Coined a sporty, performance car, Toyota's Scion tC is a front-drive coupe that caters to the tuner crowd. If you're not of that group, the tC is a miserly sportster in this day of high fuel prices. It carries an EPA rating of 20 city, 27 highway mpg with its peppy 2.4L, 161-hp four cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission (a 4-speed automatic is optional). As such, the tC would make an ideal commuter car, or one for retirees who think young and desire an economical and sporty sprinter.As a compact coupe, tC has some space problems. With the hatch open and the split rear seats folded, you can probably stow a 10-speed bike inside; especially if folding the front passenger seatback. But for rear seat passengers, they need to apply what's called the crouch and crawl technique to slip down and into the rear seat. Realistically, the back seat is mainly for kids or short statured, flexible-bodied adults.

The front seats however are supportive and comfy with good leg and head room.

Rear vis is hampered a bit by wide "C" pillars and I would like to see a rear window wiper for the expansive glass back there. This could be a real problem in winter when snow and ice accumulates on it.

Instrumentation is easy to see and use and it's MP3 ready along with an iPod capable audio system. And if you like moonroofs, you'll love the almost full-length expanse of glass adorning the roof. While it covers the rear seat, only the front portion actually opens. Surprisingly, it's a standard feature.

Interior quietness can be an issue on all but smooth surface roadways. The engine too can he heard under hard acceleration and at highway speeds. But the tC makes up for any acoustic deficiencies in the handling department. Hairpin turns taken at speed are no challenge for this nicely chiseled, slippery appearing coupe. There's good road feel and well-checked body lean. It handles like a more expensive sportsters like the Mini Cooper, Honda Civic and a few others.

Now here's the impressive part. Loaded with most every desired safety feature and luxury item, my test car priced in at $19,661 after a base of $17,000. The only options were a TRD Sport Muffler (which gives off a tuner-loving buzzing sound), carpeting, wheel locks, XM Radio, rear tail Light enhancement and premium audio. It's a lot of little car for the money.

A lifelong resident of Lehigh County, Nick Hromiak has been writing about cars and trucks for 21 years. His love of cars has evolved into penning weekly automotive reviews. He is a member of International Motor Press Association and has been published in national magazines and weekly newspapers. To contact him via e-mail, contact the editor at jpopichak@berksmontnews.com

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