Sporty/performance car; Built in Japan
  • 2-door coupe
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $7,000 – $15,000*

2005 Scion tC

2005 Scion tC

2005 Scion tC

2005 Scion tC

  • Fuel economy
  • Maneuverability
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Rear-seat room

In some ways, the tC seems a bit calculated for its intended audience, and there’s a hint of cost-cutting here and there. But even over-40s can appreciate this Scion’s blend of sporty performance, surprising space and high feature count, plus the strong reliability and resale values associated with Toyota products. However, it’s important with cars like this to look for signs of premature wear-and-tear, so make sure the condition of tires, upholstery, window seals, engine hoses and similar items is appropriate to the car’s model year and odometer reading. If they aren’t, steer clear; the car has probably led a hard life, which can mean trouble for you. For the same reason, avoid tCs that have been highly customized, especially with cosmetic add-ons that can’t be easily or cleanly removed. They lower resale value later on.


Toyota launched its youth-oriented Scion brand for model-year 2004 with a pair of compacts: the xA 4-door hatchback and boxy xB wagon. Existing Toyota dealers handled sales and service. The tC arrived for 2005. Though a midsize 2-door hatchback coupe, it mimicked other Scions with a front-wheel-drive format, an attractive base price-initially just under $16,000-and ample scope for personalization. The only engine was a 160-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder teamed with 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic. Seating was for four only, as the rear bench was shaped for two.

The tC was an intriguing newcomer, as most brands had abandoned midsize coupes due to weak sales demand. Its closest rival by size was a 4-cyl Honda Accord coupe, which offered a 160-hp 2.4-liter engine at base prices starting some $4500 higher. Honda’s upscale Acura division offered a sporty compact coupe, the hatchback RSX, with a 160-hp 2.0-liter engine and standard equipment similar to the tC’s; it started at just over $20,000. Perhaps the most compelling alternative for Scion’s target buyers was the BMW-designed Mini Cooper, a much smaller car with 1.6-liter engines of 115 and 163 hp and prices from around $16,500.

Toyota made value a Scion calling card, so tCs came standard with power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, sunroof, cruise control, height-adjustable driver’s seat, split-folding rear seatback, and reclining front seatbacks that could be dropped level with the rear seat cushion. Serving safety were standard antilock 4-wheel disc brakes and a novel driver’s knee airbag. Front torso side airbags and front/rear curtain side airbags were available as a set, but traction and stability control were not offered. Among factory options were satellite radio, a premium audio system with subwoofer speaker mounted in the cargo bay, and 18- and 19-inch wheels to replace the standard 17s, all made of cast alloy. Toyota dealers also offered a number of dress-up and performance accessories, including a supercharger kit that was claimed to yield around 200 hp.

Yearly Updates

2006 tC
Standard and optional audio systems added steering-wheel controls and plug-ins for digital music players; the optional system also allowed operating the player from the dashboard.
2007 tC
A decontented model aimed at customizers was new to the 2007 tC lineup. The new-for-’07 Spec Package model came with 16-inch steel wheels, nonopening sunroof, and unique upholstery.
2008 tC
The 2008 Scion tC got a slightly revised front- and rear-end appearance.
2009 tC
The lower-priced but de-contented Spec Package model was discontinued.
2010 tC
The 2010 Scion tC was largely unchanged pending a redesign due in calendar 2010 as a 2011 model.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

The only engine offered was a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder rated at 160 horsepower. Transmissions comprised 5-speed manual and optional 4-speed automatic.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 160
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 163
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

The tC isn’t as zippy as it looks, but should be adequate for most needs. An automatic-transmission test car timed 0-60 mph in a middling 8.4 sec. An alert driver might get under 8 with manual transmission. Midrange passing power is nothing special either, but a relatively large, torquey engine makes stop-and-go driving less stressful than in smaller-engine rivals like the Mini Cooper. The supercharger option adds useful low-rpm muscle, but will be hard to find. Fuel economy, sans supercharger, is decent, all told: 25.4 mpg for a manual-transmission test car, helped by lots of highway driving; 21.7 for an automatic model, hampered by gas-eating performance tests. And just regular-grade fuel is needed, a big plus nowadays.

Road manners strike a nice balance between ride and handling. Cornering is front-drive predictable, and nimble for the size and weight, with little body lean, impressive grip, and good steering feel. Brakes furnish short, smooth stops from most any speed, helped by firm, progressive pedal action. Sharp bumps can send little tremors through the structure, and the available 18-/19-inch tires thump more than the standard 17s; but the tC rides comfortably for a sporty car. Too bad it’s not that quiet, suffering marked high-rpm engine noise and fair racket from wind and tires even at moderate cruising speeds.

Inside, the tC offers decent space for four adults, but it helps if they’re under 6-feet tall, especially if consigned to the rear seat. Entry/exit requires a longish drop front or rear, but that’s a penalty of the racy coupe roofline. Another penalty is so-so aft visibility, as the sloped rear window collects dirt quickly and, curiously for a Toyota, has no wiper/washer. But Toyota’s typical slick, well-arranged switchgear is on hand-and handy. Drivers also enjoy a standard tilt steering wheel and seat adjustments for height and thigh support. Some of our testers think the gauges overstyled and less legible than they ought to be; others have no complaint. The same applies to cabin fit/finish and materials: judged a bit cut-rate in spots by some testers, terrific for the price by others. Cargo room is OK for a sporty coupe this size, helped by the fold-flat rear seatbacks, fold-flat right-front seatback, and high-rising hatch lid. The optional subwoofer, however, steals space. Cockpit storage for beverages, CDs, and such is plentiful.


Model Tested: 2005 Scion tC 4-speed atuomatic

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 6
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 8

Total: 53


2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 174.0 69.1 55.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.8 14.5 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.6 36.6 41.6 33.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2005 tC 2-door coupe


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The center air vent may be loose and flop out of position and the company was replacing the A/C register assembly as needed. The audio system cover may not close so it should be checked and fixed at the same time that the center console is removed. (2005)
Description: The front doors may not open fully and/or the window may not go all the way down due to a faulty door check rod. (2005-07)
Exhaust system
Description: Rotten egg odor, while often caused by fuel with excess sulfur, is reduced by replacing catalytic converter with revised component. (2005)
Audio system
Description: On cars equipped with the base level audio system, the radio stations may occasionally change by themselves requiring replacement of the audio head. (2006)
Audio system
Description: The audio system may be noisy when using an external MP3 player requiring installation of an in-line filter. (2006-07)
Rear axle noise
Description: Rattle from the rear hatch due to problem with mounting point for gas charged hatch support. (2005)
Steering problems
Description: Some early production vehicles pulled to the right and, if an alignment does not correct it, it may be necessary to replace the power steering pump and link. (2005)
Vehicle noise
Description: The audio system may be noisy when using an external MP3 player requiring installation of an in-line filter. (2006-07)
Electrical problem
Description: The front doors or windows may not open all the way due to a problem with the door check mechanism. (2005-07)
Wind noise
Description: Wind noise and poor fit of the sliding roof is corrected with a new drive gear assembly. (2005-07)
Wind noise
Description: Vehicles with the Kenstyle body kit have a whistling noise from the front at highway speed unless the seal between the grille and hood is removed. (2007)
Check-engine light
Description: The check engine light may glow due to a poor fit between the gas cap and filler neck. (2005-09)

Recall History

2005-06 tC
Description: Glass wind deflector for sunroof may shatter if hit by road debris with sunroof open. Dealers will install protective laminate to prevent pieces of glass from falling through sunroof onto occupants.
2005-06 tC
Description: Certain vehicles may have improperly assembled airbags that will not inflate sufficiently for occupant protection. Dealers will replace affected airbag modules.
Description: The side impact seatbolster and curtain side air bags may inadvertently deploy if the door is closed with too much force while the vehicle is running or shortly after the vehicle was shut off. Dealers will replace the two side impact air bag sensors and install a urethane pad in the front doors, if necessary, free of charge.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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