The revised youth-oriented 2011 Scion tC has been long overdue and is improved enough to help boost sagging Scion sales. For instance, Scion sales fell sharply from 2008 to 2009 and were disappointing in 2010, too.
Major improvements have been made to the oddly named tC. The front-drive, two-door hatchback has more power, better transmissions, a revised interior, improved chassis and larger wheels.
Moreover, the 2011 tC provides lots of standard equipment, including a panoramic sunroof, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry and an AM/FM/CD sound system.
Safety items include stability and traction control systems and a bunch of air bags.
Scion is Toyota’s youth division. It was launched in 2003 with lots of offbeat promotion designed to drew young buyers of both sexes, although the tC turned into more of a female-oriented automatic transmission “chick car” than a male-oriented model. Not that Scion objects to female buyers, but that wasn’t exactly what it had in mind.
The 2011 tC looks racier and more masculine. It has a more aggressive-looking front end, bulging rear fenders and thick rear roof pillars, which, incidentally, create bad blind spots. Thank goodness for the large outside rearview mirrors.
Length and height haven’t changed, but the car is wider, with a wider front/rear track. That helps give it more road presence and surer handling.
The quiet, more spacious interior has lots of hard plastic, but looks better than the 2010 model with an improved dashboard layout. Gauges are easily read under most daylight conditions.
Long, heavy doors are a hassle in tight spots, but front seats are supportive. Sound system controls seem needlessly complicated, and the deep front console cupholders are set a little too far back. But climate controls are commendably large. The front console storage bin is deep but small, although the glove compartment is fairly large.
With a sliding front passenger seat, it only calls for moderate effort to get into the roomy rear-seat area from the right front side. However, the center of the back seat is too hard for comfort, and the fixed rear side windows don’t open.
The new tC also offers a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 180 horsepower (up from a 2.4 with 161), a six-speed manual transmission (up from a five-speed) and a six-speed automatic (up from from a four-speed) with an easily used manual shift feature.
The tC is moderately quick, with 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds (manual) and in 8.3 seconds (automatic). Passing in the 65-75 mph range doesn’t take long. The engine emits a subdued growl during hard acceleration, but it seems to be part of the car’s sporty nature.
Estimated fuel economy with either transmission is 23 mpg (city) and 31 mpg (highway).
The lower chassis has 18-inch wheels with 45-series tires, up from 17-wheels. A long wheelbase helps assure a supple ride, and the revised suspension provides sharp handling with virtually no body lean — although it feels front-heavy when pushed through tight turns. The wider rear track especially helps stability on winding roads.
The quick steering is rather heavy, but not objectionably so, and the extremely thick sliding, telescoping flat-bottomed steering wheel is easily gripped. The brake pedal has a nice linear action for smooth stops.
The large hatch has twin struts that make it easy to operate and a convenient interior pull-down area. It pops up to reveal a low, wide, long but shallow cargo opening. Rear seatbacks fold entirely flat to significantly increase cargo space.
The hood is held open by a prop rod, rather than hydraulic struts, but most fluid filler areas can be easily reached.
The new tC should help boost lagging Scion sales — and appeal more to male buyers.
Dan Jedlicka, the former car reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times, has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his articles, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.
Article Last Updated: September 8, 2021.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.