2011 Scion tC
Base price: $19,995
MPG: 23 city/31 highway
- Sporty new styling
- Nicely equipped; reasonably priced
- Improved fuel economy
- Spacious for cargo and people
- High-quality sound system
- Annoying tendency for stability control to kick in
- Cheap plastic interior
By Jim Prueter
Restyled tC gets improved fuel economy
In more ways than one, Scion is the youngest brand in the auto industry. In its seven years , Toyota’s youthful offspring has sold approximately 800,000 vehicles. Its core model, the tC, has the youngest buyers in the industry — averaging just 26-years-old — and accounts for 41 percent of the brand’s sales. That said, when you’re trying to appeal to a generation of young buyers who are always looking for the newest, hottest thing, seven years is a long time to go without a major upgrade.
This brings us to 2011. The tC has undergone a major redesign, but retains the characteristics that made it a standout with 20-somethings when it first hit the streets: endless customization options, premium sound systems and aggressive styling. What the folks at Scion have done is given those desirables a shot in the arm by improving the styling, enhancing performance and giving it some excellent technology options.
For tC buyers, customization remains key. There are more than 45 genuine Scion accessories, ranging from spoilers to lighting kits, and TRD performance parts like brake kits, sway bars and exhaust systems, that will appeal to tuners.
The tC is a five-passenger hatchback coupe that can accommodate bulky items from IKEA or a carload of friends. Backseat room is impressive and a reclining backrest improves the comfort factor. While the interior has a lot going for it — a well-laid out and intuitive control panel that is slightly angled toward the driver for easier access, comfortable bolstered seats, and a meaty, flat-bottomed steering wheel that lends a sporty feel — weirdly textured hard plastic abounds, detracting from the otherwise premium nature of the tC’s offerings.
Scion knows that for its target audience 70 percent of music listening is done in the car, so it features an attractive audio package. The standard system is an eight-speaker Pioneer system with CD, auxiliary audio jack and a USB interface for iPod. An Alpine premium system adds a 4.3-inch touch panel screen, HD radio, and front and rear RCA outputs that will allow for the installation of up to three amplifiers. A plug-in navigation unit is available with the premium system.
Other standard features include keyless entry, power accessories, panoramic sunroof, tilt and telescoping steering, and 60-40 split rear seats that recline and fold. Walk-in levers on the front seat make it easy for passengers to hop in back, and the driver’s seat has a memory feature that allows it to return to its previous position after passengers have been loaded — a nice touch.
The new tC is available in one highly customizable trim level, equipped with a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder 180-horsepower engine (19 more horses than the previous model, and 11 additional pound-feet of torque). The six-speed transmission comes in either manual or automatic.
I drove the automatic version over two different road courses in the Las Vegas area. The first was a twisty route through the Red Rock recreation area, which the tC handled admirably; however, during more aggressive driving, the stability control noticeably, and somewhat annoyingly, engages to reign in your enthusiasm.
I was much more impressed during our urban commute through the city streets, which is where the tC seems most comfortable. It is a great commuter car — responsive, well-mannered, easy handling and providing an overall enjoyable driving experience.
In terms of safety, tC comes equipped with eight standard airbags, antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, tire-pressure monitoring system, and active front headrests. It has not been crash-tested as of this writing. Best of all, the tC comes attractively priced, enabling tuners to save their money for tinkering with and customizing the vehicle.
Overall, we were impressed with the new tC. While performance has improved, it’s still not a true sports coupe, although the looks will tell you otherwise. However, while there’s no push-you-back-in-your-seat outright performance, it is enjoyable to drive and offers plenty of pep. The real fun comes with personalizing the tC so that it’s like no other on the road.