization”, which ALL cars are.
Toyota didn’t build terribly exciting vehicles during the 2000s. The tC bucked that trend.
And to this day I’m baffled as to the rationale to keep Toyota badges off of them. It seemed like a conscious decision to separate what were deemed the kid toy models(Scions) from the responsible adult models(Toyotas) in the showrooms. I credit a good part of Toyota’s unflattering image of the “beige Camry” on the splitting of demographics. 90s Camrys and Corollas weren’t any less “boring” than 00s ones, but nobody derided the brand for being boring back then, difference was the brand had Supras, Celicas and MR2s christened with the same badge.
I like the car. The $3500 asking price is too much, though.
I find these comments are an interesting insight into the wide variety of perspectives here at CC, from age, experiences, location, etc. For example I and a lot of my friends labeled Toyota’s as boring in the late sixties, and the nineties did nothing to change that (and I have owned three nineties Toyota’s, probably because I grew to appreciate reliably boring cars). Yet, despite the basic roots of the TC I find it very appealing in ways that most Celicas were not. And, for California the price looks pretty good. By the way, my college coupe was a Chevy Vega.
A tC was my first new car. Of course, my second came just last year.
I really fell for the tC when it debuted on the auto show circuit. It looked really sharp and when I got mine in September of 2004 (2005 being its first year) a lot of people turned to look at it. It was Flint Mica which was a multi colored metallic gray. I eventually got just about every accessory available for it. This was a result of an arms race that I had with my girlfriend (now wife) who liked it so much she went out and got one of her own. I bought mine off the lot but she had hers built in Japan to her specs and shipped over.
I really really liked it and felt bad when I eventually sold it. It served me very well with the only failure being a sun visor hinge in 5.5 years of ownership. Though the hatch latch didn’t like to catch when it was cold out.
People were always surprised at how spacious the rear seats were – plenty of leg room and the seatbacks reclined slightly.
If you see them today, check to see if the hatch release panel has broken. A poor design, if you used the button to open the hatch, eventually it would break off. And with it the license plate lights.
I may eventually end up with another one some day.
I loved my ’05 black cherry pearl so much, after the motor went, I purchased a ’14 Monogram tC. They only made a certain amount of them, like they did with the release series models. The heated leather, rear wiper and push button start upgrades are definitely lovely. I had my ’05 for 3 years and next month I’ll have had my ’14 for the same.
This car seemed to resonate with younger buyers, a large portion of them were driven by younger people and it did offer a lot of features for the money. I’d go for the next gen tC if I could swing it, though. The new 2.5 liter is stronger and has no history of oil-burning, both transmissions are 6-speed rather than 4 and 5, and the value/practicality proposition is still strong. Big sunroof, big hatch opening, little price. It feels cheap inside (except the seats, those felt supportive) and road noise is apparently a problem, but I think it may be a fundamentally better vehicle.