The tC has always been a surprisingly lively and well-rounded offering, but its redesign has quietly turned it into a legitimate sporty car for those on a budget. It starts with a larger 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which provides strong acceleration throughout the rev-range and yet remains smooth and snappy. It plays well with the slick, precise manual gearbox, encouraging smooth rev-matched downshifts. On a small side note, we’ve officially reached the point where a normally aspirated engine is a welcome novelty, though you do pay for it with mediocre fuel economy. The tC also feels more tossable than its predecessor, even though it’s not that light at nearly 3100 pounds. The handling is relatively balanced for a front-wheel-drive car, and the steering, which used to be limp and light, now has genuine feel and feedback. I’m not saying the tC is necessarily a fast car, but it is now a fun car that’s easy and rewarding to drive aggressively. Best of all, the tC is still very cheap at $19,305 and is relatively practical thanks to its real back seat, its hatchback versatility, and its Japanese reliability.
The tC’s only real shortcoming is styling. Its new exterior is a bit more expressive but is still fairly anodyne when compared to the likes of the Hyundai Veloster, MINI Cooper, and even the Chevrolet Sonic. That becomes even more obvious inside, as it seems Toyota designers still haven’t learned the art of making cheap plastics look expensive. Its Circuit City-style radio unit likewise seems rather antiquated compared to the standard LCD touchscreen that comes with a Veloster. On the other hand, the Veloster isn’t as rewarding to drive as the tC.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I was pleasantly surprised by the tC. At 2.5 liters, its four-cylinder engine is pretty large, its 180-hp output is pretty healthy; and the normally aspirated unit provides a nice, linear throttle response. It feels like a lot of engine in a car this small and relatively lightweight (just a shade over 3000 pounds). I also liked the shift action of the six-speed gearbox, and the clutch is pretty easy to modulate.
The steering is not overboosted, but it is somewhat artificial and springy. The dash layout is very straightforward, and seats aren’t bad. And of course the hatchback offers far more utility than a coupe.
So the tC gets a lot of important things right. The overall execution isn’t thrilling, though. The chassis is competent but not really eager. The cabin materials are cheap and the interior design is pretty dull. The low roof and slit-like windows have you crouching to see traffic lights. The car is also pretty loud, with a lot of road noise.
Small, sporty, two-door hatchbacks like this used to be plentiful, but now there aren’t many around. The tC is less of an economy car than you might expect, but it’s also not quite a hot hatch. That’s too bad, because at a starting price of $19,305, it could be a bargain-priced (more than $4000 cheaper) alternative to the VW GTI.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
It’s hard to muster much excitement for the tC now that Scion has the FR-S making its way to dealers. The tC used to be the sportiest Scion and even offered a TRD supercharger kit to help deliver on the sporty pretense. But it was always a front-wheel-drive two-door that never matched the hot hatches Scion hoped to steal sales from. Now Scion has a legitimate sports coupe in the stable and the tC seems more boring than before.
I found the tC to be a perfectly fine hatchback, but now that the division has a real sports car I fail to see how this car advances Scion’s mission of being funky and appealing to younger drivers. Those looking for a customizable car that has no performance pretentions will likely favor the xA or xD for their superior utility or the iQ for its urban maneuverability. Any Scion fans who like to drive will quickly abandon their tCs for the formidable FR-S. So where does that leave the tC?
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
MSRP (with destination): $18,995
PRICE AS TESTED: $18,995
2.5-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 180 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 173 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
18-inch aluminum wheels
225/45WR-18 Yokohama AVID S34 tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo (rear seats up/down): 14.7/34.5 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 41.8/34.6 in
Headroom (front/rear): 37.7/36.4 in
Stability and traction control
Smart stop technology
Tire pressure monitoring system
Panoramic glass moonroof w/power tilt and slide
Power exterior mirrors w/LED indicators
Intermittent front windshield wipers
Sport front bucket seats
Power windows and locks
Pioneer audio system
Auxiliary audio jack
60/40 split-folding rear seats
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Rear spoiler- $444
Vehicle security system- $469
TRD exhaust system- $699
Navigation system 200- $1999
The tC was completely redesigned for 2011.