2011 Scion tC Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

If all-new is all good, you'd imagine that the 2011 Scion tC has gotta be pretty great. And it is, too ... for the most part.

The tC has actually been around in the U.S. since 2004 in its first-generation guise, but was redesigned for the 2011 model year and finally introduced to Canada at the same time, so it's new on both sides of the border for 2011.

The tC, like the rest of the Scion lineup, is marketed squarely at the 20-something millennials. What it offers is plenty of attention-getting sporty style, lots of standard features, great practicality for a 2-door coupe, and a wide range of available dealer-installed customized accessories, all for a pretty impressive price.

My Alpine White test car was kitted out the same as every tC (there's only one trim level) with panoramic sunroof, air conditioning, premium 8-speaker audio, Bluetooth capability, 18-inch aluminum alloys, and lots more. It also had the only option in the tC playbook, a 6-speed automatic transmission.

It's a pretty appealing lineup of standard features, and as I found out during my week with the tC it's all packaged in a very practical car. Whether I was picking up a week's worth of groceries, hauling a trio of teenagers to a concert, or winding my way up a mountain highway with my brother and all our ski equipment, the tC took me there in style, comfort and safety (thanks in part to the standard vehicle stability control now included on the tC).

The torquey 2.4L 4-cylinder engine moves the front-wheel drive tC along fairly briskly, so no complaints there. The fat, flat-bottomed steering wheel and kickin' stereo got thumbs-up from my passengers, as did the relatively spacious back seat. The firmly-damped suspension and crisp steering got an appreciative smile from me, although I found the off-centre steering feel a bit numb. I also found the seat side bolsters a bit uncomfortable on my thighs, and while I liked the look of the texture on the dash and door panels I discovered that it scuffs up very easily. Overall however, the tC makes a stylish and useful little runabout.

If that's all you are looking for - angular good looks, lots of features and a great price tag - you won't be disappointed. But it's not all I was looking for. Given all the tC's street-savvy posture, I felt like it should deliver a bit more real performance.

Part of the problem is the optional automatic transmission, which is biased towards fuel economy and always seeking the highest possible gear. This puts the engine revs way down low, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but doesn't really go well with the sporty exhaust note (certain combinations of a brappy exhaust and low engine revs sound rather like a whoopee cushion). It also means the car is constantly playing "gear hunter," which was never my favourite video game. Switching to manual-shift sport mode only increased my frustration, as the transmission is on the sluggish side with shifts taking an interminably long time to complete.

But this is beside the point really, because if you want a 6-speed manual transmission that's undoubtedly how you'll order up your tC, and if you prefer an automatic you'll probably find the tC's 6-speed automatic perfectly acceptable and pleasantly thrifty (the tC gets rated city/hwy economy of 8.9 / 6.3 L/100km with the manual and the automatic is close behind at 9.2 / 6.4 L/100km).

More to the point is, wouldn't it be nice if Scion could have offered the tC with some serious performance credentials? Perhaps even made it all-wheel drive? After all, it's based on the Avensis platform (which was itself originally all-wheel drive), and motorsports teams have built rear-drive tCs for Formula Drift racing. So all-wheel drive is certainly well within the realm of the possible and would make the Scion a better road machine, taming its tendency towards understeer and helping get the car's power to the ground.

But enough fantasizing. For those who desire a true performance sport coupe it seems that parent-company Toyota plans on delivering in the form of the rear-drive FT-86 (which, if you believe the rumours, may actually be sold as a Scion). In the meantime, the tC offers up all the style, features, practicality and safety you could want, and even though it doesn't offer the ultimate in performance it makes up for it with a very reasonable price - including the $1,050 automatic transmission and $535 worth of dealer accessories our test car came in at $22,435 plus $1,390 destination charges. Given the standard equipment levels in the tC, that's a pretty good performance right there.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Scion, 2011, tC, $20,000 - $29,999,

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page