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2006 Scion tC
The most impressive thing about the entry-level 2006 Scion tC is that its list of features would be at home on many midrange cars. The panoramic moonroof, the 17-inch alloy wheels, the engine immobilizer system, the tire-pressure warning system, the side-mirror turn indicators, and the 160-watt Pioneer stereo all come standard--on a car that starts at $16,740. Even with an automatic transmission, front side and side curtain air bags, all-weather carpets, a rear pedestal spoiler, security options, and iPod integration for the stereo, our test car still came in at less than $20,000 ($19,462, to be exact). There's no bundling of the more than 40 options available for the tC; everything is available individually on an à la carte basis.
On the outside, the hood reminds us of the Volvo S60 R and, combined with the honeycomb grille, give a hint of aggression. In standard form, the styling won't lead to any unwanted street race challenges, but tuners will be happy, as there are plenty of factory options as well as a growing list of available aftermarket modifications. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has also just announced a $3,200 supercharger that can be fitted to manual transmission tCs, boosting the power from 160hp to 200hp along with a 13 percent increase in torque.
The standard panoramic moonroof on the 2006 Scion tC is a marvel. Both front and backseats have their own glass panels, and to open, the front panel lifts out and over the nonopening rear panel. We found the cloth front seats quite comfortable, although the driver's seat is a little high relative to the pedals for our liking, and we had to recline the front seats slightly to have adequate headroom. What really puzzled us, though, was the lack of front legroom, especially for the driver. The rear passengers have a surprising amount of legroom, but we found that anyone in the back seat taller than 5-foot-8 will be forced into a hunchbacklike crouch, as headroom is extremely limited, even for a small hatchback. Luggage space is decent, and with the 60/40 folding rear seats, there's more than enough room for skis or snowboards. Loading and unloading heavy suitcases is easy, thanks to the SUV-like flat access to the cargo bay floor. Another nice touch is the way the front seats fold down to the same level as the backseat, creating a big U-shaped lounge/bed area. This is going to be a very popular car at just about every lookout point frequented by teenagers across the country. All that's missing are remotes for the stereo and moonroof to help control the mood.
We also like the look and intuitive layout of the air conditioning controls, which, combined with the stereo hideaway door, give the center dash console a very clean, almost concept-car-like feel. And if you don't like the stereo that comes with the car, the double-DIN slot is very aftermarket-friendly, as the covering door maintains the look of the center stack no matter what you install. The hour and minute buttons, located at the bottom right of the stack, make setting the clock a snap, but we would have liked some way to prevent accidentally changing the time.
The iPod integration on the stereo is more sophisticated than on most cars, letting you navigate artists and all other pertinent song information. And the double-DIN slot is very friendly to installing aftermarket stereos.
There are no navigation or hands-free Bluetooth options, so any serious gadgetry will have to come from the aftermarket. The center console cubbyhole contains a 12-volt power supply, an auxiliary audio jack, and an optional iPod docking port, but we were disappointed that it lacks a pass-through slot for the associated cables. However, our biggest complaint is reserved for the windshield wiper operation, which has the right wiper blade pausing directly in the middle of driver's view before starting its downward stroke--very distracting.
We had a lot of fun changing between the 11 display colors on the 160-watt Pioneer CD/MP3 stereo (satellite radio is available as a $449 option) and liked the sound the six speakers produced. But if you want more bass, there's an optional 100-watt subwoofer that installs neatly into the corner of the trunk. There are three levels of automatic sound leveling available to automatically adjust the volume according to background noise, and the large SSP (which stands for Scion sound processing) button lets you pick from three preset equalization levels. Our test car was equipped with the iPod stereo upgrade, which adds a multiselector and volume dial to the stereo face and an iPod docking cable port to the center cubbyhole.
With our iPod Mini attached via the docking cable, we were delighted with the ability to control it through the stereo. Just as with the normal iPod interface, we were able to use the multiselector as a joystick to navigate through our music by playlist, album, artist, and song--much more sophisticated integration than we've seen on other cars. The system displays the ID3 tag information for docked iPods and MP3 CDs.
This front-wheel-drive 2006 Scion tC is powered by the same 160hp, four-cylinder engine found in the Toyota Camry. Acceleration is adequate, with enough power to make a bit of tire noise from a standing start. Reported 0-to-60 times for automatics, such as our test car, are in the mid- to low 8-second range while the manual transmission is supposed to achieve 60 in the mid 7s. Manual transmission versions can be boosted to 200hp by fitting the newly announced $3,200 supercharger from TRD. There are also rumors of a 250hp or even 300hp tC in the works.
The Scion shares its engine with the four-cylinder Toyota Camry. It produces 160hp--not bad but not stupendous--giving it 0-to-60mph times around 8 seconds.
Small bumps in the road make the ride a bit jarring, and there is quite a bit of road noise, mostly due to the low-profile tires. However, the suspension is soft enough to handle large parking lot speed bumps with ease. When pushed moderately, the car didn't come up with any surprises, and the handling hinted at a bit of understeer. Grip levels seemed surprisingly good, but the automatic transmission didn't give us the confidence to really go for it in the corners for fear of an ill-timed kick-down. For improved performance, with handling kits available from both TRD and aftermarket developers, 18-inch wheels are an option.
EPA mileage for the four-speed automatic is a decent 23mpg city and 30mpg highway. In an unusual reversal, the five-speed manual version is rated slightly lower at 22mpg city and 29mpg highway, due in part to lower overall gear ratio in top gear (3.282 for the manual vs. 3.208 for the automatic). The 2006 Scion tC is a ULEV.
Government crash ratings for the 2006 Scion tC are five stars for driver frontal and four stars for passenger frontal, side, and rollover. Our test car came with the $650 side air bag option, which is the only feature besides color and transmission type that must be factory installed. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake assist, front air bags, driver knee air bag, and front seat belt pretensioners are all standard, as is the three-year/36,000-mile comprehensive warranty with five-year/60,000-mile power train coverage and five-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion protection.