The Scion TC used to be the sort of coupe you’d direct your girlfriend to buy and then secretly enjoy driving. With this new model, you can throw out the pretense. Credit mostly goes to the bigger four-cylinder, which packs a real mid-range wallop and is paired with a fantastic six-speed manual. The formerly lifeless steering is still way too light and slow, but now firms up nicely at highway speeds, where the tC is more confident and stable than just about anything in its price range save for a MINI Cooper.
About that price. I’ve become accustomed to underestimating how much test cars cost, but this one lists for about two grand less than I expected. For $18,995 out the door, you get iPod connectivity, eighteen-inch wheels, and a 300-watt sound system. I’ll bet those three things I just mentioned sit pretty high on the list of modifications teenage boys usually make to their first cars.
Having taken the tC so far, Toyota really should go one step further and challenge the big boys of the sport compact segment (Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen GTI et all). That would mostly entail a more sporting suspension — the tC is a resolute understeerer — retuned power steering, and a little bit more power.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
OK, I was in agreement with my colleague David Zenlea all the way until the last five words of his comments. The Scion tC does not need “a little bit more power”! It’s got 180 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque in a very sharp looking, sporty coupe that, as he points out, is remarkably well equipped for $19K. Let’s not encourage Scion to make the mistake it made with its xB (made it bigger, heavier, and more powerful). Let’s remember that, relatively speaking, 180 hp is a LOT of power, especially in a car that weighs only 3060 pounds. This is a great car just as it is.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Next to the Lexus LFA and IS-F, the Scion tC is one of Toyota’s most compelling cars. The chiseled styling and gangster-chic flat roofline that are new for 2011 revive the tC with an additional dose of sportiness and masculinity. Unfortunately, Scion’s two-door doesn’t have the driving passion to back up the looks. It starts with a driving position that’s compromised by an awkward steering wheel: it’s oddly shaped and awkwardly thick at the three o’clock and nine o’clock positions. The engine is plenty powerful, but it’s neither eager nor satisfying to rev, and it is easily the tC’s weakest attribute as a sporty coupe. To deliver on the coupe body and youthful styling, the tC needs a powertrain more in line with Volkswagen’s turbocharged engine or a screaming Honda four-banger; not more power per se, but more a more aggressive character.
The cabin materials and surface finishes are low-cost, but on a dark night, the tC’s simple, functional control layout with its extreme cant toward the driver looks very slick. The car is comfortable, fairly spacious, and — in Scion tradition — comes equipped with every feature you’d want as standard equipment. Those traits would make for a fine — even exceptional-four-door Toyota, but I want more passion and fun from a two-door Scion.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
We had the first big snowfall of the winter on the evening that I drove the tC, so I only averaged about 20 mph during my commute. It handled quite well in the snow, with no slipping or sliding.
I found it interesting that a car that is aimed at younger drivers has a stereo whose design looks to be about ten years old. The buttons are small and fiddly, especially the power button. There’s also no knob to change the station; instead, there’s a button that you have to push left or right, and it’s easy to accidentally move it the wrong way. I suppose it’s all a moot point if you use the steering-wheel-mounted controls instead, but my personal preference is to use the dash-mounted controls.
The climate controls, on the other hand, are the height of simplicity. There are three round dials, one for temp (no degree settings, just a cool/warm gradation), one for the fan speed, and one for the mode.
– Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Base price (with destination): $18,995
Price as tested: $18,995
2.5-liter four-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
4-wheel disc brake with ABS
18-inch alloy wheels
Vehicle stability control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Sport front bucket seats
Panoramic glass moonroof with power tilt/slide
Remote keyless entry
Pioneer 300-watt sound system with 8 speakers
AM/FM/CD with auxiliary and USB port
Sport steering wheel with audio controls
Leather-trimmed steering wheel
Tilt/telescoping steering column
60/40-split reclining/fold rear seat
First aid kit
Options on this vehicle:
Key options not on vehicle:
Navigation system — $1999
6-speed automatic transmission — $1000
Remote engine start — $529
XM satellite radio — $449
Auto-dimming rearview mirror — $229
Fuel economy: 23/31/26 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.5L DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 180 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 173 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight: 3060 lb
Wheels/tires: 18 x 7.5-inch alloy wheels; 225/45R18 Yokohama Avid all-season tires