Originally introduced in 2005, the Scion tC sports coupe underwent its first major update for 2011, featuring a new engine, transmissions and revised styling on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase. All reviewers list the many improvements, including more power, more safety features, additional passenger and cargo room, better fuel economy and more. But many critics say that the 2011 Scion tC's redesign comes up short; there aren't enough new features and improvements in driving satisfaction compared with its predecessor or competitors. In an Edmunds Inside Line review, editor Chris Walton is disappointed that "there's not much in the innovation department, certainly nothing that will make any of its competitors cringe."
Reviews say that the 2011 Scion tC is a worthy alternative to the 2011 Honda Civic coupe (Base MSRP: $15,605 to $22,205), but they don't claim that the tC is significantly better than the well-engineered, but aging Civic. (A revamped Civic is due to bow over the summer of 2011 as a 2012 model.)
Although the Scion tC looks very sporty, most reviews emphasize that its performance doesn't exactly match those looks. Several reviews recommend the 2011 Kia Forte Koup (Base MSRP: $14,995 to $18,895) for a more engaging driving experience. James Riswick at Edmunds.com says, "If you want a truly capable sport coupe with more communicative steering and legitimate handling talent," try the 2011 Kia Forte Koup SX (Base MSRP: $18,395), 2011 Mini Cooper (Base MSRP: $19,400 to $31,300) or even the 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe (Base MSRP: $22,250 to $32,250).
Some writers say that many buyers are less interested in acceleration and handling as they are in appearance and interior features. Popular Mechanics reviewer John Pearley Huffman writes, "Even if it's not a thrill ride, it's a practical car wrapped in the sheet metal of an indulgent sports machine." Although the Scion tC may not be as dynamically engaging as some segment rivals, reviews say its handling and steering are secure and competent, if not particularly exciting.
With 18-inch wheels and tires standard equipment, the car has a bold stance, but many reviewers say the low-profile tires contribute to a ride that's too firm. Others are less critical of the ride for most roads, but admit that the suspension can't handle rough pavement especially well. Kelsey Mays at Cars.com says that many sporty cars share these characteristics, "but competitors from the Forte Koup to the Volkswagen Golf do a better job damping out the worst disruptions and settling in on the highway."
The interior gets high marks for its straightforward layout, although some critics dislike the excess of hard, black plastic adorning most of the surfaces. Standard interior features include a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, power windows and locks, panoramic moonroof, and an eight-speaker CD stereo with iPod integration.
More-powerful stereos are on the options list. That's good, since a loud stereo is not only important to many of the tC's potential buyers, it may be useful to help drown out excessive road noise, some reviewers suggest. About.com's Aaron Gold says he "wasn't expecting wind and tire noise, but the tC delivers both in droves."
One area that earns abundant praise from critics is the 2011 Scion tC's thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed steering wheel; Motor Trend calls it "one of the best steering wheels we've ever felt."
Interior space and comfort is improved over the previous tC model, say reviewers. "Legroom is up a full inch in the back seat, and the resulting room is far more generous than you'll find in most coupe competitors," notes Cars.com's Mays. The rear seat also reclines for additional comfort, or folds down to increase the rear cargo volume from the standard 14.7 cubic feet to 34.5 cubic feet. That's more than the Honda Civic, for example, but still less than a more traditional upright hatchback like the 2011 Volkswagen Golf (Base MSRP: $17,995 to $19,755).
Another point of criticism from several reviewers is rear visibility, which ConsumerGuide.com says is "subpar with huge blind spots over the driver's shoulders."
The 2011 Scion tC model lineup is very simple: there's just the base coupe with either a six-speed manual transmission (Base MSRP: $18,275) or six-speed automatic (Base MSRP: $19,275). As noted above, both are well equipped in terms of standard equipment, and factory customization options are abundant -- a Scion brand hallmark.
The sole engine available in the 2011 tC coupe is a 180-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder borrowed from the base Toyota Camry. Edmunds.com editors complain about the "agricultural droning" sound from the tC's engine when paired with the automatic, but says that despite the engine's "aural deficiencies, it is nevertheless superior to the 161-hp unit it replaces." Edmunds.com also says that with its new engine, the 2011 tC feels stronger than the Kia Forte Koup and the "rather anemic" base Honda Civic. Scion claims the tC reaches 60 mph in 8.3 seconds with the automatic and 7.6 seconds with the manual. Fuel efficiency improves by 2 to 4 mpg with the newer, more powerful engine. With either transmission, the Environmental Protection Agency ratings are 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg in combined use.
Reviewers are mostly happy with the feel and shift behavior of both new transmissions, which replace the four-speed automatic and five-speed manual that were offered in the previous-generation tC. Edmunds.com takes issue with the automatic, however, saying, "Oddly, if you want to command your own shifts, there are no paddles/buttons on the steering wheel. Instead there is a new +/- manual gate on the console shifter that's ironically slow to respond to prodding -- and sadly does not offer matched-rev downshifts."
Safety has taken a large step forward with the new Scion tC coupe. Electronic stability control is now standard, along with antilock brakes, eight airbags, active front head restraints and a new brake/engine override system. For the first time, the Scion tC earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick designation for scoring top results in crash tests and roof-strength evaluations. As of March 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not rated the 2011 Scion tC.
Excellent descriptive reviews of the new Scion tC with plenty of road-test impressions can be found at Cars.com, Popular Mechanics, About.com, Car and Driver, and USA Today. Edmunds.com offers several reviews, along with a two-minute video summary. TheTruthAboutCars.com also offers several reviews from different writers.
This thorough review is descriptive and detailed, with plenty of driving impressions. John Pearley Huffman comments, "The tC's exterior may promise excitement, but the chassis delivers more comfort than thrills."
Review: 2011 Scion tC Test Drive, John Pearley Huffman, Aug. 9, 2010
This extensive review by Cars.com writer Kelsey Mays gives plenty of details and driving impressions of the Scion tC. Overall, he feels the redesigned car is "high on style and low on substance" and the cabin quality is "a few steps down from the class-leading original."
Review: 2011 Scion tC, Kelsey Mays, Aug. 18, 2010
This overview review gives an excellent summary description of the Scion tC. The writer calls the updated coupe "a stylish car that's cheap to buy and economical to drive."
Review: First Drive: 2011 Scion tC is a Bolder Swipe at Generation Y, Jeremy Korzeniewski, Aug. 6, 2010
4. Car and Driver
Car and Driver writer Aaron Robinson feels that Scion's updates make the tC more masculine, but it's still mostly mainstream. This article gives plenty of details about the new car. Robinson is pleased with the styling, comfort and overall handling, although he cautions the firm ride delivers the "occasional jarring thump."
Review: 2011 Scion tC -- First Drive Review, Aaron Robinson, Aug. 2010
Despite some drawbacks such as excessive interior noise, the Scion tC is a very likable small car, says About.com editor Aaron Gold. He sums it up by calling the tC "a great little car that's enjoyable to drive and amazingly functional and practical for a two-door." (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: 2011 Scion tC Test Drive, Aaron Gold
6. USA Today Magazine
In this road-test evaluation, auto writer James Healey itemizes the positive and negative aspects of the Scion tC, which he calls a "crisp, purposeful, comfortable, good-driving coupe."
Review: Review: Makeover of Scion tC Coupe Gets It Right, James R. Healey, Oct. 11, 2010
7. Motor Trend
Motor Trend's Jonny Lieberman is pleased that the new-generation Scion didn't become larger or significantly heavier than the former model. He calls the styling "sharp," and says the car is so much more improved that the $1,150 price increase over 2010 is "money well spent."
Review: First Drive: 2011 Scion tC, Jonny Lieberman, Aug. 6, 2010
With a well-rounded review, Edmunds.com editor James Riswick gives a good summary of the Scion tC and its strengths and weaknesses. While he admits the tC is responsive with competent handling, he suggests other cars such as the Kia Forte Koup or Mini Cooper for sportier performance.
Review: 2011 Scion tC Road Test , James Riswick
9. Edmunds Inside Line
With test-track results and plenty of road-test impressions, this comprehensive review by Chris Walton covers the Scion tC quite well, and includes a two-minute video summary. Overall, Walton acknowledges the tC is improved in many ways, but he says it should be even better.
Review: 2011 Scion tC Full Test and Video, Chris Walton, Aug. 26, 2010
This review gives unique insight and opinions on the Scion tC. Alex Dykes is impressed with the car's styling and handling, although he says the ride with 18-inch tires is "a bit too harsh for everyday driving."
Review: Review: 2011 Scion tC, Alex L. Dykes, Jan. 3, 2011
ConsumerGuide.com gives the Scion tC a Recommended rating, but says "it's no longer the class standard it once was." In a standardized review, editors like the car's steering, ride and comfort. They rate it highly for value, but criticize the interior noise level and rear blind spots.
Review: 2011 Scion tC: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com
12. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2011 Scion tC a Top Safety Pick honor for its scores in front and rear crash tests, as well as the roof-strength test., This is an improvement over last year's model.
Review: Scion tC, Editors of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
ConsumerSearch automotive editor Alex Nunez acknowledges that the 2011 Scion tC "looks sportier than it ultimately is, but maybe that's the point." He suggests that most owners may be more interested in style and features than performance.
Review: 2011 Scion tC: First Drive, Alex Nunez, Sept. 24, 2010