The optional Bluetooth phone system in the tC is about as bare-bones as it gets. A button helpfully marked with a phone icon sits to the left of the steering wheel. Press it, and an unhelpful chime sounds. You will have to try the manual to find out what to do at this point. Once you figure out how to pair a phone with the system, it works fine for receiving calls, but offers little help dialing out.
Under the hood resides the same engine as found in the , a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, in this application making 180 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. Toyota doesn't wring as much power out of this type of engine as competitors, but it produces enough twist to consistently chirp the front tires, even in second- to third-gear shifts.
Mileage is rated at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the manual transmission, not bad numbers unless you consider competitors' efforts to push the 40 mpg line. In mixed city and freeway driving, the mileage hovered just above 26 mpg.
The six-speed manual is a necessity to have any fun with the tC. The shifter feels strong and has a short throw, but this gate does not precisely snick into each gear, as does Honda's six-speed manual. Nor does it offer the more refined feeling of European manual transmissions. Instead, it feels like a sloppy compromise.
As the tC's most advanced driving tech feature, the power steering unit is electrical rather than hydraulic. Scion did an excellent job of programming this unit, giving the wheel a good amount of road feel and some precision. But despite the tC's sporty look, the steering is designed more for comfort than shuffling through corners.
The suspension shows a good compromise between handling and comfort, keeping the car stable when cornering but also absorbing and damping out bumps without excessive harshness. Scion does not cheap out on the tC's suspension, using MacPherson struts in front and a rear double wishbone. Likewise, brakes are discs all around, as opposed to some competitors' cars using drum brakes on the rear wheels.
Like many Toyota company cars, the Scion tC is very drivable. It does what you expect on the road in normal driving. The front-wheel chirps might take some people by surprise, and Scion could have certainly gotten by with a smaller engine in the car. It won't suffer being driven too hard, as moderate cornering will get the traction control light blinking on the dashboard.
The 2011 Scion tC's cabin tech isn't very competitive, considering some of the more advanced iPod integration and Bluetooth systems found in similarly priced Ford and Kia models. The Bluetooth phone system is painfully crude, and the stereo does not live up to its promise, with its heavy bass tuning. It is difficult to justify the optional navigation systems when it is so easy to go aftermarket with this car.
The engine and transmission are ultimately mild-mannered, but the car has solid underpinnings with its steering, suspension, and brakes. These attributes point to the car's upgradability, as do the culture of Scion tuners and Scion's own set of Toyota Racing Development parts for the car.
Very different exterior styling for the 2011 model might turn off some who previously liked the car, but it still cuts a unique figure on the road. The body design is mostly practical, with an easily accessible hatchback and headroom for the rear seat. The electronics interface is not very intuitive when the Bluetooth phone system is taken into account.
|Model||2011 Scion tC|
|Power train||2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||23 mpg city/31 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||26.4 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||Pioneer 8 speaker system|
|Price as tested||$19,294|