2011 Scion tC
Engine sounds and the steering wheel dominate impressions of the 2011 Scion tC.
It’s an odd counterpoint. From the moment you settle into the well-bolstered driver’s seat, the steering wheel tells you this is a real driver’s car.
The rim is fat, but not too fat, as well shaped for holding as a fine target pistol. It is flat on the bottom like those on race cars and, once adjusted properly—it tilts and telescopes—it becomes a confident command conduit.Too bad the promise dies when you fire up the engine and punch the loud pedal. Then the engine exudes raucous noises that sound more like the thrashing about of a struggling economy car.
Perhaps it is of little consequence because the tC is aimed at young owners who tend to modify their rides, and there most certainly are aftermarket exhaust systems with more bark. In fact, there are reports of such modifications, mostly on stick-shift models, but the test car here had an automatic transmission and the standard muffler.
Scion is the separate brand from Toyota that was supposed to capture the hearts and minds of 20- and 30-somethings, seducing them into further liaisons with Toyota and Lexus.
Launched in 2002, Scion delivered the xB, a box on wheels, and the xA, a small four-door hatchback. They soon caught on with the buying public.Noting the popularity with the so-called tuner crowd of coupes like the Honda Civic, Scion introduced the tC, which not only looked good but had a back seat in which two people could actually stretch out, if not cuddle.
The 2011 tC continues in that vein. It is the same overall length as the original but with new styling that gives it a chunkier, more muscular look, as if the older tC had taken steroids.
As before, it delivers the versatility of a hatchback design, although there’s not a great deal of cargo room beneath the hatch with the seatbacks up. Folding the rear seatbacks opens up more than 34 cubic feet of space.
Enhancements come mostly in the mechanical innards. There’s a new, 180-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission with a slotted shifter and a manual-shift mode—though without steering-wheel paddles.
The test car’s automatic, which costs an extra $1,000, shifted smoothly in either automatic or manual mode, although under hard acceleration it was hard to notice anything but the overbearing harsh engine noises.
Offsetting that, the front-drive tC handled nicely, with little body lean and good tracking through the curves. Even if it were less competent, it still would be engaging because of the tactile sensations from that nifty steering wheel.
The tradeoff, as always, is between good handling and a comfortable ride, and here the tC gives up ride quality. On rough surfaces it can rattle the molars.
In everyday motoring, however, the tC is pleasant enough. The cloth seats are comfortable, with good lateral support, the back-lighted instruments are big and easy to read, controls are where you expect them to be and, as long as you don’t rev the engine too much, the ambiance is relatively relaxed.
Curiously, the instruments feature white on black graphics, but when the lights go on, the numbers change to pink. The gauges are housed in deep pods, which eliminates glare.
The dash and other interior trim are built mostly of hard plastic, though there are different textures. Arm rests in the doors are soft to the touch but the other elbow must rest on the hard plastic of the console lid.
Standard equipment includes a dual panoramic glass sunroof. Only the front opens to the air; the rear glass is fixed. Both have effective shades to keep out unwanted sunlight. The tC also has full safety equipment, including traction and stability control, antilock brakes, side air bags, side-curtain air bags and knee air bags up front.For all of its sporting aspirations—one test put the zero-to-60 miles an hour acceleration time at slightly more than seven seconds—the tC also is a decent economy car. It is rated at 23/31 miles to the gallon of regular gasoline on the EPA’s city/highway cycles.
Moreover, it is designed for youthful purses and wallets, with a base sticker price of $19,995, including shipping. The test car had options that included an upgraded audio system with iPod capability, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and an aftermarket XM satellite radio installation that brought the suggested price for $21,417.
The audio system presents an odd face with a multifunction button that doesn’t have many functions. But it incorporates the XM radio, which has an add-on antenna that sticks out of the trunk and is glued to the right-rear fender.
The tC has been a perennially good, though not great, seller for Scion. That should continue, and perhaps improve, with the 2011 version.
Also, with that roomy back seat, it likely could expand its horizons with two more doors. A four-door tC would be appealing to a whole lot of folks and certainly would outshine the current Toyota Corolla.