• Jan 27, 2011
Changed For The Better, But Not Quite Enough

2011 Scion tC - Click above for high-res image gallery

Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe are known for their theory that America goes through a repeating cycle of four periods: a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling and a Crisis. Depending on who you believe, we could be in an Unraveling period about to fall headlong into a major crisis, which our two historians call the Fourth Turning. But if we persevere and turn the corner, we'll find ourselves back in High times once again.

We reckon the Scion brand is in about the same spot. It hasn't had much positive to report lately, so the redesigned 2011 Scion tC gives the brand something to talk about while it works out how to improve on its initially strong showing in the U.S. Does the new tC portend a return to High times for Scion, or is it leading a parade lap right into the Fourth Turning?

Continue Reading...



Photos copyright ©2011 Jeff Glucker / AOL


The Scion tC's lines are new for 2011, but they're very familiar. That's probably because its dimensions are identical to the 2010 model with the exception of an additional 1.6 inches of overall width.

A flat roofline gives the profile a low, bulldog stance and the massive C-pillar leaves perhaps the largest first impression. Up front the lower fascia channels a prize-winning Grouper, but swept back headlamps also give it an air of aggression. The rear end lacks the most visual interest, though all of the car's lines were nicely showcased by the Sizzling Crimson Mica paint on our tester. Overall, the 2011 tC looks more butch than the model it replaces, like it went to the gym and pumped iron until some delts appeared.

2011 Scion tC side view2011 Scion tC front view2011 Scion tC rear view


Opinions may vary, but Scion gets good marks from us for the exterior changes. Unfortunately we can't say the same about the interior. At $19,995 for the auto-equipped model (manuals start at $18,995), the tC competes directly with the Kia Forte Koup and Honda Civic. The $22,250 Hyundai Genesis Coupe is even a short reach away offering enthusiasts real bonafide rear-wheel-drive dynamics, and a Nissan Altima Coupe starts under $23K as well. Tough room. Compared to the Civic, Altima and even the Genesis, the inside of the tC just feels cheap. The dash and door materials scuff at the lightest touch and the fidelity-challenged stereo looks like an aftermarket install from Best Buy. The lone bright spot is the super-sized steering wheel. The flat-bottomed D-shaped tiller looks great and would be equally at home in something more sporty.

Though there are nicer interiors in this class of driver-focused coupes, it's not a torture chamber behind the tC's wheel. The thick C-pillars try their hardest to ruin rearward vision, but visibility is better than the dropped roof and six-pack of pillars suggest. The front seats are also comfortable and headroom wasn't an issue for this six-foot, three-inch writer. The back seat is an entirely different story, but that's par for the compact coupe course. If you must ferry more than a co-pilot, you'll probably have one less Facebook friend when you reach your destination.

2011 Scion tC front seats2011 Scion tC tachometer2011 Scion tC rear cargo area


Getting there won't be an issue, though, because Scion has fitted the 2011 tC with a new engine lifted right from the base-model Camry. Replacing the tC's old 161-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is a new 2.5-liter four producing 180 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 173 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm – welcomed increases of 19 hp and 11 lb-ft, respectively. The throttle is responsive, which helps make up for the dull engine note that Camry owners know all too well. A more throaty exhaust note would have gone a long way towards matching the buff new body.

The 2011 tC does, however, get a pair of new transmissions that both have six gears. We had already sampled the new manual six-speed during our First Drive. This time, however, our tester had the new six-speed automatic, and we'd wager our lunch money that it's the more common choice among tC buyers. (We won't be going hungry.) In manual mode, the six-speed automatic is surprisingly responsive and allowed us to keep the engine right in its power band. Slap the shifter back in D, however, and you get early upshifts as the tC tries to hit its EPA-rated fuel economy of 23 city and 31 mpg on the highway. We averaged 24.2 mpg in mixed city and highway driving versus the the government's 26 mpg combined-driving estimate.

2011 Scion tC engine

Gripping that thick-rimmed steering wheel flipped our mental driving switch from "Normal" to "Sport" and we couldn't help but try to push the little tC around. Its steering is heavy but still engaging and has a less-boosted feel than other Toyotas. Handling benefits from large 18-inch alloy wheels wearing 225/45R Toyo Proxes tires, an upgrade over the last generation's 215/45/17s. While not an outright sports car, the tC driving experience is still more rewarding than your standard compact commuter.

Yes, the 2011 Scion tC has a more masculine physique and a new engine that's both more powerful and fuel efficient. The interior, however, does fall short of its peers and the competition in this $20k price range gets better every year. Stepping away from a direct segment comparison and focusing on competitors by price, the 2011 Volkswagen Golf has a more impressive interior, the 2011 Ford Fiesta has connected better with young people and the 2011 Honda CR-Z takes the mpg crown. The only real brass-knuckle fight the tC has is with the Kia Forte Koup, which is priced nearly the same, looks more expensive and delivers a lot more value.

2011 Scion tC rear 3/4 view

Scion has certainly moved the tC in the right direction with this second generation car; it's better in virtually every way compared to last year's model. What we can't say is where it will lead the brand: into the Fourth Turning of a Crisis cycle or back to the beginning for a period of High times. That's ultimately up to buyers and they've got a lot of good hardware to choose from at this price point. For that reason, we think Scion needs something more than a better tC to turn the corner.



Photos copyright ©2011 Jeff Glucker / AOL


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      More over-priced Toyota junk, next please.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I hate the junk you sell, Wally.
      • 3 Years Ago
      needs Moar RWD. Seriously though, would it kill toyota to adapt the 4wheel drive system out of their matrix to the TC platform? This thing as it is represents the epitome of FWD understeering failboat. Power's decent, but it's still got to pull that huge frame through turns. A RWD TC would be pretty decent if they kept the price point low. Better yet, take the XD chassis and make a RWD micro Scion TC
      • 3 Years Ago
      I guess this is where the Toyota/Subaru RWD car will come in since they want to damn the car and label it a Scion. I am hoping it stays a Toyota.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I actually think the FT-86 would do quite well as a Scion. I like the concept behind the brand (young, fresh design, customizable, and affordable) but they need a new flagship vehicle to give their reputation a good bump. Considering the RWD ~250hp FT-86 will be a collaborative product of Toyota and Subaru, I'm assuming it will be quite good. In the end I really don't care what logo they slap on it, but if it was a Scion it would most likely the best Scion yet.
        • 3 Years Ago
        John: Spot on. There's no need for this car to be pushed into the +$20k range. Especially with the FT86 coming this fall. That being said, Toyota should have taken 200lbs off and put in a smaller motor, increasing the MPGs. Scion could be their efficiency/small brand, which will have a real shot in the arm with the iQ. That will be a big seller.

        Likewise, the next Gen xB needs to shed 200lbs and about a foot off its length. Hopefully Toyota has learned its lesson about bloating its cars up with every iteration, seeing as this one is the same size, just a bit wider.
        • 3 Years Ago
        It'll get recalled regardless of what Toyota brand name is on it.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If Scion moves too far upmarket, then that squeezes the Corolla / Matrix, leaving the Toyota brand in the Plymouth / Oldsmobile / Pontiac / Saturn / Mercury space - not a good place to be.

        Scion should move downmarket, like Toyota originally positioned it, catching the non-sexy sales that simply keep volume away from the competition.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think this is a very decent upgrade. I owned and 07 and loved it. it was more car than what I paid for. This car is missing a lot of the elements that made the first gen tC a great car but the improvements are there. I think in terms of styling, the taillights and headlights have the wrong shape, Specially the headlights, looks like a freakin accord...eeww. What happened with the Fuse's front end that along with the xB would have given Scion a great Corporate face and stablish more identity that i believe every automaker should have to appeal to consumers, Look at Kia and Hyundai.

      I think what Scion is doing is acknowledging some of the things people complained about the last gen and while at it they kind of dropped the ball on other things like the exterior lighting and interior quality and layout but lets remember that the Toyota FT-86 (Scion FR-S) is coming so I believe Scion is leaving some room for buyers to choose either the tC or the FR-S based on their likes and preferences. I am more than positive that FR-S is gona be a WAY better car and all of our concerns on this new tC will be solved with its arrival. Who cares if it comes with a Scion badge?? enthusiasts will buy it regardless and people that don't know much about cars will not care about branding but about styling and the FT-86 is a damn good looking car. when I hear Toyota I hear "Beige" and boring, when I hear Scion I at least don't hear Beige and boring. As long as we get the FT-86 who cares about the badge? Anyways most people that care about the car and not the badge can just take it off lol. I have seen several LHD Toyota Altezzas here in California, as far as I know thats a Lexus IS300 in our shores.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I looked seriously at the 2011 Scion tC before buying a 2011 Civic Si sedan. I thought it looked much better in person than in photos, so some of the griping about the aesthetics might not be justified. But what killed it for me was the driving experience. It was smooth, refined, quiet, composed, and had good value for the dollar, but one thing it wasn't was SPORTY. And for an inexpensive sports coupe, that's a critical oversight. I almost felt that the new tC was the spiritual successor to the Solara instead of being a credible Si competitor.

      This car is so close, yet so far, from being awesome. I don't think it needs another 100 horsepower or RWD to be great (especially at this price point). It just needs more exciting handling and steering.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I didn't find it to be a deal-breaker. The tC felt stronger off the line from idle, obviously, but given the sluggish revving of the tC's mill, the Scion's midrange didn't actually feel much stronger. Yes, you've got to be at a higher rpm in the Si to get comparable acceleration, but since the engine gets to that rpm so eagerly, it doesn't feel gutless compared to the sluggish-revving tC.

        Frankly, even with a 6MT, the tC's mill felt a lot slower than the power and torque numbers suggest. And the Si's engine feels stronger than its pathetic torque numbers suggest, even in the midrange (which, in the Si, is 3000-5800 rpm...the car cruises smoothly and comfortably at 3000 rpm).
        • 3 Years Ago
        Interesting comparison, Tc vs. Si. Did you find the low amount of torque a let-down in the Si compared to the 2.5L in the Scion? Obviously it wasn't a deal-breaker in your case but wondering how you found the powerband compared.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow. Toyota really needs to snatch a designer away from a company with good looking product. This is more boring than a Camry.

      When I would take the new Elantra over this, there is a real problem.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yes, but the problem isn't with Toyota.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I own an '05 tC and I love it but I'm so disappointed with this new generation. The outside has lost some of its unique character and they managed to downgrade the inside interior. How do you do that and yet increase the price of the vehicle?
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is the only Toyota product I would consider. The hatchback gives it huge bonus points. However, the biggest disappointment is the still pathetic fuel economy for a car this size and in this category. Amazing that Toyota, a supposed leader in the fuel economy wars, has an entirely new redesign that barely keeps up with the competition.

      The Kia Koupe would be a strong consideration for me if not for that lame torsion beam suspension. I probably would have bought the Kia already if it had a fully independent suspension. Plus, if Kia could keep the same lines, but make it a hatch, it would be a big winner. But in my book, a torsion beam will never compete for my money when there is an alternative with better ride quality. Note I said ride quality and not handling.

      For me the contenders are the Altima coupe, Civic coupe, and the Golf 3 door TDI. The Altima 4 cylinder is a bit shy on horsepower and the V6 a bit shy on economy. Give me a 4 cylinder with about 200hp and I'd be happy. If the 2012 Focus were to offer a decent looking 2 door with a hatchback, it would be a very strong contender, but I suspect Ford will botch it and only sell 4 door variants. So I'm leaning toward the Golf.

      • 3 Years Ago
      "The only real brass-knuckle fight the tC has is with the Kia Forte Koup, which is priced nearly the same, looks more expensive and delivers a lot more value"
      A Kia Forte coupe with AT and the 2.4l 173hp engine starts just north of $19K. I may be missing the value as they both have 23/31mpg and 6 speed autos but the Scion has 7 more hp. I love the Kia too but the Scion is just about the same value. Appearance is subjective and this Scion is arguably the best looking one ever. Great write up otherwise!
        • 3 Years Ago
        You make god points but I actually like the styling, I guess time will tell if this coupe is successful or not as the real vote is with peoples wallets. I could not make a better looking car. If I were shopping in the
        • 3 Years Ago
        I like the looks - what does that do for your theory of unanimous distaste? As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is no one definition of beauty or good design that suits everyone equally.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Err.. Hp is only half the equation. The Kia has ~200 lbs less wieght. Kia Forte Coupe has a better wieght/power ratio.... and since it has less wieght and less hp but makes the same numbers on the EPA cycle... I think the automatic has a base program thats a bit more.... sporty.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I think it few on the highway-I think I saw few on the highway....lol;;;
        • 3 Years Ago
        At first glance, my impression was "What were they thinking" too.
        Then I got used to the design and now I think it few on the highway....
        But sadly as I got used to this design Veloster is coming near.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Have you ever looked at the paint job on the Kia Forte? Absolute crap...worse than an aftermarket paint job. Itt's most easily seen when looking at the back trunk lid on a dark color car. The Forte's paint resembles the texture of an orange-peel. The tC's is smooth and there's no rough unfinished edges.

        The lines might look good on the Forte...but get right into the details and it's a car you'll be screaming to sell (for next to nothing) in 3 short years. Scion's high durability is well proven.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've seen it in person. I've said this before and I'll say it again: The front looks exactly like a 1999-ish Corolla.

      Compare the image at the top of this page to this:

      http://images.thecarconnection.com/med/1998-toyota-corolla-ve_100027427_m.jpg
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looks like Toyota/Scion and good interiors can never be mentioned in one sentence.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I still have my 2005 xB and it still runs great and all its hardware - interior and exterior - held together like I bought it yesterday with zero mechanical problems so I really can't complain about Scion. I went 2 weeks ago to see what's new and my local Toyota/Scion dealer and absolutely nothing attracted me - the new xB is bloated and bland, the xD totally forgettable and the new TC was there as well. The TC looks better in person but the interior - as this article states - looks and feels cheap almost 1980's econo car plastics except for that great steering wheel. None of these Scions did anything for me - it looks like my next car will be another brands. The competition is getting better and better looking and offering more bang for the buck - sorry Scion.
    • Load More Comments