Saturday, February 04, 2006

Review: 2006 Scion tC

It's been a long time coming, but I think it's finally time I talked about my new car.

First off, it's a 2006 Scion tC in Natuical Blue - a 2DR hatchback. Base model, except for the small lip spoiler on the back.
See pictures of my car!

Cost: $18070, including the lip spoiler and handling fees. Add to that a ton of extended warranty and service contracts. Finance through Toyota Finance over five years, using their speciality "New Grad" deal: 6.5%. Long story short, $417.47 a month for five years. Which may sound like a lot, but believe me, for a new car (and NO credit in the US), it's quite a reasonable number considering that every conceivable expense on the car except gas is covered.

I've given the car a good work in, I think (about 700 miles - I bought it at 16). So, lets talk.

One of the key upsides of this car: getting it is painless. Their "mono-spec" concept means that there's no wierd acronyms referring to 100 different option sets - there is just ONE tC - and things like power windows/locks, keyless, cruise, moonroof, etc. are all base. Scion also has a solid list of additional options that are normally aftermarket - larger rims, ground effects, interior lightkits, lip or wing spoilers, and tons of others - and you can choose them piecemeal. With the exception of the side airbags, all of these options can be dealer-installed. This holds in the future too - if you come back a year later and say "I wish I'd gotten the ricer wing spoiler and skirts", then you just go back to the dealer, and they'll do it at the exact same price as it would have cost if you'd bought it that way.

The "pure-price" concept prevents negotiation, both on the price, and on the options. While this means the dealer could artifically set their prices high, most dealers interpret this as meaning they must stick with MSRP, which in this fairly well-off region, isn't a bad thing. They literally printed off my final sales price off the car builder.

I, personally, bought mine at Michael's Toyota, from "JJ" John Jorgenson. I was pleased with the experience, so if you're looking for a Scion, give them a try.

Now, the good points about the car.
  • Price can't be beat. At under $17k USD, you have a value proposition over all the other comparable cars in its class ($20k+). Furthermore, the base specs are like a fully-loaded version of the other cars.
  • Looks awesome, especially in the blue. Sure, you may not quite get looks as if you were in an MR2, but at the same time, you're not going to look like every other Corolla (okay, more like every SUV around here) on the road. The rims are sweet, and they're not even the upgrades.
  • Peppy. 160HP at just under 3000lb. (note: not a word, Irishman!). This is roughly comparable to the other cars in its class that I drove, and it feels like it accelerates far better than any of them. It's the perfect balance for someone for whom a Civic won't be anywhere near enough, but isn't quite ready to go for the more powerful acceleration of a V6. It'll handily handle any non-racing situation you find yourself in, including the hillcliming standard all over North Vancouver.
  • Amazingly roomy. The front is spacious, and the back is very spacious for this class of car. I'll have no problem taking passengers. While the trunk is a little small, both back seats fold down (2/3 - 1/3), to give you extra room.
  • MP3 player stock, with a line in (and power) under the driver armrest for connecting MP3 players. With an optional upgrade, it'll actually connect to an ipod or other player such that you can actually use the wheel controls to control it. The digital sound processing abilities allow you to choose three modes: neutral (ie. flat), hear (boost lows, highs), feel (enhanced bass) to tweak how you want to listen to your music.
  • Climate control is great. Windows (including blowers for the side windows) defog almost instantly when you tell them to.
  • It's a Toyota. So Toyota service, Toyota warranty, and the legendary ability for Toyotas to hold their value over time.

I must mention, this car isn't perfect. These are mostly minor points, but they subtract from it being a perfect car.
  • Fuel economy is average for its class, but by no means impressive. It's meant to be 22/29 MPG. My last tank (commuting, and a bit of highway driving) was 21.5. Meh - if I wanted economy, I'd get a Civic hybrid - but the engine on them is just too weak even for me.
  • It's a stiff ride. While that can be fun, combined with the thin tires, you feel everything on the road. Driving to Vancouver was genuinely unpleasant in some places as you bounce and shake. An interesting observation by Matt though: it's not just the car - lots of the highways around here really suck! I'd have to agree - once across the border to Canada, it was smooth sailing.
  • It doesn't maneuver as well as I thought it would at parking speeds. While I can take an on-ramp loop at ridiculous speed without so much as blinking, I can't park the damned thing for the life of me. Again, partially Seattle's fault - most of their parking is designed for midgets on bicycles. Don't expect it to slip into tiny spots like an Echo.
  • The car is a bit TOO helpful, to the point of nagging. For example, if you don't wear your seatbelt and accelerate, it starts beeping. If you still don't put it on, it beeps faster. For those 30-second "I need to move the car across the street" kinda use, it's annoying as hell. The lights aren't automatic (doesn't even seem to be daytime running lights). They'll also turn themselves off if the engine is off and door is open. This is good, since you can never leave your lights on, but I don't trust any system I can't override.
  • No rear wiper. With the angle of the hatch, it'd be nice to have. Especially in Seattle.
  • Keyless entry doesn't honk - makes it harder to find your car.
And finally, the general observations. Not good, not bad. Just comments.
  • The worst issue most people complain about is rattle. While I've gotten some rattle for a bit after I shut the hatch a bit too aggressively, I've yet to hit any persistent rattle issues.
  • People also complain about blind spots. It's true, the driver's side spot is a bit obscured, but really, it teaches you to use your mirrors properly! If you've checked your left wing mirror, there's only a small area it could hide in, and if it's there, no post is going to hide the fact that there's a car right beside you.
  • The stereo has great specs, but when starting it up, it sounded... well... muffled. Downright disappointing in fact. I'd call this a bug. One of the service coordinators at Scion showed me a trick to fix it. The sound processing is tuned for each model of car, presumably to direct certain frequencies and power towards speakers that can best make use of them. However, since it'd be expensive to make three models of stereo, it's an option you can change! Hold down the SSP button until it beeps, use the volume knob to change the mode to xA (the Scion version of the Matrix) for a far clearer sound, or xB (the ugly-ass "box") for a richer sound. I've been using xB's feel mode - while I wonder if I'm getting the most out of my system by tuning to a sound mode for a car so different from mine, the tC mode is just too sucky to use.

Well, there you have it. Overall, I give the car a 9 on the Mike's money well spent scale. It's not quite perfect, but out of everything I've considered, it certainly was the best choice for me by a fair margin.

Oh yeah, and you can get, from the DEALER (at least in theory), a supercharger that will boost the HP by 40 for about $3500. That would be just nutsy cool, but it's only available in stick. Having said that, if I start talking about a stick shift in that performance range, there's other options worth considering more.
I did briefly consider the Civic Si even for this purchase, but it's hard to find a dealer that actually has one, and a car doesn't even hit my radar until I've been behind the wheel of it. Plus I'm fairly anti-Civic - it comes from the mental association with my high school full of HKers with rice rockets, rather than any real objection to the brand.

Right, enough rambling. Still up, an MS blog and a house blog. The latter will have to wait until I clean up enough for pictures.


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