Toyota introduced the Scion brand 10 years ago, aimed at younger buyers, perhaps those purchasing their first new vehicle, with the idea of bringing them into the Toyota fold early.The company says that more than three-fourths of Scion buyers are also new to Toyota.There are several models, including a couple of small crossovers, a minicar, a sports car, and my tester, the tC compact sport hatchback, an affordable, well-equipped, distinctive-looking vehicle.Scion prices range from $16,420 for the iQ four-seat commuter car to $24,500-plus for the FR-S rear-wheel-drive with manual or automatic transmission and a boxer engine. Mine was the 2014 front-drive tC, which came with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 179 horsepower, connected to a six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission with Rev Management.Capable of carrying up to five passengers, its starting price is $20,210 (plus $795 freight). EPA fuel economy estimates are 23 mpg city/31 highway/27 mpg combined. The EPA numbers are the same for the tC with a six-speed manual gearbox.The tC receives high marks for safety, with an overall rating of five stars. It has advanced front air bags, front seat-mounted side air bags, front knee air bags, and front and rear side-curtain air bags. The LATCH child-seat system for all rear seating positions and active front headrests add more layers of protection.Also featured is Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes electronic stability control with traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and smart-stop technology.For 2014, the tC has a bolder new look, with angular headlights, a lower hood, a heftier front bumper, new grille treatments and new vertical LED accent lighting set in black. A line from the front door pillar through the grille and down to the front bumper gives a look of motion even when the car is sitting still.With the automatic transmission, there is a manual-shift mode, operated using the shift lever in the “S” position and offering six shift levels displayed in the driver-information display. Dynamic Rev Management allows for a quick and smooth downshifting experience on the road.The bolder look continues with new, standard 18-inch alloy wheels with dark-gray paint and machined spoke surfaces, arranged in five curvy Vs, mounted with P225/45R18 tires. The rear bumper is also more aggressive, with vertical lights at the outer edges and an expanded blackout section with a center-mounted light on the lower edge.LED taillights are also new and more in-your-face. The low-profile rear spoiler, a $499 option, also had a blackout feature with a Scion badge appliqué under the lip.The liftgate was easy to raise, and it opens high, with the trunk space wide open. Behind the seatbacks, the cargo space was 14.7 cubic feet. With the 60/40 folding rear seatbacks down, there was enough room to stretch out and sleep or gaze at the stars through the large glass liftgate or the dual panoramic moon roof.The seatback is folded from inside, using a handle. My tester came with a monogrammed cargo mat and floor mats, a $189 option.In the backseat, you can fit two average-size adults or three children, as the middle seat is quite narrow and high. My head touched the edge of the headliner and I am 5 feet tall.Headroom for the outboard seats was a little better, although the roofline sloped slightly down and in on the sides. Legroom was also a little cramped, at 34.6 inches.The new tC also comes with interior enhancements such as an auto-up and -down driver’s window with jam protection, auto-off projector-beam headlights, and upgraded materials with brighter accents.There are two new paint colors in addition to the five offered last year: Absolutely Red and Blue Streak Metallic (my tester).My Scion had comfortable manually adjustable front sport bucket seats with height adjustment for the driver. Both front buckets folded and slid forward for access to the rear. I must be spoiled by power seats because the manual height adjustment lever was time consuming and tiring. When the front seats were moved forward, they had a tendency to slide backward if not held in place.The seats were charcoal cloth with gray-on-gray striped inserts on the sitting area and the backrest. Interior accents were crosshatch-textured carbon black with touches of silver metallic and grass-cloth-textured plastic. Soft gray fabric covered the middle of the door panels and armrest. A bold instrument cluster had racing-inspired speedometer, tachometer and fuel-gauge needles, which spiked every time the engine was started. They had an eyebrow shade to cut down on glare.The tC has an ECO indicator light that shows when the vehicle is being operated in a fuel-efficient manner, to help remind the driver to adjust accelerator use and speed.This is the first Scion in the family with an all-new Pioneer audio system featuring a 6.1 inch LCD touch screen, with advanced features such as Bluetooth, HD radio technology, auxiliary/USB port with iPod connectivity and steering-wheel controls. In fact, Scion is the first non-luxury brand with standard touch screen audio systems now in every model. My test vehicle came with the all-new BeSpoke Premium Audio system (a $1,280 option) with Aha, an app originally designed for smartphones and tablets. BeSpoke has GPS navigation with points-of-interest and Push-to-Talk with 33 programmed navigation, media and phone commands featuring “one-shot,” which allows the programmer to say the entire address in one breath.Aha has to be paired with a compatible smartphone, and offers simple menus to access Scion’s own music channels (one station, 17 channels) and personalized music channels; over 40,000 Internet radio stations, audio books and podcasts; Facebook and Twitter; international, sports, business and tech news; and services such as Yelp and TripAdvisor to find local weather updates, restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops.The 300-watt audio system came with eight speakers — three on each door and one on each side of the rear seat -- AM/FM/CD, hands-free phone capability and Bluetooth music streaming. Listening to some of my favorite CDs as well as a local oldies station, the sound was good, with adjustments for “normal,” “hear” and “feel.” I preferred the “normal” setting.The navigation system was relatively simple and intuitive, with a few folders and pages with useful features — and not a lot of confusing bells and whistles. Directions were also simple and easy to follow, although the turn indicator bell was a little late. Scion tC is fun and easy to drive, with good visibility except for an area near the rear “C” pillars. The ride was a little rough, though, partly due, I’m sure, to the lower-profile tires and sport suspension. This is something younger bodies would appreciate more than I would.With $2,107 in options (including a self-dimming rearview mirror for $139) and freight, the total delivered price of my tC was $23,112.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at email@example.com.