Pros: Great value for price. Smooth, reliable engine.European styling with japanese reliability. Fantastic!
Cons: Easy to modify means also easy to take apart by accident. Hate radio cover.
Until recently I have driven my motorcycle the 4 miles to work every day without any problems. But a recent job change required me to get a car for the first time since my 1991 VW Jetta. I reviewed a lot of cars online, visited a lot of dealers and went to the car show, and at the end of it created a list of criteria that were important to me:
1) Price: I did not want to spend more than 15K.
2) Style: I have always liked coupes and wanted something that approached European design sensibilities.
3) Reliability: While I love European design, the cost of repair (and frequency) daunted me a little.
4) Power: Going from a sport bike to a car meant losing a lot of power to weight ratio, so I wanted something that would be a little zippy.
5) Gas mileage: I drive almost 80 miles a day now, so wanted something that would sip more than gulp.
And in the end the Scion Tc was the only car I was interested in getting. I bought mine used from Carmax (They rock! way better than my local toyota dealer) with 20k miles on it and generally in new condition. I got an extended warrantee (until 85K miles)and walked out the door happy. Now that I have driven it several thousand miles I feel I can share some of what I have learned.
I think this is a stylish car, the look is not too aggressive, but it does have some nice contemporary touches like the headlinghts (I think they were inspired by BMW). The car is also very roomy on the inside, comfortable and bright. The double sun-roofs are a nice touch. The finish of the car, both outside and inside, is not spectacular, but it is very competent and more than I expected for the price.
Performance: The 2.4 lt engine was, in my opinion, designed for an automatic transmission. It is very smooth and there is plenty of low and mid-range power. The suspension is forgiving, but still tight enough to take turns and handle better than a sedan. I had some problems at first because I was not used to driving a car with a tight clutch, but now I love it. Overall, I feel like the car is fast, but I know that it does not have the top end to truly compete with anything really sporty.
Build Quality: The interior is spacious and nice, but after two days of ownership I knocked one of the door sills off. This stunned me, but it was easy enough to put back. On the plus side, I think this would be a very easy car to take apart and mod, on the downside some of the panels and handles seem cheap. I also recognize that a lot of the elements in this car come from the Camry. This isnt a negative though. The one thing that drives me crazy is the plastic cover for the stereo system. Here in Baltimore the roads are not great, and when taking rough roads this cover squeeks. I fully intend to examine this and either remove it or lubricate it. I have also noticed on the front spoiler (ground effect) the paint has not been evenly applied, but I wonder if that is not because this is a 2005 (first model year). But overall, everything is efficient and well built.
Style and Reliability: I have always disdained toyota's and Honda's as soulless. While they are reliable, I felt they had little to no personality. The Scion Tc, in my opinion, is a great combination of the two. It feels european in its styling, but Japanese in its construction. I have not had it serviced yet and in 2000 miles it has been very reliable.
In short, I am thrilled with my purchase. I feel like I got a much more expensive can than what I paid for. I look forward to putting lots of miles on it with the sunroof open and the music blaring.